[Happy Pi Day], my friends! May your forks find their way into many tasty pies in celebration of mathematics and all things round... like these darling little tartlets which could very well be itty-bitty single serving pies. Perhaps they are even one third (ahem, 3.14) the size of a typical pie? Eh, eh?
When baking I seem to be in constant need of either yolks or egg whites and then trying to find a quick storage solution or recipe to use up the extras. When recently experimenting with Meyer Lemon Curd & Blood Orange Curd I ended up with more than 2 cups of fresh egg whites. What does one do with such a hearty surplus? Well for starters you can freeze them but I prefer to use up fresh product right away.
Earlier this week I used some of the extra egg whites to make Pavlova speckled with fresh orange zest. As it turns out, I really, really like Pavlova. They are a wonderful contradiction of textures, simultaneously crunchy-shelled pillows surrounding squishy marshmallow centers. (Have you made them yet? Go on, I'll wait!)
Today we are taking the egg whites in another direction: meringue topped lemon and blood orange curd tartlets with a brown-butter crust. The Brown-Butter crust is first par-baked and then filled with luscious citrus custards which is topped with a heaping mound of fluffy meringue. After a few moments back in the heat we soon have a golden-brown swirls atop the perfect single-serving dessert. We use egg yolks in the curd and egg whites in the meringue. A frugal and practical solution for divided eggs, but more importantly, a tastefully balanced dessert. The bold brightness of winter citrus perfectly compliaments the sweetness of vanilla-scented meringue.
Baking Notes: Browned-Butter lends a wonderfully subtle nutty flavor to the tart crust, however, using browned-butter will require some prep work. You must first brown the butter and then chill it until solid again. Plan to do this at least an hour ahead of baking the tarts. If you are short on time, simply use regular chilled butter diced into pieces and added to the food processor as directed below.
For tart pans, I usedWilton's 4.75-inch round tart pans with removable bottoms. Just darling, aren't they? If you are in need of tart pans these happen to be very affordable on Amazon.com and are worth every penny. Alternatively, you can use any shallow baking dish you have available, this recipe would nicely fill a 10-inch round tart pan or 9x13 dish.
Meyer Lemon & Blood Orange Meringue Topped Tartlets
Brown-Butter Tart Shells
- 2 cups Unsalted Butter, Browned then cooled to solid
- 4 cups AP Flour
- 1 cup Granulated Sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon Salt
Fruit Curd Filling
- 1 1/2 cup Meyer Lemon or Blood Orange Curd, divided between six tarts (Recipe here)
- 3 ounces Egg Whites, at room temperature, about 3 egg whites
- 3 ounces Granulated Sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Brown-Butter: Dice butter into evenly sized pieces and place in a small saucepan. Melt the butter over medium heat and continue cooking about 5 minutes or until "browned". While cooking, the butter will separate into a liquid layer and milk-fat solids which fall to the bottom of the saucepan. The butter is "browned" when the solids begin to caramelize and turn amber, it will also give off a wonderfully nutty aroma. Note, the butter may foam if using salted butter. If this happens you will need to occasionally tip the pan from side to side and push away the foam with a spoon to visually check if the butter is browning.
Once the butter is browned, immediately remove from heat and pour it into a shallow dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the butter becomes solid, about 3 to 4 hours.
Fruit Curds: If not already prepared, make the fruit curd while the brown-butter chills. Click here for full recipe.
Tartlets shells: Once the butter is solid, make the tart shells. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a food processor, mix flour, sugar, and salt. Pulse briefly to combine. Remove chilled browned-butter from refrigerator and cut or scoop into pieces, add butter to food processor. Pulse until completely combined and the mixture forms a loose ball of dough. Gather tart pans and set them onto a baking sheet, you should be able to fit all six onto a "half sheet" pan. Press dough into the tart pans, spreading dough evenly up the sides and across the bottoms, 1/4" thick. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the crust beginning to turn golden.
Meringue: Meanwhile, make meringue while the tart shells bake. In stand mixer or large mixing bowl, beat egg whites with wire whisk for about one minute, or until soft peaks form. Increase speed to high, and gradually add sugar and vanilla extract. Continue to whip additional 5 minutes, or until stiff and glossy peaks form. Tips should stand straight when the whisk is lifted from the bowl.
Assemble the tart: Fill baked tart shells with lemon or orange curd. Top the curd with meringue and use an offset spatula to form decorative peaks or a piping bag to form coils. Be sure to spread the meringue to the edges of the pastry shell, this will give the meringue an anchor and help prevent shrinkage. Return assembled tarts to the oven and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until the meringue begins to turn golden brown. Cool finished tarts on a wire rack and then refrigerate overnight, serve chilled.
TIP: To remove tarts from individual tart pans push up from the center and the tart shell will separate leaving the pastry affixed to the round bottom piece, use your thumbnail or a knife to loosen it from the tart crust.
Inspiration and recipes sources:
Brown-Butter tart shell inspired by: White on Rice Couple
Meringue recipe from BH&G New Baking Book
Fruit Curd recipes from The Pie & Pastry Bible , my adaptation is [here].