I feel certain that a whole cookbook could be written on Southern lemon desserts. There’s lemon chess pie, lemon bars, lemon meringue pie, lemon curd, lemon cream pie, lemon icebox cookies, lemon poppyseed cake, lemon squares, lemon pound cake, and lemon this and lemon that! It seems that Southerners love lemon in more things than just sweet tea. I’m slowly making my way through the lemon-flavored classic desserts and scaling down the recipes to serve two. When I came to lemon meringue pie, I found that I preferred it in a tart pan in order to achieve the perfect lemon curd to meringue ratio in each bite. If you prefer mile-high meringue, double the ingredients for the meringue (minus 1 teaspoon sugar) and proceed. This recipe has a lot of steps, however the crust and lemon curd can be made 1-2 days ahead of time.
- FOR THE CRUST:
- 2 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1/4 teaspoon white vinegar
- 2-3 tablespoons cold water
- FOR THE LEMON FILLING:
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 whole large egg + 1 large egg yolk
- 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- FOR THE MERINGUE:
- 1 large egg white
- 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- Begin by making the crust: Preheat the oven to 375°.
- In a medium bowl, add the butter, flour, sugar and salt. Using a pastry cutter or two knives (or your fingers), rub the butter into the mixture until it is homogenous. Add the white vinegar and water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together in a clump. Dump the dough out onto plastic wrap, shape it into a disk and chill it for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, butter a 6” tart pan with removeable bottom. Once the dough is done chilling, press it into the pan, making an even layer on the bottom and pressing the dough up the sides of the tart pan. Prick it all over with a fork and bake it on a small sheet pan for 20-23 minutes, until it is lightly browned and the bottom is not wet. (Can be made 1 day in advance and stored tightly wrapped at room temperature).
- Meanwhile, make the lemon curd: In a small bowl, beat together with an electric mixer the butter and sugar. Beat this mixture very well, until it is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
- Add the whole egg, beat until combined, then add the remaining egg yolk and beat well. Next, slowly stream in the lemon juice while beating. The mixture may look curdled, but do not worry.
- Pour the mixture into a heavy-bottomed sauce pan and cook over low heat while stirring continuously and scrapping the sides of the pan. When the mixture coats the back of a spoon, in about 5-7 minutes, it is done. Remove from the heat, pour into a small bowl and press plastic wrap directly on the surface before placing it in the fridge to chill. (Can be made 1-2 days in advance).
- To make the meringue: In a very clean bowl, add the egg white and cream of tartar. Beat until the egg white has very stiff peaks. Add the sugar and beat until just combined. Preheat the oven to 400°. To assemble the tart, spread the lemon curd in the crust. Top with the meringue. Use a fork to make peaks in the meringue—this makes crunchy brown meringue spots (yum!).
- Bake for 3-5 minutes, until the meringue has your desired level of browning. You could also use a blow torch (like the one you use for creme brulee) to cook the meringue instead of using the oven. You may serve the tart right away, but I like mine at room temperature.