Okay, let me start by saying, that this is my most enjoyable pastry creation so far. I absolutely love every step of this process. I loved it even when I had to do it day-in and day-out and never grew tired of it!!!
Rolling the shortcrust to a perfect smooth sheet and then cutting out perfect circles that fit perfectly to my mini tart molds…so satisfying. I love to watch as they bake! Once they are done, they release so easily, the house fills with buttery biscuity smell. Then comes the easy bit! The lemon mixture is a one bowl recipe and once it’s made, all you have to do is fill the shells and bake. I watch them like a hawk as they bake, and take them out as soon as they are just set with a slight wobble in the center. Then comes the fun part! Italian Meringue. It may sound complex at first but I used to whip this perfectly even without a thermometer, because I’ve been making it for so long. Once the meringue is done, time to have real fun!!! Pipe any dreamy pattern you like on the mini tarts. And just when you think it is over, here comes the blow torching, which instantly transforms the already pretty tarts into something extraordinary. They look so elegant, you’d want to place one in a snow glob and keep staring at it! (But in reality you just take a big bite and close your eyes!)
There… the whole process in one single paragraph. If you thought, it’s a lot of work, you are absolutely right! It is a lot of work but it is achievable at home with some patience and practice. So let us begin!
Short bread recipe:
In real life most bakeries/cafes outsource the tart shells. Because it is such a time consuming task and there are companies who do this for a living and they make killer shells, so why bother!
But at home, it’s a different story. We love to make everything from the scratch plus this is a nice quarantine project!
I have used several shortcrust recipes to make tart bases and I still keep trying different recipes when I find them. This one I’m using today was accidentally found on Instagram. I thought to give it a try and I loved the results. So it is a keeper!
Head over to this awesome blog to get the recipe.
I had to use 2 – 3 tbsp of cold milk to get the mixture together, I think my egg yolks were small. Once it is done wrap the dough and chill for at least 2 hours. I usually make my dough the previous day (night) and chill it overnight. Makes life a lot easier the following day!
Also, if you already have a trusted shortcrust recipe, feel free to use it. And if you think making shells is not your thing, by all means you can use the store bought shells, your tarts will be equally delicious. I know there are very good brands out there that use real butter. I have used store bought shells when I’m short of time.
These tart shells can be baked and stored (in an airtight container of course) for several day so feel free to whip up a whole batch and make lots of tart shells. You can also make a big tart too. Same shortcrust same lemon mixture. Check the details at the bottom of the post ( after the recipe)
Okay now that we have sorted the short crust, lets get into making these cute shells! Also check the video at the end of the recipe!!!
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I hope you went ahead and made your shortcrust dough using the link above. If so, lets continue. The dough has to be chilled for a minimum of 1 hour, but I usually make this a day ahead. Makes my life a lot easier on the day of making the shells. Let the chilled dough sit at room temperature until it’s soft enough to roll. Then lightly dust a silicone mat and place the dough. Lightly dust the top of the dough too.
Now place the other mat on top. If you don’t have silicon mats, use parchment papers.
You can try to roll out on the bench directly too, but the dough easily sticks and it would be hard to cut shapes off. If you attempt this, make sure to lift and dust underneath the dough after every stroke. My advise, invest in two silicon mats.
Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough. make sure to peel off the silicon mat and do a light dusting of flour every now and then. Turn/flip the whole thing over and dust the other side too. This will ensure smooth rolling of dough without sticking too much. Check the video for clarity.
Constantly check if the desired thickness is achieved. If not keep rolling out. In our case desired thickens is about 4 mm – 5 mm. You don’t have to measure, just eyeball.
When you are happy with the thickness, you can cut out circles. If you are not sure, just do a test run and see if the circle covers the mold. I’m using a 3 inch cookie cutter for my tart shells.
This is the tart mold i’m using ( the same I use for my Portuguese tarts)
Top diameter: 7CM/ 2.76″
Depth: 2CM / 0.79″
Bottom diameter: 4CM / 1.57″
You can use disposable foil cases for this too. The same you use for mince tarts.
Make sure the tart molds are clean and dry. Lightly spray the tart molds and wipe any excess grease. Excess grease may cause burnt/fried spots on the shells.
Place the cut circle inside the tart mold.
Press the dough towards the tart mold wall, making sure it’s slightly clinging. Be careful not to trap any air at the bottom.
Use another tart mold to press the dough, to get the perfect shape.
Once done, dock the base with a folk. Simply get a folk and poke a few holes in the bottom of the tart. We do this to prevent the base puffing up. If there is any air trapped, these holes will help release the air while baking.
I usually refrigerate them for 10-20 minutes before baking
Preheat the oven to 180 °C and bake these shells for about 15 minutes. Remove them when they just start to color around the edges.
Cool them in their molds. Once cool enough, you should be able to slide them off of the mold with ease.
Usually these tiny holes seal back while baking. And they are not even holes any more so will not cause leakage.
But if they hasn’t sealed or if you have got bigger holes, lightly brush the cases with beaten egg white and place them back in the oven for 5 minutes. This trick will seal them off for you.
Tart shells are now ready. Let us now make the easy lemon mixture. All you need is a whisk and one big bowl. Once you mix everything however, strain it in to a measuring jug with a spout, so it’s easier to pour.
Make the lemon tart mixture as described in the recipe.
You can also add about a teaspoon of grated lemon zest to this mixture to bring out extra citrus flavor. I prefer not to.
If you have a lot of foam on the top of the mixture, scoop them out with a spoon and discard.
This mixture can be refrigerated for up to a week
Now all we have to do is fill these shells with the mixture and bake. Make sure not to get foam or bubbles on the surface. Place the tart shells in the molds before filling for better support. Do not over fill or spill the mixture. If you spill any, clean the mold and place it back, or your tart might get stuck in the mold
Make sure the oven is preheated and ready before you fill the cases. Do not let the mixture sit in the tart shells for too long as they might get soggy.
Bake these @ 130 – 140 °C for about 20-25 minutes. Remove them when they are just set and the center is still a bit wobbly.
As they cool, they will finish cooking. They will be just set and have the texture of set custard.
Once the tarts are cool enough to handle, you can lift them off of the molds. Let these cool completely before storing them.
Can be refrigerated in an air tight container.
These are now ready to be served, yes even without the meringue.
But where’s the fun in that, so lets go ahead and make the meringue
I have a separate blog post on how to make Italian meringue
Make the meringue according to the post. There will be enough meringue to decorate roughly about 20 tarts, but it depends on how you decorate.
Make some meringue kisses with any leftovers.
Make sure the tarts are completely cooled, else the meringue will melt away.
Be creative here, use decorative tips and your imagination. I only have the rounds tips, so I went with this patters. Check the video below to see how I piped this.
If you have any leftover meringue, pipe them in to kisses or bird nests, before you attend to the blow torching. Meringue will deflate it is left uncovered, so finish off all the piping and then come back to blow torch these.
If you ask me, yes these can be devoured just like this. It is not necessary to blow torch. But trust me it’s worth it.
Finished product. Once blow torched, it is quite stable. It can stay at room temperature for several hours. You don’t have to worry about melting.
These are best served fresh like any dessert with meringue. They can be refrigerated if you must, I do all the time, but they get a bit moist and meringue goes soft, I don’t mind that. Make sure to store them in an air tight container before you refrigerate.
Highly recommend serving them fresh!
Family size baked lemon tart
Use the same short crust dough and use a bigger tart mold ( preferably with a removable base) to make the tart base. And then use the same lemon mixture to make a nice big lemon tart!
This is the mold I used, but you can use any mold you have at hand. make sure you have enough pastry to cover it and enough mixture to fill the tart base.
It will be tricky getting the short crust in this mold. It will break as the short crust is very soft. But feel free to patch with extra dough and smooth it out. Once baked, you won’t notice any of these.
When baking big tarts like this I personally like to place the baking beads. (Use a foil with some rice if you don’t have beads)
This might take about 30 minutes to bake as it is bigger
Once the tart base is ready, fill with the same lemon mixture and bake until just set.
Look closely and you’ll be able to see the wobble in the center!
As it cools, it will finish cooking and will be firmly set.
Cool completely before cutting into it! Use a clean knife and wipe the blade after each stroke to get the perfect clean edges