La Tarte au Citron Meringuée
Tarte citron meringuée; I remember the first time I had it, somewhere along the coast of France, in my teens and not appropriately appreciating it. I remember it felt too tangy on my taste buds and since I was underage at the time, I also didn’t get the pleasure of having a nice glass of wine to go with this dessert. A few years later, on one of my first vacations with my husband to be, I remember having a wonderful and simple crab lunch at Café de Turin in Nice, along with a nice bottle of white wine served in really small and thick wine glasses, that give the impression they’ve been chosen specifically to give an understated feel to the experience, so as not to feel too fancy about the whole thing. It was a classic bistrot affair, staff members about whom one could easily say that while they were not impolite, they weren’t awfully friendly either, hurriedly moving around with heavy seafood platters expertly balanced in their hands. At the end of the meal, I had to ask for dessert and I remember deciding on the tarte citron meringuée. It arrived on a small plate, a slab of sandy shortcrust followed by a moderate layer of lemon cream and topped with an enormous quantity of slightly golden-brown meringue. I remember the first bite of the chilled slice hitting my teeth, as I was biting through the sweetness of the meringue all the way onto the sourness of the cream and thinking at the same time that the taste was pure perfection. And it still is, every time. I’ve had this dessert many times since then. I’ve had different versions of it, the deconstructed tarte au citron meringuée to end the perfect Michelin star restaurant meal, the home-made understated one or the eager and over-achieving pastry chef one. They were all lovely, but the one I most fondly remember is the one in Nice and this is the one I’ve tried to reproduce over the years.
I like to make Tarte Citron Meringuée to end a fish or seafood meal and I like to make it after a French cuisine inspired meal. I would love to have it for breakfast, but it rarely makes the light of day in this house. I do prefer to have it in the evening however, as I really enjoy to pair it with a nice dessert wine. The key to having a great wine with this tart is choosing a wine that is equally acidic, but also velvety. The very nice folks over at Corcova stopped by and gave me a few bottles of their Dessert Wine and I must say, it is a really really nice wine. It has lovely notes of quince and a beautiful aroma that reminds of pineapple and spices. I’ve really experimented with this wine in terms of pairing it with dessert and to me the meringue lemon tart is the best match!
Tarte au Citron Meringuée
For the pâte sablée (shortcrust):
2 egg yolks
70g/⅓ cup coconut sugar (or any other granulated sugar)
50ml/3 Tblsp water
A pinch of salt
250g/2 cups all purpose flour
125g/½ cup chilled unsalted butter, cubed
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. In the bowl of your stand-mixer or with the aid of a hand-held mixer, beat the sugar and the egg yolks until light and fluffy, 5 minutes. Add a little water and beat for another minute. In a large bowl, mix the butter into the flour with your fingers until it becomes sand-like in texture. Add the egg yolk and sugar mixture and with the aid a pastry cutter, work the mixture until everything is incorporated. With your hands, form a ball of dough. Transfer the dough to a 25cm/10 in tart pan (with or without removable bottom) and fit it evenly on the bottom and up the sides. Trim excess, cover with baking paper and place about 1kg/2 pounds beans on top, then blind bake for about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven, discard beans and baking paper, prick with a fork all over and return to the oven for another minute. Remove from the oven and lower the heat to 150C/300F.
For the crème au citron:
4 medium lemons, unwaxed – zest from two, juice from 4
150g/⅔ cup granulated sugar
15g/1 Tblsp potato starch (or cornstarch)
In a saucepan set over low heat, mix lemon zest, lemon juice and sugar until the latter is dissolved. Add the potato starch and whisk well making sure there aren’t any lumps. In a small bowl, beat the eggs well, then add to the saucepan and mix continuously to keep from burning. It will become thick quickly and once it does, remove from the hob.
For the meringue:
3 egg whites
150g/⅔ cup fine granulated sugar (I usually whizz mine in the blender before using)
½ tsp baking powder
In the bowl of your stand-mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with the aid of a hand-held mixer set on medium speed, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. With mixer running, add the sugar one tablespoon at a time and whip until the meringue holds very stiff peaks and becomes shiny. Beat in the baking powder.
To assemble the tart:
Spread the lemon cream over the bottom of your baked tart shell. With the aid of a spatula, spread the meringue on top and feel free to shape it as you like, I use the back of a spoon. Put in the oven for about 10 minutes, until meringue becomes slightly golden brown. Allow to cool completely and either serve right away or refrigerate 3-4 hours before serving.