Wednesday, March 09, 2016

When life gives you lemons...

For the sake of my waistline (which in happy consequence is also for the sake of my clothes... and of course the sake of my bank account), I had taken a short hiatus from baking. This hiatus was not planned but Mr. A has been in an uber let's-get-healthy mode (and I thank him for it!). Apparently healthy and baked goods don't go hand in hand. 

But really, Tania is not Tania if Tania does not bake! So I'm back in the kitchen with my apron and whisk. 

Among many other things, a friend/colleague and I were recently chit chatting about food and baked goods. This friend is French (real French from France! Not Quebec-french) so I listen in awe about all the different meals she grew up with. Between talking about ''Tartiflette'' and liqueur-filled "Chardons'' chocolates, we ended up talking about french lemon tart topped with fluffy meringue. I absolutely love lemony desserts so I have tried many lemon meringue tarts. Too many to admit. Whether it be my own or delicately crafted ones from those fancy-schmancy and slightly pretentious and overpriced french bakeries in Montreal, I find they all taste like eggs. I love eggs as much as I love lemony sweets but an omelette-esque dessert just doesn't tickle my taste buds.

So thanks to this friend, I got my hands on an authentic recipe for French Lemon Meringue Tart.

I looked at the recipe and thought to myself "Oh my! The food-J.C. would be proud if I made this!" And by food-J.C., I mean Julia Child, of course!

The first time I wanted to make this recipe, I had all the ingredients except for butter-- somehow the 4 pounds of butter I had purchased around Christmastime had disappeared been deliciously ingested by us steel-stomached Armenians!

Second time around, the overwhelming feeling of "do I want to eat a tart or do I want to feel comfortable in my clothes?" rushed through me. I opted for the latter and followed Mr. A's exemplary behavior.

Now, it's the third time around and this time, Mr. A's exemplary behavior was truly not contagious in any way. As he stepped out to go to the gym, I stepped up and made my way to the kitchen. I WILL bake this tart. 

The recipe was as easy and basic as I intended it to be. I think it is very refreshing to be able to create something that is so magically scrumptious with the most basic and humblest of ingredients: butter, sugar, flour, eggs and lemons. That's it! 

The final result pleasantly surprised my lemon-tart-skeptic taste buds. The tart did not taste anything like eggs; it had a delicate crust and a pungent, sour filling with soft and cloud-like, pillow-y topping. When life gives you lemons... 

Lemon Meringue Tart

- 150g flour
- 75g cold butter (cut into pea-size pieces)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup cold water

Lemon Curd
- 2 eggs
- 200g granulated sugar
- 2 lemons
- 80g butter, softened
- a small pinch of salt

- 2 egg whites
- 60g powdered sugar
- a small pinch of salt


Preheat oven to 400F. 

Mix together the flour, the zest of 1 lemon, salt and pea-size butter pieces by pressing the mixture between the palms of your hands. You are looking for a grainy mixture. Add 1/2 cup cold water and mix. Knead the dough for a few minutes. Form it into a ball and flatter it down at least 3 times. Shape it into a disc, wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge while you make your filling.

Lemon Curd
In a bowl, beat together the eggs, sugar and pinch of salt for about 5 minutes. Add the zest of the remaining lemons (zest of  1 1/2 lemons), the juice of the 2 lemons and the softened butter.

Roll your dough out and line your pie dish. I used a rectangular 35.5 x 10 cm one but you can use a round one. Add the lemon curd and bake at 400F for 25-30 minutes. 

Whisk together the egg whites and small pinch of salt  until you get very stiff peaks. Gradually add the powdered sugar a spoonful at a time until it is fully incorporated. 

Once your tart is out of the oven, lower the heat of the oven to 275F. Add (or pipe) onto your tart the meringue and bake for about 10-15 minutes until the tops are nice and golden. 

Bon appétit!

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