Sometimes it's good to go back to basics, and being terrified of pastry it's good to push myself out of my comfort zone! So sweet crust pastry here we come!!
I must admit that I stood in the kitchen for ages just looking at the pastry ingredients....oh lord pastry!
I had read/watched somewhere once that if rolling out pastry was a worry, you could grate it into your moulds, so with that saftey net in place, off we go! (I say we, but it was 2am and there's nobody else in the kitchen)
This recipe makes 8 individual tarts.
Sweet crust pastry:
330g plain flour
175g butter (cold and cut into small cubes)
45g icing sugar
pinch of salt
1 beaten egg
Water 10 tablespoons
The key to this pastry is keep everything cold, cold butter, cold basin, cold worktop and cold hands. So don't switch the oven on just yet.
Add the butter to all the dry ingredients and using fingertips, rub until breadcrumbs. Add water & egg a tablespoon at a time, don't worry about measures, just keep adding until you have a ball of pastry.
Wrap in clingfilm and chill. Now pre-heat the oven to 180c and prepare your moulds, I used 8 non-stick tart moulds, which worked perfectly.
300g caster sugar
120ml lemon juice which works as the juice of 2-3 lemons
4 large egg yokes (keep the whites for the merginue, so be careful to not get yoke in the white)
Zest of 2 lemons
In a non-stick saucepan, add the water, sugar & cornflour and mix in until smooth (now I put my hands up and I made a mistake here, but it was still fine) I heated this until bubbling, but you don't need to. Either way works fine, but if you do heat just be sure to take it off the heat before you add the egg mixture.
Stir in the lemon juice, yokes and zest.
Bring this to the boil and stir gently, keep the liquid moving. Be patient and keep stirring for 10 mins, until the mixture really thickens and your whisk leaves a strong trail. Turn off the heat and add the butter, keep stirring until all melted. Transfer to a dish for chilling.
Now's the time to deal with the pastry monster!
I have decided to grate the pastry, so armed with my large box grater, I've divided the pastry into 8, and put the rest in the fridge. Grate quick, and with purpose and then press the pastry into the mould, using the back of fingers to keep it cool. If you roll, then roll to about 5mm thick. Prick the bottom with a fork. Line with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans or dry rice. Keep in the fridge while you deal with the remaining moulds.
Bake for 15mins, take out of the oven and remove the paper & beans and bake blind for a further 5-10mins. But use your eyes, you really want a golden coloured pastry base. Place on a cooling rack and let it cool completely. They should be nice and crusty when you tap them and no snoggy bottoms.
Now what I will say is that if you grate the pastry, it will look more rustic, which is lucky as I like rustic!
This recipe takes about 2.5 hours, so you can split this in two. At this point you can pause your baking until the following day
So the next day, take the lemon filling and with a large spoon, beat the mixture as it will have set. Fill each case almost to the top of the case.
4 large egg whites
250g icing sugar
1 tablespoon cornflour
I add the cornflour to stablise the meringue. So in a clean dry basin, whisk your egg whites until soft peaks and then add the icing sugar & cornflour a bit at a time until you have a stiff glossy finish.
I love piping so I've used a simple technique for the meringue, but you can just as easily spoon and swirl it on fine.
These tarts go back in for a second bake at 180c, and really just 10-15mins until the edges are brown. When you do this, the lemon filling can bubble over, or leak from any cracks, don't worry, just let them cool again, the lemon filling won't melt, or if it does, it will set again.
I did bring out a toy to finish these off, a little blowtorch, just to get a little more browning on the meringue.
Et voila! It's such a classic and homemade tastes great! Empty plates all round.