Yes, it’s that good. Creamy to the point of no return, it melts in your mouth with the perfume of freshly squeezed lemons.
The base is not a pastry tart case, as you might have thought, but a crumbly shortbread base which makes for the perfect balance of creamy and crunchy.
100g butter, diced
40g icing sugar
1 egg yolk from a hard-boiled egg, finely grated
2 lemons, zested
100g plain flour
2 tablespoons cornflour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
FOR THE LEMON CURD
200g caster sugar
3 lemons, finely grated zest
4 large eggs
180g freshly squeezed lemon juice
300g unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
FOR THE LEMON SPONGE
120g ground almonds
80g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons cornflour
1 lemon, zested and juiced
FOR THE ITALIAN MERINGUE
2 egg whites
185g caster sugar
5g dehydrated egg whites, (optional)
1. First make the shortbread. Cream the butter, icing sugar, egg yolk and lemon zest for a few minutes. Add the flours and salt, and mix until the dough just comes together.
2. Roll out the dough between 2 sheets of baking paper until it’s around 4 mm thick. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, or for up to 3 days.
3. To make the lemon curd, rub the sugar and lemon zest together between your fingers in a large heatproof bowl until it is moist and aromatic. Whisk in the eggs followed by the lemon juice.
4. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water, stirring constantly with a spatula. Cook the lemon cream until it reaches 85°C. It will take a long time, so turn on the radio and stir away for around 20–30 minutes. As soon as it reaches temperature, remove the curd from the heat and allow to cool down to 60°C. Gradually incorporate the butter, whisking well after each addition.
5. When all the butter has been added, blitz the lemon curd using an immersion blender for 8–10 minutes. It might sound long, but it will give the cream a too-smooth-to-be-true texture.
6. Pour the curd into a container, lay clingfilm over the surface and refrigerate overnight, or for up to 3 days.
7. On the day you’re planning to serve your tart, preheat the oven to 160°C and generously butter a 24 cm metal ring.
8. Lift the shortbread onto a baking tray, remove the top piece of paper and bake for 18–24 minutes or until golden-brown. Remove from the oven and immediately press the tart ring onto the shortbread to cut through. Leave to cool slightly, then trim the excess shortbread, leaving the tart ring in place.
9. While the shortbread base is cooling down, make the lemon sponge. Mix all the ingredients, except the lemon juice, in a large bowl until smooth. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a 9 mm nozzle and pipe onto the shortbread in a spiral shape, starting from the centre and spiralling outwards to the edge.
10. Bake for 8 minutes, then cool down completely and gently lift the ring off. Using 2 palette knives, transfer the tart to a large plate. It will be very crumbly and fragile so take care.
11. Scrape the lemon cream into a plastic piping bag fitted with a 10 mm nozzle and pipe the lemon curd on the shortbread in a spiral, as with the sponge, but this time leave a 1 cm rim around the edge. Chill while you make the meringue.
12. Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt in a stand-mixer on a slow speed until foamy, then add 35 g of the sugar, gradually increasing the speed until the mix holds soft peaks. Reduce the speed while you make the syrup.
13. Heat the water and remaining sugar to 115°C in a small pan over a medium heat.
14. With the mixer still on slow to medium speed, pour the boiling syrup down the sides of the bowl to mix with the egg whites. Increase the speed and whisk until the bowl no longer feels hot to the touch.
15. Scrape the meringue into a plastic piping bag fitted with a 15 mm nozzle and pipe on top of the lemon curd. Smooth into curls and peaks with a small palette knife.
16. Gently caramelise the meringue with a blowtorch.
17. The lemon tart will keep for a day in the fridge but is definitely best eaten on the day it’s made.