Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Tarte au citron


To me, a rich tarte au citron covered with merengue is the ultimate treat for celebrating a sunny afternoon. Even though I guess it would serve this purpose regardless of the season, for some reason I have never really associated it with summer.

Perhaps this is because I originally discovered citrus pie at a Thanksgiving dinner with my cousin's family, quite a few years ago already. My cousin's mother is an excellent cook, and for dessert she presented us with  a gorgeous lime pie that was an instant success among us children. Although we weren't perhaps quite as convinced by the sweet and somewhat bitter flavour of the creamy filling as our parents, we spent the entire evening competing on who could pronounce "Key Lime Pie" most like Sgt. J.W.Pepper. We must have been terribly annoying.

Today, this is what I make when I feel that the sunshine calls for some extra celebration. This particular recipe I found in Elle à Table last February, and it was an instant success on a freakishly icy Sunday afternoon.

Tarte au citron

Tarte au citron meringuée

For the crust:
200 g flour
25 g ground almonds
120 g soft butter
1 egg
80 g confectioner's sugar
1 vanilla pod

Whisk the butter into cream in a large bowl. Cut the vanilla pod open, scrape out the tiny black seeds, and mix them into the butter together with the sugar, the egg, the ground almonds and a pinch of salt. Mix together with a spatula, and then add the  flour. All at once. It will be easier, trust me.

Work everything together, first with the spatula and then with your hands, and finally let the dough rest in the refridgerator for at least 15 minutes while you make the lemon curd.

For the lemon curd:
the juice and zest of 2 lemons
2 eggs and 3 egg yolks
80 g caster sugar
70 g butter, cut into small cubes

Mix the sugar, the eggs and egg yolks with the lemon peel and juice in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to the boil over a low heat, while stirring continuously. When the first bubbles appear, throw in the butter, and mix vigorously until absorbed. Let the mixture cool.

Heat the oven to 170'C. Spread out the dough for the crust in a pie dish, and cover the borders with aluminum foil. If you don't, the crust will for some mysterious reason contract, and turn into what could best be described as a sweet pizza att the bottom of the dish... Also, don't forget to pierce the crust on several places, or the crust might turn into a balloon and burst.

Bake the crust in the oven for about 10-15 minutes before removing the aluminum foil, and then bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until the crust is nicely golden. Then remove the crust from the oven and let it cool. The cooler the crust is when you assemble the pie, the better.

While the crust (and curd) cool, increase the heat in the oven to 220'C and prepare the merengue.

For the merengue:
5 egg whites
6 cl water
170 g caster sugar
1 lime
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon confectioner's sugar

Heat 140 grams of sugar with the water in a thick-bottomed sauepan. When the mixture is about 110°C, start whisking the egg whites into a hard froth in a large bowl with the remaining 30 grams of sugar. Using a sugar thermometer and an electric whisker really helps.

Again, trust me. I have tried the alternatives.

When the syrup reaches 117-118°, remove it from the heat and pour it slowly into the egg whites without ceasing to whisk. Whisk for about another 5 minutes, until the egg whites are hard and silky. Fold in the lime zest.

Finally, fill the crust with the lemon curd, cover with merengue, and dust with brown sugar and confectioner's sugar before baking the entire pie for 3-4 minutes to cook the merengue. The merengue should be sligthly golden, crisp on the surface and not very hard on the inside.

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