As the most popular favourite season, summer has a lot of fans-maybe it’s the sunny weather, maybe it’s laid back attitudes, maybe(probably) it’s because school isn’t in session. Who knows?
I love summer because of the flavours- the fresh, bright flavours. Particularly lemon. Lemon pie has always been an important part of my baking repertoire- as my dad’s favourite, it was ever-present, and one of the first things I ever learned to make(even though when my mum taught me, it was from the Sheriff box)
Seeing this little box out on the counter was always a sign that good things were to come. Combine it with a premade crust, and my little brother and I were in heaven.
Because it was so popular in my family, it was one of the first things I learned how to make from scratch, as well. Following the recipe in Miette, I was in heaven. The filling had more depth, and the crust was more like shortbread than the doughy, chewy crust that came from the freezer. It was magical.
Today, I like to mess around a little when making lemon meringue pies-different crusts, changing the ratios of lemon juice and butter, that kind of thing. So when my mother came in from the garden declaring that she’d “never seen anything quite like the lavender this year”, I knew what needed to happen. Lemon and lavender is a combination that is undoubtedly SUMMER. Fresh, light, and bright, it’s what a sunny day would taste like.
This recipe may look daunting at first, but trust me, it’s easy. There are three main parts:
If lavender isn’t so much your thing, don’t stress it – this makes a killer lemon meringue pie, just omit the lavender. Our lavender was fresh, but any pesticide-free, food safe lavender should work.
Lemon and Lavender Meringue Tartlets
For the Crust(from Miette):
- 3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
- 2 large egg yolks
- 4 to 8 tablespoons heavy cream
For the Filling(adapted from Caitlin Freeman):
- 6 large egg yolks
- 1 cup (200 g) sugar
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
- Grated zest of 4 lemons
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1 tablespoon pieces, at room temperature
For the meringue:
- 6 egg whites
- 2 tsp lavender buds
- 1 1/2 cups +1 tbsp(315 g) sugar
- pinch cream of tartar
For the assembly:
- lavender to top
Part 1 – The Crust:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds.
- Add the butter and beat until mixture is the consistency of cornmeal (about 5 minutes) DO NOT OVERBEAT. SERIOUSLY, IT’S FIVE MINUTES, JUST KEEP AN EYE ON IT. OTHERWISE, YOU’LL HAVE A REALLY CHEWY, TOUGH CRUST.(it’s happened to me a few times) Turn off the mixer.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of the cream. Add to the flour mixture and mix on low until just combined. You can also do this by hand, just to be careful. If the dough does not come together into large chunks, slowly add the remaining cream, a little bit at a time (a teeny-tiny stream), until it does.
- Gather the dough into a ball, pat it into a disk, and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. ish.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator and unwrap, then divide the dough to make the portions you need – one if you’re making a single tart, ~6-8 for tartlets and again pat gently into disks.
- On a lightly floured work surface(no more than about a tablespoon over the whole surface or the dough will get all floury and ick), roll out each dough disk into a round about 1/4 inch thick and about 1 inch greater in diameter than the pan you are using (8 inches for a 7-inch pan; 4 inches for 3 1/2-inch tartlet pans)
- Drape the rolled-out dough into the tart pan(s), gently pushing it into the bottom edges and against the pan sides to make a strong and straight shell. Trim the edges flush with the rim of the pan(s) using a sharp knife, or roll the rolling pin over the edges to cut off the excess dough.
- Prick all over the bottom with the tines of a fork and place in the freezer to firm up for 30 minutes
- Preheat the oven to 350°F
- bake straight from the freezer until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before filling(this takes an hour or so)
Part 2 – The Filling
- In a heatproof medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until thoroughly combined.
- Whisk in the lemon juice and zest and set the bowl over a saucepan with an inch or so of boiling water underneath(bain marie), making sure the bottom does not touch the simmering water.
- Cook, whisking occasionally, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and/or the temperature registers 180°F on a digital thermometer, 20 to 30 minutes.
- Strain the curd through a fine-mesh sieve set over a clean medium bowl. This will remove any cooked bits of egg and the zest.
- Add the butter a few pieces at a time, stirring with a rubber spatula. When all the butter has been incorporated, blend with an immersion blender until the curd is completely smooth, about 30 seconds.
- Strain the curd once again, this time into a storage container. If you want zest in your final curd, mix it in now. Press plastic wrap onto the surface and refrigerate until chilled but not set, 2 to 3 hours.
Part 3 – The Meringue
note: because of the nature of introducing oil to a meringue, this may take a few tries to get it right. don’t stress. If you get frustrated, just omit the lavender and proceed with the recipe
- Wipe the inside of the stainless bowl and whisk attachment of your mixer clean with lemon juice or vinegar, fit onto the mixer and add the egg whites and cream of tartar.
- In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stir together a heaped 3/4 cup (170g) of the sugar, the lavender buds, and the water. Stop stirring. Brush down the sides of the saucepan with a damp pastry brush. Clip on a candy thermometer and leave the mixture to bubble uninterrupted.
- When the sugar syrup reaches ~170°F, start to whip the egg whites and cream of tartar on low speed (let the syrup continue to cook) until frothy, about 30 seconds.
- Increase mixer speed to medium and gradually add the remaining granulated sugar. Increase the mixer speed to high speed and whip eggs whites to soft peaks, about 1 minute.
- Keep the mixer going, and when the sugar syrup reaches 240°F, promptly remove the saucepan from the heat and pour through a sieve in a thin, steady stream into the meringue mixture and continue to whip the egg whites until they are stiff and glossy.
note: you can pour through a sieve into a measuring cup if you’d like, but you have to be very fast. You don’t want to have the lavender buds going into your meringue.
To Assemble: Fill your crust(s) with the chilled but not totally set lemon curd. refrigerate until set(1-2 hours). when ready to serve, top with the meringue. brown the meringue by placing it under the broiler, but for god’s sake, keep an eye on it. you can also use a kitchen torch. Try not to set your house on fire.
Sprinkle the top with fresh lavender buds or a sprig or two of lavender to serve.(I skipped this step)
Let me know if you try out this recipe, how it goes, and if you like it!