This French lemon meringue tart recipe gives you that zingy feeling (les peps in French) as you bite through the clouds of meringue into the citrus, with a final hint of salt in the pastry.
Sublime tangy tarts can be had in Paris in Rue de Turenne, Rue du Bac, and also in Rue de Seine at Arnaud Lahrer’s MOF pâtisserie. An MOF, or Meilleur Ouvrier de France, is the Olympian of French craftsmen, the best in their field. From the age of 23, candidates go before a jury every four years to battle it out to prove how they are the best in the land. Those that achieve MOF status have the title for life and you’ll see them – quite rightly – showing it off in their shop fronts. If you’ve got it, flaunt it!
The passion fruit in these tartlets adds an extra zingyness which balances well with the sweet topping of meringue. If you don’t top them with the meringue and serve them as a plain tart, to balance the acidity add another 50g sugar to the fruity cream and finish off with candied lemon peel for garnish. If you don’t want to use passion fruit, then you’ll need about three lemons to make up 100g juice.
In French these are called: Tartelettes au fruit de la passion et citron meringuée (they are nut free)…
Jill Colonna (Author of Teatime in Paris and Mad About Macarons)
Makes 8 tartlets
Preparation time: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Chilling time: 2 hours
Temperature: 160°C/320°F fan (Gas 4), then 200°C (400°F, Gas 7)
One quantity sweet pastry to make 8 tartelette cases
125g butter, at room temperature
75g icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar)
½ tsp salt
½ tsp vanilla extract (optional)
240g plain flour (all-purpose), sifted
Zest of an unwaxed lemon
100g fresh juice – use 1-2 lemons and 2 passion fruit for extra flavour
90g cold butter, cut into chunks
1 x 2g sheet of gelatine
60g egg whites (approx. 2 egg whites)
90g sugar (normal sugar, not caster/super-fine)
1. Bake the tartlets for 10–15 minutes at 160°C/320°F fan (Gas 4). Allow to cool, remove from their moulds and set aside.
2. Soak the gelatine in cold water for 10 minutes and zest the lemon.
3. Strain the juice of two passion fruits using a sieve to remove all the seeds and make up to 100g by adding the juice of 1–2 lemons.
4. In a saucepan, whisk together the passion fruit–lemon juice with the sugar, zest and eggs over a medium heat until the sauce boils, bubbles and thickens.
5. Strain to remove the zest. Take off the heat and whisk in the butter and the gelatine (squeezed of excess water).
6. Pour directly into the tartlet shells and place them in the fridge until ready to serve.
How to make the Meringue
1. Whisk the egg whites at medium-high speed with an electric mixer in either a glass or metallic bowl. Just as they start to froth up, gradually add the sugar. Increase to a high speed, continuing with the sugar until the meringue forms strong, glossy, stiff peaks.
2. Spoon the meringue (or transfer to a piping bag with a large serrated or plain tip and pipe out) on top of each tartlet, spreading it as much as possible over the top. If not piping, using the back of the spoon, lift parts of the meringue up into little cones for decoration (this reminds me of making cone shapes with shampoo foam during children’s bath time!).
3. Bake in a very hot oven (200°C, 400°F, Gas 7) for about 5 minutes. Alternatively, brown with a culinary blowtorch.
Remove and chill until ready to serve.
Tips for making Meringue
For meringue, if your egg whites are aged for a couple of days and at room temperature, there’s no need to use any salt, lemon or cream of tartare. This recipe uses French meringue, a quick method, which also means you’ll need to act quickly as soon as it’s whipped up. Don’t answer the phone and leave the meringue on the counter for a few minutes – top the tartlets tout de suite!