This lemon meringue tart is topped with a pile of toasted brown sugar meringue, it’s a show stopping dessert that’s perfect for a special occasion.
You know how most people have a strong preference for either cake or pie? My family is definitely a cake family. The exception to that rule has always been lemon meringue pie. But have you ever had a store bought lemon meringue pie that was sub-par? I sure have – I’ve encountered my fair share of artificial tasting lemon goop with a foamy meringue on top that was devoid of flavor. You’re not going to find that here, this brown sugar lemon meringue tart is like the fanciest and most delicious lemon meringue pie that you’ve ever tasted.
So step 1 is the crust. You can either make this as a tart or a pie, your choice. The tart is a little more elegant looking, but the pie has more of the lemon filling. I have struggled for years with homemade tart and pie crusts that shrink in the oven. I’ve even had to re-do crusts before because they shrunk so much that there was barely enough room for the filling. I adapted this recipe from the Mustards Grill cookbook and in that book there is a tip to press your crust into the pan so that there’s 1/4 inch of dough sticking out the top of the pan. That way when it bakes in the oven, the extra dough will shrink down to fill the pan perfectly. Game changer right there, I will always use this technique from now on!
The lemon filling is basically a lemon curd that gets baked into the crust. The recipe makes enough filling for a pie dish which is a little bit deeper than a tart, so if you do the tart, you’ll have extra filling. I always pour the extra filling into an oven safe dish and bake it right alongside the tart, that way there’s no waste. The crowning glory on the lemon meringue tart is a toasted brown sugar meringue. This stuff is heavenly.
You are going to need a few pieces of specialty equipment to make this meringue, a candy thermometer and a torch. You really can use any kind of blow torch, it doesn’t have to be specific for culinary purposes. When I took classes at the culinary academy the chefs used these large industrial torches for everything! This is an italian meringue where a sugar syrup is boiled to the hard ball candy stage and then slowly streamed into beaten egg whites. After you spread the meringue, it’s torching time.
This is one of my all-time favorite desserts, the lemon filling is smooth and creamy with the perfect amount of tartness and the brown sugar gives the meringue such a complex flavor. The next time you need a dessert for a special occasion give this lemon tart with brown sugar meringue a try, it’s a showstopper for sure.
Brown Sugar Lemon Meringue Tart
- For the crust:
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour , plus more for surface
- 6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter , cut into small pieces
- 1 large egg , beaten to blend
- 1 teaspoon water
- For the filling:
- 6 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
- 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 cup heavy cream
- For the meringue:
- 3/4 cup egg whites
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
- For the crust:
- Whisk sugar, salt, and 1 cup flour in a medium bowl.
- Add butter and cut it into the dough with a pastry blender or two forks until mixture resembles coarse meal with a few pea-size pieces remaining.
- Drizzle egg and water over butter mixture and mix gently with a fork until dough just comes together.
- Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth (a few dry spots are okay). Form dough into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, at least 2 hours.
- Have ready a 9 or 10 inch tart pan OR a 9 inch pie dish.
- On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough into an 11 inch circle. Pick up the dough and set it into your pan.
- Trim the dough to leave a 1/2 inch overhang all the way around. Gently push the dough into the pan so it fits snugly against the sides then fold the overhang towards the inside, pressing the folded dough against the sides.
- With thumb and forefinger lightly pinch the dough so that the sides extend about 1/4 inch above the edge of the pan, making sure the dough is an even thickness all the way up and around. Freeze the crust for 30 minutes or until hard. While the crust is in the freezer preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- When the crust is hard, place a square of parchment paper on the inside and place a layer of dried beans or pie weights on the parchment.
- Place the crust on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 20 minutes, then remove the weights and parchment paper and bake for another 15 minutes or until crust is golden brown.
- For the filling:
- About 15 minutes before the crust is finished baking prepare the filling. Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a bowl until smooth. Whisk in the lemon juice until thoroughly incorporated. Whisk in the cream and then strain the filling through a sieve into a large measuring cup and stir in the zest. The filling will be quite liquid at this point.
- Without removing the crust from the oven, pour the filling into the crust. You may have leftover filling if you're using a tart pan; just pour the leftover into a greased ovenproof dish and bake it along with the tart for a snack for later on.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake the tart for 35-40 minutes until the center is just set. Cool the tart on a rack and then refrigerate for at least an hour.
- For the meringue:
- Place the egg whites and cream of tartar into a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Place the brown sugar into a medium heavy saucepan and add just enough water to cover.
- Put your candy thermometer on the pan and turn the heat to high. When the sugar reaches 240 degrees, start whipping the egg whites by turning your mixer to high speed; you want the egg whites to be foamy and starting to thicken before you add the sugar syrup.
- When the sugar reaches 245 degrees, remove the thermometer from the pan and turn the mixer speed down to medium. Pour the sugar into the egg whites in a thin, steady stream avoiding the moving whisk. When all the sugar has been added, continue whipping until the meringue reaches the firm peak stage. Quickly spread the meringue over the pie with a large spoon or offset spatula. Use your torch to brown the outside of the meringue. Store the tart in the fridge for up to 5 hours.
Make Ahead: The tart crust can be made in advance and stored in the fridge for 2 days or frozen for a month. The tart with the lemon filling baked into it can be made a day in advance, add the meringue just before serving.