Lemon Meringue Tart, The Most Extraordinary
This lemon meringue tart is the most gorgeous, extraordinary tart of its kind. The lemon cream filling is enriched with butter and deep lemon flavor. The recipe can be taken in parts, with the almond crust and lemon filling made in advance.
You can imagine how long the days, how sore the back, how bruised the ego of a culinary intern during her first month on the job in a restaurant. I learned at least something every day at Boulette’s Larder in San Francisco, and many somethings many days.
My favorite time of day was around 3:30, when lunch service was finished and plates were put up for staff lunch. I tried to be nonchalant as we queued up for eats, yet I couldn’t help but want to take cuts, or elbow my way to the start of the line. Delectable dishes had been wrought by the sous chef out of leftovers, out of mish mash. Was I starving and therefore everything tasted of perfection? A pile of chicken legs that were tender and deeply lacquered with Asian flavor stands out in my memory. I was ravenous but truly, this food was exceptional, especially because no ingredient in the joint was anything but the best.
The most exciting part of the staff lunch line was at the far end near the bread station where I’d been slicing loaf after merciless loaf of Acme breads all day. Here sat a plate of stray desserts—a jagged edge or two of brownie, a stack of peanut butter cookies. If we were lucky, there would be a canelé that hadn’t made the cut or that was day-old. If you have not had life’s tremendous joy of eating a canelé, may I urge you to find one someday, someway, and indulge? And then let me know when you do? These little custardy cakes have a dark, caramelized exterior that comes, in a purists’ kitchen at least, from beeswax-lined molds. This crisp mysteriousness contrasts a soft, pale yellow interior cake. And between the two, you are a lost and found soul.
Beyond the canelé, I felt I’d won the mega-millions if only a corner of Boulette’s lemon meringue tart made it onto my plate at staff lunch. I’d been watching the construction of the tart with laser-sharp attention whenever possible during my work day there. I saw the voluptuous meringue piped in agile puffs around the tart, then torched golden brown with a big kitchen flame. It was a gorgeous affair.
I saw that the pâte sucrée was pushed into the tart pan rather than rolled, and that it was chilled in blocks rather than disks and then sliced off. These slices made the crust, especially the edges, perfectly even.
I didn’t feel I could ask many questions, not wanting to interrupt the flow and also feeling the need to redeem myself after having used the dry pastry brush for a wet job (the brush was labeled DRY but I didn’t see that until it was too late. The reaction was somewhat unforgiving. I walked next door to Sur la Table and replaced the brush, which seemed to shock and to exonerate).
Then I got bolder. What can you tell me about this dough, and why the crust is so good? In hushed tones I was told: Melted butter. Melted? Whoa, whoa, whoa. Tart dough is all about the chill, or so I thought. I scoured the internet for a crust made with melted butter; I asked everyone I knew about a melted butter crust, but came up empty. I finally gave up on the melted facet and turned to a pâte sucrée recipe I had gotten from a French chef in Chicago, one that includes almonds and doesn’t betray me as my crusts had in culinary school, and simply chilled and sliced it as they do at Boulette’s. It worked beautifully.
How about the curd? I asked. This was the silkiest, most flavorful curd I’d ever eaten. That’s butter too, I was told. Back to the internet, which led me to the inimitable Dori Greenspan and her take on the French pastry icon Pierre Herme’s ‘lemon cream.’ It was full of butter, and flavored with a double whammie of lemon juice and lemon zest. I asked the chef herself at Boulette’s if this was what she based her lemon tart on. No, she said, not at all. But that’s good too, she said, familiar with Herme’s lemon cream.
Good is the world’s most egregious understatement for our lemon tart. Dori Greenspan calls it The Most Extraordinary. This tart is an effort, it is a splurge, and it is what’s been on my mind whenever I’ve daydreamed about the sweet I would indulge in at the end of my sugar fast this Lent. Kind of like the humbling experience of being an intern, it has felt like a long journey at times, the fasting and the efforts at renewal. Sometimes I think the interning was worth it just for the exposure to the lemon tart alone, so no doubt there is a most extraordinary fruit of the spirit to be had that is well worth waiting for too.
Lemon Meringue Tart
For the crust:
- 1 2/3 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds
- 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) chilled, unsalted butter, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
For the lemon cream:
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- Zest of 3 organic lemons, finely grated
- 4 large eggs
- 3/4 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed (4-5 lemons)
- 2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in 1-inch pieces and softened
For the meringue:
- 4 large egg whites, room temperature
- 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- Confectioners' sugar, for finishing
Make the crust:
- Blend the flour, sugar, and almonds in a food processor until the nuts are finely ground. Using on/off turns, cut in the butter until a coarse meal forms. Add the egg and blend just until dough forms. Gather dough into ball; flatten into a square 1-inch thick, wrap in plastic, and chill 1 hour.
- Line the bottom of a 10-inch round, removable bottom tart pan with parchment paper. Cut the dough into1-inch slices.Lay the slices in the bottom of the pan and push them together, closing all fissures. Press the bottom of a glass against the dough to flatten and smooth. Then line the edges of the tart with slices of dough placed horizontally around the fluted edges. Press this dough into the bottom of the crust and into the fluted rim. Refrigerate the crust for one hour.
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake the crust until golden brown, about 17 minutes. Remove the crust from the oven. You will notice that the crust is somewhat puffed up; this should be tamped down with the bottom of a glass or similar flat, heavy tool. Cool the crust and then remove the fluted ring by setting the tart pan over a jar and letting the ring fall to the counter. Use a flat metal spatula to lift the tart off of the metal tart pan bottom. Place on a plate to fill with curd and top with meringue.
Make the lemon cream:
- Have a thermometer, preferably an instant-read, a strainer,and a blender (first choice) or food processor at the ready. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.
- Put the sugar and zest in a large metal bowl that can be fittedinto the pan of simmering water. Off heat, work the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic. Whisk in the eggs followed by the lemon juice.
- Fit the bowl into the pan (make certain the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl) and cook, stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch. You want to cook the cream until it reaches 180°F. As you whisk the cream over heat—whisking constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling—you’ll see that the cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then, as the cream is getting closer to 180°F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks. Heads up at this point—the tracks mean the cream is almost ready. Don’t stop whisking and don’t stop checking the temperature. Getting to temp can take as long as 10 minutes.
- As soon as you reach 180°F, pull the cream from theheat and strain it into the container of a blender (or food processor); discard the zest. Let the cream rest, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.
- Turn the blender to high and, with the machine going, add about 5 pieces of butter at a time. Turn off the blender and scrape down the sides of the container as needed while you’re incorporating the butter. Once the butter is in, keep the machine going—to get the perfect light, airy texture, you must continue to beat the cream for another 3 minutes. If your machine gets hot, give it a little rest between beats.
- Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal,and chill the cream for at least 4 hours or overnight. When you are ready to construct the tart, just whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell.
For the meringue:
- Make the meringue the same day you're serving the tart. In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together the egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar. I use the whisk attachment to stir. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure that the bowl has some clearance above the water (we're cooking very gently with the residual or steam heat here). Heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar is dissolved and mixture reaches 175 degrees, about 8 minutes.
- Transfer the whites to the stand mixer with the wire whisk attached. Beat, starting slow and increasing the speed steadily, until the mixer is on full. Whip until the stiff, glossy peaks form, 5 to 7 minutes.
- Use a large, 1/2-inch piping tip to pipe the meringue on the tart, or spoon the meringue making decorative swirls on top.
- Brown the meringue either by skimming the edges of the meringue with a kitchen torch, or by placing the tart in a 350 degree oven just until the meringue is lightly browned. Chill until the tart is cold, at least one hour. Sift powdered sugar around the edge of the tart, and serve chilled.
Leave a Comment
I'm so glad you're here! You'll find among these pages the fresh and classic Lebanese recipes we can't get enough of! My mission is to share my tried + true recipes -- and to help our Lebanese food-loving community keep these culinary traditions alive and on the table. What recipes are you looking for? Let me know!
I’ve read many of your blogs, postcards, stories and recipe’s… This story and recipe by far, for me, is the best. I don’t really know you that well, but one thing I’ve learned, though, is that when you write about anything “sweet” there seems to be a whole different PASSION and intensity in your writing!!
This might suggest that you have a “sugar” and/or “sweet” problem??
I’m sure I don’t have the culinary expertise to attempt this dish, but I can taste your tart here in Chesterton, IN….
Your description and your photos are really well done. I’m sure your readers, like me, appreciate all of your work and effort.
Michael, you are right about my passion for pastry and all things sweet, and you are a dear for writing such a thoughtful note. Thank you for joining me here and for all of your kind words too. Oh, and enjoy that lamb this weekend! It’s going to be great.
Congratulations, it must be or better said, has been…, delicious.
I’ll save this recipe for the near future 🙂
Yes, ‘was’ delicious!! Let me know if you try it, Tiaz! Thanks so much for your kind words.
As usual, your post is simply a joy to read and look at — your thoughtful writing is to be savored and your photos are an absolute FEAST for my eyes! Your San Francisco experiences are fascinating, to be sure! Keep up the wonderful work — I’m a big fan, my friend! 🙂
Jane, you are a dear. Thank you for reading and commenting and being here with me.
There’s an old pie dough recipe using Wesson oil that you press into the pan. I’ve made it with melted butter instead and added sugar. Works like a charm for a påte sucrée.
How fascinating Greg–the crust I learned from my mother uses vegetable oil!! And I’ve always loved it. I will try it as a press-in and I will try it with melted butter!!! Thank you thank you, master of all.
Maureen, I love these comments from others–they relate to your passion, your soul, your artistry, and, the joy you give–Oh, and Sur la Table in SF–the first kitchen store I ever went into, didn’t even know such a place existed. And the lemon tart looks sublime!
Love you, Diane!
What a beautiful lemon meringue tart! I absolutely loved the way you piped the meringue on top! It’s just gorgeous!!!
Thanks so much! It’s a remarkably easy design!!
This is the most sensual lemon meringue tart I have seen , ever; just took my mom to a pastry shop here in Beirut at the Bristol Hotel (they have amazing pastries) and the only thing she wanted was their lemon tart; their meringue was piped only on one side, very stylish; yours is just sexy, sorry that is the only way I can describe it. I can just imagine the taste too. Divine!
Now that’s a true compliment–sexy!–especially coming from you Joumana!! I will put the Bristol Hotel on my hit list, too….
I am just curious why you assemble the pie crust by cutting it into chunks and pushing it together, rather than rolling out the dough as in a traditional tart or pie. Is there a reason for this?
Hi Tess–pate sucree, or tart dough with sugar (and here, an egg) can be much softer than pate brisee (savory tart dough) and more difficult to roll out. Plus, some people hate to roll out dough, and this is an easy technique for that, and for those times when rolling out dough isn’t an option.
Gorgeous. I think I’ll have to make this for the baby shower I’m hosting next week. I might have to ‘practice’ and eat one at home first 🙂
A perfect shower dessert–tastes wonderful and looks like a dream. And I agree, a practice round is just the right thing to do…. Please let me know how it comes out!!!
David Lebovitz posted a few years ago about a melted butter crust: https://www.davidlebovitz.com/2009/05/french-tart-dough-a-la-francaise/.
It’s great and very easy.
How cool!! Thank you John for sending this!!! I’m so excited to try it.
wow, thank you for this very detailed, entertaining, and inspiring post.
i am not a baker at heart (it’s too exacting an art, compared to cooking), but occasionally i am tempted by outstanding concoctions like this.
one request: i am a key lime rather than lemon girl – would you consider expanding on your post by including a modification to make this “The most extraordinart key lime tart”? lastly, any thoughts on modifications if one were to use Meyer lemons?
Hi there! Thanks for your great comment. Key limes would most likely work well and be just as delicious in place of the lemon in the curd–be sure to use the zest. The Meyer lemon would result in a far less tangy/tart flavor which is one of the delights of this curd, as Meyer lemons are sweeter than they are tart. But that wouldn’t be a bad thing if you’re not really a lemon girl, and you’d probably like it better!! Please let me know if you make a lime or Meyer lemon tart…it’s going to be extraordinary…
This looks wonderful! I love citrus, especially in tarts!
I agree…Citrus and tarts are the perfect marriage!!
Hi Maureen, I came across this post yesterday morning and attempted to replicate your stunning lemon meringue tart for my boyfriend’s birthday (they’re his favourite!). Reading your story and following your baking instructions was such a joy – while this recipe does require quite a bit of attention and waiting time, I had a great time spending the day making it… perhaps because the end result was so rewarding! It was my first time making a lemon meringue tart, and it turned out beautifully. I substituted all-purpose flour with a gluten-free flour blend, so my crust was more delicate and slightly more crumbly when first out of the oven, but was perfect once I had allowed it all to chill and set. Thank you!! x
Beverly, that’s so great! Thank you for letting me know you enjoyed making and eating this tart as much as I do. And a gluten-free crust–that’s fantastic. I’ll keep that in mind to make this for my gluten-free nephew!
This looks insanely delicious! I can’t wait to make it! My sister Kim told me to check out your blog. We are from Lansing, Michigan. However, we have both moved away. She’s in Chicago. I’m in Naples, Fl.
My grandpa is a Kalush, so we were raised on Lebanese food. It’s hard to find the authentic recipes anymore. Which is why we are so happy to have found your website/blog! Well wishes and thank you!! Ps. Beautiful photography! 🙂
Hello, Maureen! I had friends over on Saturday evening. We had falafel and fattoush for dinner. For dessert I took a risk (I’m not a very confident cook) and baked your Lemon Meringue Tart. I couldn’t believe what I was eating had actually been baked by me. Neither could my friends, I think, haha! It was awesome. Every detail included in your recipe helped me deliver the best tart, ever. Small moments like Saturday night’s dessert success make my life so much nicer. Thank you!
How very lovely Carlos–I’m touched to know this and love what you said about how making special dishes makes our lives…so much nicer.
I have followed your blog for some time and have made many things from your recipe bank, all of which have been fantastic, and with many becoming firm favourites in my own recipe book. Family and friends constantly ask me to make the raspberry-rose crumb cake (have also made it with cherries and pears, both of which were good), the sublime apricot sherbert and the labneh that will never be store bought again to name but a few. So, not altogether surprising that I turned to your site once again when looking for a dessert recipe for a special occasion. The lemon meringue tart was sensational – I made it in a large square tin and used a rectangular pastry cutter / “ring” to cut it into individual portions for plating. I made the base and curd early in the day and piped / torched the meringue a few hours before serving. They looked so professional and tasted even better – a perfect finale for a lovely meal. THANK YOU, definitely going into my book of favourites!!
Bev, what a wonderful note–thanks so much for sharing your experiences with these recipes. I’m thrilled! You are clearly a major cook with great talents…how special for all those who come to your table. Please keep in touch!
Just found your blog Maureen! It is amazing!
I got frozen with the “lemon-meringue tart” and I´m eager to prepare one tomorrow.
The pictures in the blog are mouthwatering.
My “foodie” friend an I have just finished our eating adventure (Benu,& Greens) in SF and the capstone to the adventure was to have the Lemon Cream Tart at Boulette’s Larder. Your poetic description of this dream dessert is perfect. It’s worth the drive across town and the parking adventure that is SF to savor this heavenly dessert. I often contemplate driving the 50 miles it takes to get this. I really appreciate your sharing the secrets to this recipe. I’m going to give this a go next week, while I’m off work. Thank you so much for the inspiration!
Peggy, this is SO great! Thank you for sharing (and I’m also SO jealous!). Enjoy making the lemon tart at home!
I am a Shopgirl at Miette in the Ferry Building (who once enjoyed serving you a chocolate cupcake with boiled Italian meringue!) and have been lusting after this tart, spotted on Saturdays and BL lunch days for *months on months.* It is so whimsical, so voluptuous, so pure looking I just ordered an entire one for my birthday on Monday. I ate this post alive as it is just helping the anticipation build. To Boulettes!
Oh my gosh Chelsea, this is SO great! Thank you for your note…I’m very jealous you will be eating that decadent, gorgeous tart for your birthday. Enjoy every bite! I can’t wait to come back to Miette for my cupcake sometime soon.
This filling works beautifully with meyer lemons as well as key limes-and freezes! You can use up extra citrus, freeze the filling, then use in tartlettes (I also use up extra pastry by freezing into tartlettes for future baking). Just bake the pastry straight from the freezer while defrosting appropriate filling portion in fridge. Now that I think about it , I have a surplus of key limes at the moment and your nut crust sounds lovely…
I have been searching for a recipe for lemon meringue tart ever since I had a similar tart at Citrus in Los Angeles many years ago. This is superior! Thank you for always being spot on with what makes your recipes the best! Hope to see you this summer up north!
Thank you Alicia! I hope you like it as much as I do. See you soon back in Michigan!
I have been reading your blog with my mouth watering for several years. We have similar backgrounds and, like yours, my memories of the kitchens of my Grandmother and Mother and their exquisite “Syrian” foods are crystal clear. Often when I attempt one of their recipes, I compare it to yours first and generally find that they are quite similar. While I do not recall either my Grandmother or my Mother ever making a lemon tart, I am going to try your recipe this weekend since it is one of your Mom’s favorite desserts, I know it is counter intuitive for me (the mom) to cook for my family on Mother’s Day, but I do enjoy cooking, baking, and celebrating and what better occasion than the present??
Ohhh Lisa, thank you–I hope you do try the tart. It is very special and extraordinarily delicious! You family is blessed with a giving and loving mother.
Well I’m late to this recipe but so glad I found it! Had no idea that you had staged at Boulette’s Larder – I mostly drank their famous hot chocolate! I love lemon tarts and especially meringue. So this is next on my list especially given the intriguing preparation. Thank you for sharing another well-tested recipe.
Mariangela, how neat is that?! I want that hot chocolate right now! Love to hear how you like the tart too. Thank you for your note!
I’m not the most confidant baker. I love any lemon dessert and would love to make this tart. Do you have a video on making this tart?
Diane, thank you–I don’t have a long-form video yet but you can find a short reel on this on my Instagram feed! You can do it!