Baked Sunday Mornings: Lemon-Almond Meringue Tarts

The recipe on the schedule this week for Baked Sunday Mornings is the Red Hot Velvet Cake with Cinnamon Buttercream. I made the cake a few years ago and wrote a blog post about it here. I didn't want to make the cake again, so I went rogue and made the "Lemon-Almond Meringue Tarts" from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking.

The dough for the tart crust requires significant chilling time, so I made it a day in advance. The dough is a mixture of flour, ground almonds, ground amaretti cookies, butter, powdered sugar, egg yolk, heavy cream, and amaretto. Normally I would make my own amaretti cookies for a recipe like this, but I didn't have time. The recipe calls for only 2 tablespoons of finely ground amaretti cookies, so I just substituted an equal volume of graham cracker crumbs since I had graham crackers on hand. The dough was very soft and I wrapped it in plastic and chilled it overnight.

The recipe says that it yields eight 4-inch tarts but I only have six 4-inch tart pans. So I also decided to use a 6-inch quiche pan with a removable bottom to make a seventh tart. I rolled out the dough (which was quite sticky and required a lot of flour), lined the pans, and chilled the crusts for 30 minutes before pricking them with a fork and baking them until golden. The sides of the tarts slumped significantly, and this was particularly noticeable with the crust in the larger quiche pan that started out with sides that were and inch and a half tall. The tart in the photo below is the larger one I baked in the quiche pan, and the sides are so short that it looks like I baked it in a regular tart pan. Right after I took the crusts out of the oven, I used a tart tamper to try to form some definition between the bottom and the sides of the tart, because the sides slumped to the point where they were almost level with the bottoms of the tarts. I was fairly successful.

The crusts were easy to release from the sides of the pan, but I had to carefully pry off the bottoms, and the crusts were fragile. I broke one as I was trying to remove it from the bottom.
Once the tart crusts are baked and cooled, the tart comes together quickly. The curd is a mixture of lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar, eggs, and egg yolks that have been cooked in a double boiler until thickened; finished with butter; and put through a sieve. The topping is a Swiss meringue you make by whisking sugar and egg whites in a bowl set over simmering water until the mixture reaches 140 degrees; whipping the mixture until thickened and adding cream of tartar; and incorporating amaretto right before the mixture reaches stiff peaks. I divided the warm lemon curd between the cooled shells, used an ice cream scoop to drop meringue on top, and spread out the meringue with an offset spatula.

The recipe instructs you to put the filled tarts under the broiler, but my gas broiler scares the crap out of me, so I just got out my butane kitchen torch and browned the meringue. I wasn't sure if the lemon curd was going to set, because the tarts are not baked after you fill them with the curd (and I don't think that a few minutes under the broiler would do much to help set the curd). So even though the recipe doesn't say anything about chilling the tarts, I put mine in the fridge. I was delighted to see that the curd set nicely. When we cut the larger tart into several pieces, the curd held its shape.

The tart was fantastic. The curd is beautifully smooth and sharply tart -- in the best way -- and the sweet, creamy meringue nicely offset the sourness of the curd. The crust was crisp and delicate and perfect. If I were to make these tarts again, I would use a pastry bag to pipe on the meringue; it was challenging to spread the meringue on top of the warm lemon curd, which was still wobbly. But I do hope to make them again, because they were absolutely delightful.

Recipe: "Lemon-Almond Meringue Tarts" from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, recipe available here at (the crust recipe in the cookbook calls for 14 tablespoons of butter, while the online version calls for 12 tablespoons).