Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Baby Lemon Tarts And Lemon Meringue Pie

Baby lemon tarts and a larger lemon meringue pie made from the same recipe.

I used mini muffin pans to make the baby tarts. I think they are so cute.
I've been working on developing a recipe for lemon tarts for some time now and at last I have the perfect recipe - it's simple, sweet and very lemony.

In my testing, one of the problems I encountered with lemon custard and lemon curd-based desserts is that they often have an "eggy" taste that I really, really dislike. Obviously this was due to the use of eggs as thickeners.

In my trials I found that this "eggy" taste occurred most often in recipes that called for fresh lemon juice versus concentrate. I won't pretend to know the reasoning behind it but lemon juice from concentrate for me yielded better results. An added bonus is that it's cheaper and more convenient to use.

I also discovered that using just the yolks in recipes tasted better than using whole eggs. So my final recipe calls for three egg yolks and 1/2 cup of lemon juice concentrate. I reserved the egg whites for a meringue topping.

On another note, I'm positive a negative response to "egginess" is more prominent in females. My two daughters knew exactly what I meant when I told them I didn't want my tarts to taste "eggy." "Yuck, I hate that," immediately responded my oldest daughter.

My husband and brother on the other hand both didn't really know what I was talking about. Well, I want to please everyone, men and women alike, so here's the recipe:

Lemon Tarts
(makes 36 baby tarts or one large 9 or 10-inch pie)

1/2 cup lemon juice, from concentrate
2 drops yellow food coloring (optional)
1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
3 egg yolks (reserve the whites for the meringue topping)

Dissolve the food coloring in the lemon juice. In a large bowl, beat the yolks until smooth. Add the juice and sweetened condensed milk and beat until well combined. Set aside.

2 cups flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup unsalted butter, softened

Beat the butter and vanilla until smooth. Add the salt and powdered sugar and beat again. Finally, add the flour and beat just until a soft dough forms.

To assemble:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Large lemon meringue pie: 
Spray a pie pan or tart pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Use your hands to press the crust dough evenly in the bottom of the pan and up the sides.

Pour the filling into the crust and bake for 30 minutes or until the filling is set and the crust is golden brown.
The large version before baking.

Prepare the meringue.

Baby lemon tarts:
Spray nonstick mini muffin pans with nonstick spray.
It's important to use nonstick mini muffin pans and spray the cups well with nonstick spray.

Drop 1-inch balls of dough into each of the cups.

I used a 1-inch scoop to get even sized balls.
Use your fingers to press the dough evenly in the bottom of each cup and up the sides.
Be sure to press the dough evenly in the cups. If there are any thin areas, you should press on a bit of extra dough. A sturdy crust is important for easy removal from the pans.

Fill each cup with filling. I used a 1-inch scoop for the job.

Using this scoop to add the filling worked well for me.
Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until the filling is set and the crust is lightly brown.

Let the mini tarts cool in the pan before using a table knife to gently release and remove them.
Use knife to gently release the pies.
Transfer the pies to a sheetpan and they are ready for meringue.

Prepare the meringue.

3 egg whites
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar.

Increase the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Whip the cream of tartar into the egg whites. Gradually add the sugar and whip until stiff and glossy.
You are done whipping the whites, sugar and cream of tartar when you have stiff and glossy peaks.

Large lemon meringue pie:

Spread the meringue over the top of the pie, being sure to touch the edges so that it doesn't shrink while baking.

Spread on the meringue and bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.
Bake for 15 minutes until set and lightly brown.

Let the pie cool for 1 hour at room temperature. Refrigerate the pie for 2 hours before serving.

Baby lemon tarts:

Place the tarts on a foil or parchment lined sheet pan.

Transfer the meringue to a piping bag and pipe a large dollop on top of each of the tarts.
Use a piping bag to add a meringue topping to the baby tarts.

Bake for 7 to 10 minutes or until set and lightly brown.

Let the tarts cool at room temperature before placing in mini muffin papers and refrigerating for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Candied lemon peel on top adds a nice touch. These still need to be placed into mini muffin papers for easy serving.

My sweet niece Maya with a tart delivery for her family.

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