Tarts

Snow-capped Lemon Poppy Seed Tartlets

It’s been in the 70s all week, but here’s a little snow to remind the Bay Area that it’s still February! # 210: Snow-capped Lemon Poppy Seed Tartlets

I was flipping through Erin McDowell’s The Fearless Baker and the recipe for these happy lil tartlets popped out at me. Poppy seeds in . . . lemon curd? What? After straining the curd carefully so it’s perfectly smooth and satiny, who would dare add crunchy seeds! She’s clearly crazy. But my kind of crazy, so I bookmarked the recipe (obviously.)

As it turns out, the little pop of seeds is a welcome delight in the creamy rich filling. Well done, Erin! So if you have a jar of poppy seeds moping around your pantry from that one time you made lemon poppy seed muffins, time to give them new life. After making these tartlets, you can dump the rest of the poppy seeds into a mohnkuchen or these cardamom lemon twists. Everyone wins!

The recipe called for piped whipped cream on top of the luscious lemon curd, but I went rogue. The leftover egg whites on the counter kept eyeing me, and the lifelong love affair between lemon and meringue can’t be denied. Plus, there’s something incredibly soothing about piping meringue. It’s shiny and smooth and you can convince it to hold almost any shape.

I had two meyer lemons from Nate’s parents’ backyard and two Safeway lemons. I know I’m biased to the homegrown version, but meyer lemons themselves are sweeter and have thinner pith. They smell more “lemony” in my opinion but it’s hard to not smell lemon when you’re zesting with a microplane. I always imagine the lemon peel is just a bunch of pockets filled with lemon-scented oil that’s released into the world when you break down the protective walls with your zester.

Quick side note – if you don’t need lemon juice for your recipe, you’ll want to take your now-naked lemon and squeeze it anyway, storing the juice in a tupperware to use for salad dressing or fancy water. Otherwise, the whole fruit will dry out super quickly and you’ll lose all that yummy juice! Without it’s naturally waxy overcoat, lemon juice escapes via evaporation, and whatever is left oxidizes, resulting in a more bitter flavor.

Action shot! I’m always surprised when I manage to catch a (mostly) non-blurry pouring picture. It’s probably more down to luck than one-handed camera skills, but I’ll take when I can get.

Velvety and zingy, fruit curds are the brighter cousin of creamy custard. They go through the same chemical transformation, where hot liquid is added to an egg yolk / sugar / cornstarch mixture, then cooked til it thickens. Heat really is the hidden extra ingredient in so many recipes! Without it, these lovely ingredients would be a gloopy, lemon-scented mess.

Nate has been my cheerleader in the attempt to not use plastic wrap in the kitchen. I sometimes will be feeling lazy and reach for the easiest known quantity, but there’s so many other options that work perfectly! Parchment paper is a great substitute for covering curds and custards. The goal is just to keep a skin from forming on top, and all it requires is a barrier to the air. You can then rinse off the parchment paper and use it one more time (give it a whirl as a pan protector when roasting veggies!)

Bazinga! *Best Sheldon voice*

So I’m the worst and didn’t take any pictures of making the crust (I’m sorry!) But this is just my classic sweet shortcrust, with a little added beet powder for a pop of color. It didn’t mess with the flavor at all, so I might try doing powdered freeze-dried blueberries next time! Though a little blueberry with a lemon tart would honestly be delightful.

Referenced in my PB&J Tartlets post, here’s the tart shell recipe:

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt (leave out if you’re using salted butter!)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

Beat the butter until soft, then add the sugar and continue beating until fluffy. Add in the egg and beat til mixed. Add the flour and salt and mix until it comes together in a ball. Try not to overmix! No developing gluten here, folks.

Flatten into a disk and wrap with beeswax or parchment paper and leave it to nap in the fridge for 30 minutes (or 10-15 in the freezer if you’re impatient.) Press into tartlet molds (if non-stick, no need to grease them) and poke holes in the bottom with a fork so they don’t puff up in the oven. Bake at 400F for 8 – 10 minutes until lightly golden. They should pop right out of the molds after cooling for a minute or two. The cooling is more for you so you don’t burn your fingers on the molds!

Ready, set, action!

Brb, whipping up some clouds to float on top of these tart bebes.

Egg whites, a little sugar, cream of tarter, a lot of air bubbles and voila! Sassy meringue.

Fill to your hearts content, but make sure that you leave enough exposed tart shell to have the meringue seal against. It’ll keep the meringue from “weeping” or starting to break down if you are storing them in the fridge. Why? Haven’t figured that out yet, but I’ll report back when I know more.

I couldn’t decide between two piping tips, so some got to be swirly and some got to be blobs.

I’m partial to the blobs.

A little blowtorch fun later and here we are! Toasty and ready for our close-ups.

Happy munching!

Recipe from: Erin McDowell’s baking book The Fearless Baker

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