(makes twelve 3” inch tartlets)
(Note: The Meyer lemon slices must macerate in sugar at the very least overnight, preferably for 24 hours before preparing the filling.)
All Butter Pie Pastry- (this makes enough for a double crust 9" pie or twelve tartlets)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons sugar
1½ teaspoons salt
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½” pieces
½ cup whole milk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, sugar and salt. Cut in the cold butter using a bench scraper. Add the lemon juice) to the milk. Gradually add half of the milk mixture to the dry ingredients and butter, tossing gently to combine. Add the remaining half of milk mixture to the dry ingredients and butter. The dough should just hold together; if it feels dry, add an additional tablespoon or two of cold milk. Divide the dough in half, flatten into two discs and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour before rolling out.
On a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper, roll one disc of dough into a circle about 12” in diameter. Use a 4 and 1/2" circle cutter to cut circles of dough. Gently ease the dough into greased and floured 3” tartlet shells or 3” brioche tins. Place in the freezer for 15 minutes to firm up. (The number of tartlets depends on the depth of your pans. My brioche pans measure 3 and 1/2" across and 1 and 1/2" deep. If you use shallower pans, you may end up with an extra tartlet.) Retrieve the second round of dough from the fridge, rolling out and cutting six additional circles of dough. Place the circles of dough in the greased and floured tartlet shells. Freeze these as well for 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line the tart shells with parchment paper squares and fill with dry beans or pie weights. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, lower the temperature to 325 degrees F and carefully remove the parchment paper squares and pie weights. Return the tart shells to the oven and bake an additional 5 minutes or until dry on the bottoms and golden. Set aside to cool while you prepare the filling.
Shaker Meyer Lemon filling- (makes enough for twelve tartlets; any additional filling will keep, well covered and refrigerated for one week)
3 Meyer lemons, weighing about 6 ounces
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons butter, room temperature, cut into small pieces
Wash the lemons and remove the ends. Use a sharp knife to slice the lemons into paper thin rounds or half-circles. Try and get them as thin as possible; if you have a few thick pieces, go ahead and chop them finely. In a medium bowl, place the lemon slices and the sugar, stirring to combine with a rubber spatula. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for at least 12 hours, preferably 24 hours. Stir the mixture occasionally to distribute the lemons with the sugar.
When you are ready to prepare the filling, place the flour and salt in a small bowl and pour off a few tablespoons of the sugar syrup that has formed with the lemon slices. Whisk together the flour, salt and the syrup so that the flour dissolves and is smooth. Place the lemon slices and the remaining sugar syrup in a large bowl, turning to redistribute any sugar that has collected on the bottom. Whisk the eggs together in a small bowl and add them to the lemons and sugar. Add the flour/salt/syrup to the eggs, lemon and sugar mixture. Combine thoroughly. Place the mixture in the top of a double boiler over simmering water. Cook the lemon filling, stirring with a rubber spatula until thick and it registers 170 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. Don’t let it boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter until incorporated. Place the curd in a bowl and press a sheet of plastic wrap on the surface to prevent a skin from forming. The curd will continue to thicken as it cools. Refrigerate until you are ready to fill the tartlet shells.
Prepare the caramelized and pulverized sugar (see below). Fill the cooled, blind-baked tartlet shells with the cooled lemon filling; don't over fill them. Place the filled tartlets on a baking sheet and sprinkle with the caramelized sugar. Brûlée the sugar using a hand-held kitchen torch or by placing on the top shelf of the oven set to broil for less than 5 minutes, just until deeply golden.
How to Brûlée the tarts-
Grease a sheet of aluminum foil and place it on a baking pan. Set aside.
In a heavy bottomed high-sided saucepan, melt one cup of granulated sugar over low heat until it caramelizes. (Don’t turn your back on the sugar or walk away; that is when the sugar will burn.) The color should be close to the color of maple syrup, amber. Outfit your hand in an oven mitt and carefully pour the sugar on top of the greased aluminum foil. Let the sugar harden completely. When it is cool, break the sugar into pieces. Place the pieces of caramelized sugar into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulverize the sugar and transfer to a small bowl. Retrieve the tarts from the refrigerator and carefully remove the plastic wrap. Gently dab the tops of the tarts with a paper towel to remove any moisture. Sprinkle a tablespoon of pulverized sugar evenly over each tart and have a go at it with your handheld torch. You will have extra pulverized sugar; save it in a small jar or airtight container. (If you don’t have a torch, you can melt the sugar on top of the tarts by placing them on a baking pan and setting them in an oven set to ‘Broil’ for just about 5 minutes until the sugar turns deeply golden brown. Invest in the torch- it’s well worth it.)