Thank the Lord it is almost summer again, and I can stop paying over a buck for a lemon. If I had been making these Lemon Tarts 3 months ago, I’d have had a small fortune in them, for too many reasons.
Let me tell you a story you don’t care to hear.
I’ll be honest, when I think of dessert, I naturally lean towards cake, cookies, or brownies. But I do enjoy pie if it’s done right. Meaning – from scratch. Please don’t serve me a store bought crust. I don’t like plain old crusts, and I will scoop the filling out every.single.time. Those pre-made crusts are like cardboard and powdered sugar. They’re weird. They’re tough. They’re cheap and you know it. Skip making the pie if you are going to resort to one of those things.
Okay, rant over.
I’ve had these tarts on the brain for a couple of months now. Spring started so early in many places this year, and Virginia was no exception. So for me, lemons are about summer, and I am ready for a taste of it. And if I am going to go to the trouble of making a decadent, pucker-up and die of happiness lemon curd, I am going to make a crust that’s as good on its own as it is cradling that lemony deliciousness.
Oh, and don’t forget a pile of baked meringue that’s tall and swirling in sweet peaks of toasted glory. Gotta have the meringue.
So over the weekend, lemons finally went on sale, and I picked up enough of them to make these tarts.
Or so I thought.
Imagine, if you will, your good mood turned lemony sour.
It started with my inability to locate anything in my newly remodeled kitchen. It seems nothing has found its new home yet, and to my dismay, my KitchenAid Juicer attachment was nowhere to be found. As in – NOWHERE. For over half an hour, I searched high and low for the juicer. Finally, I gave up and started juicing the lemons by hand.
No big deal, right?
Riiiggghhhtt. After juicing all the lemons I had on hand, because I was just squeezing versus actually juicing, I was a little low on the amount of juice I needed. What to do? Well, I decided the back of a spoon pressed into each of the lemon halves would yield me enough juice to make the tarts.
Except I managed to knock over the entire bowl of juice in the middle of that “spoon juicing”. Violently. Lemon juice covered the counters, the cabinets, the floor. Not a drop remained in the bowl, and I was furious. Combined with the inability to find the juicer, the spilled juice put me over the edge.
I cleaned up the juice, cried a little, and decided I was going to bed, despite it being 2 in the afternoon.
Luckily Jon lassoed me back in to sanity, located the juicer, and ventured back to Food Lion to procure the lemons I needed. Either he really wanted pie, or he didn’t want to see my face explode. He won’t say which.
Now that the backstory is out of the way, let’s talk tarts.
Freeform tarts are genius. No need to make a perfect pie crust or spend lots of time pressing dough into tiny little tart shells. All you need to do is divide up the dough, roll it into balls, and smash them flat. Voila…Freeform Tart Shells.
For mine, as I said, I hate boring crusts. But this crust? It’s amazing. It’s soft, it’s full of richness. You could eat it alone, with a glass of milk and be happy. For starters, I used great butter (Kerrygold, of course!) and sugar. Yes, sugar makes a difference, believe it or not. The storebrand is often cheaper, but I bet you’ll find that it has clumps, the crystals are larger, and it’s “dusty”, for lack of a better word. I used Dixie Crystals, because I am lucky enough to live in the south, and I can get my hands on it. Great stuff. For a punch of flavor I added lemon zest, lavender buds and cardamom. I can’t tell you how amazing it turned out! I could have eaten the dough straight out of the food processor (and did, Shhhh!). I hope you’ll try it!
While the tart crusts baked, I made the lemon curd, which comes together easily and surprisingly quickly. Then, while the lemon and crusts cool, you can whip together the meringue. Time management, kids. It’s almost like I know what I’m doing.
Just don’t ask me where I’ve managed to hide the new ceramic pie pan.
Or the juicer.
Freeform Lemon Meringue Tarts with Lavender Cardamom Crust
For the Crust
- 3/4 cup cold salted butter; cut into pieces
- 2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- pinch salt
- 1 tablespoon lavender buds
- 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
- Zest of one lemon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/3 cup ice water
For the Filling
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- Zest of one lemon
- 6 large egg yolks beaten
- 1/4 cup butter
- 3/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tsps vanilla extract
For the Meringue
- 6 large egg whites at room temperature
- 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
For the Crust
Combine all ingredients save for the water in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until dough has combined and has oat size and pea sized bits. Slowly add ice cold water until dough pulls away from sides of the bowl. Do not overmix. (Without a food processor, combine ingredients in a bowl and mix with a pastry cutter. Add water a bit at a time until dough comes together.
Remove dough from bowl and gingerly knead into a ball, incorporating any scraps or dry ingredients. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350. Remove from plastic wrap and divide into 6 even pieces. Roll each into a disk, and flatten to 1/8 inch, approximately 5 inches in diameter. Place on parchment lined baking sheet or SilPat.
Bake for 25 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
For the Filling
Bring water to a boil in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for round 5 minutes. In a separate bowl whisk the sugar, cornstarch, and lemon zest together, then add the mixture slowly to the hot water, whisking constantly until incorporated.
Place mixture over medium heat,continuing to whisk until it comes to a boil and becomes very thick.
Add about half of the hot mixture to the beaten egg yolks, and whisk until smooth. Carefully whisk the warmed yolks into the pot and continue cooking and whisking until mixture comes to a boil.
Remove from heat and add butter,lemon juice, zest and vanilla, stirring until combined. Pour into the prepared crust. Allow to cool roughly 10 minutes, then add by large spoonfuls to the cooled tart crusts.
For the Meringue
Preheat oven to 425.
Beat eggwhites, cream of tartar, salt and vanilla until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar until stiff peaks form and meringue is shiny. Pipe or spread onto prepared tarts.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until meringue is browned. Allow tarts to cool, serve, and enjoy!
You can certainly opt to use a bowl and a pastry cutter to make your crusts, but honestly, a food processor makes it SO much easier. So. Much. Easier. I have the new KitchenAid 13 Cup Food Processor, and it whips out flaky crusts in a few pulses. Perfect size, too – the 13 cup size will easily hold this recipe, and quite possibly double the recipe. Which I may attempt next time.
Of course I will.
Would you like to have one of these gorgeous new KitchenAid Food Processors? It does just about everything under the sun. It shreds. It chops. It slices a freaking tomato. Yes, really. There is a bowl within the bowl. There are more blades and gadgets on this thing than my first car. So again, I ask you…would you like to have one?
Of course you would! Well, it just may be your lucky day.
Tell me you want it. Voila, you are entered to win.
For more chances:
- Follow KitchenAid on Twitter
- Become a Fan of KitchenAid on Facebook
- Pin a photo from this post
- Stumble this post
- Tell me you’ve had a kitchen mishap that sent you over the edge. Make me feel better.
There you are – 6 chances to win. Just be sure to leave a SEPARATE COMMENT for each one you do…Good luck!
Contest is open until May 28 at 11:59pm EST. Prize is courtesy of and shipped by KitchenAid. US Addresses only. Disclaimer – I was supplied a Food Processor of my own to review, but was not compensated for my post or review. My thoughts are 100% my own.
FYI – The floral plates used in today’s post are the Amazonia Collection from Villeroy & Boch. Aren’t they beautiful??