Saturday, September 12, 2015

Lemon Meringue Tarts

Rooting through the pantry doesn't have to mean weird, mish-mash food.  It just means you have to look at what's in there with an open mind.

I have no idea how old the box of graham crackers is, but the "sell by" date was Jan 2013.  It's pie crust now.  One lemon off the tree, an egg before I finish them off, and the rest is pantry staples.

I had debated whether to do these as simple lemon curd tarts, but then I'd have an egg white left over.  Instead, I did a 1/4 recipe of a full sized lemon meringue pie.  Fun with math.

4 graham crackers (8 squares)
2 Tb + 1 tsp butter
4 tsp cornstarch
2 Tb lemon juice
6 Tb water
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 egg, separated

1.  To make the crust, crush the graham crackers.  You can use the food processor, but I just put them in a ziplock and ran over them with the rolling pin.  Melt 2 Tb butter and pour into crumbs.  Stir with a fork until moistened.  Press into 4 patty pans or - if you're into insanely cute kitchenware like I am - individual tartlet pans.  These are so small that you do not need to pre-bake the crusts.

2.  In a small saucepan, stir together cornstarch, 8 tsp (2 Tb + 2 tsp) sugar, and a dash of salt.  Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice, and water and allow everything to dissolve.  Cornstarch will clump when heated if it is not dissolved in a cool liquid first.

3.  Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.  It only takes a couple of minutes because there is so little in the pot.  It will start to thicken and turn glossy.  Remove from heat.

4.  Beat egg yolk slightly.  Add a couple of spoonfuls of the lemon mixture to the egg to temper it, beat everything together, then return the gloppy mess to the pot.  Heat over low until thickened further, but do not boil or you'll curdle the egg.  Turn off heat and stir in 1 tsp of butter until melted and incorporated.  Divide filling between tart shells.
5.  Preheat oven to 375º.  Beat egg whites with a dash of salt to soft peaks.  Slowly add 1 Tb of sugar and beat meringue into a firm, glossy peak stage.  Top tarts with meringue and bake for 10 minutes, or until meringue is as dark as you want it.

6.  Cool tarts to room temperature before trying to remove from tins.  I left the removable bottoms on mine and served them without the rims.  You can chill the tarts to serve cold, but the meringue will start to get chewy after a day or so.  I don't recommend making these more than one day ahead.

Difficulty rating  :)

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