I feel like you either love pumpkin or hate pumpkin. So, for those of you who despise pumpkin, I bring you this cranberry lemon cream tart with a cloud of toasted Italian meringue on top. Is it traditional Thanksgiving fare? No. But I figured lemon is always a solid choice. Plus, I added a layer of cranberry-orange gelée to the mix which should make it perfectly acceptable for Thanksgiving.
Not to mention, this beauty will definitely be a showstopper on your Thanksgiving dessert table. It’s tart and subtly sweet and would be the perfect palate cleanser after round 3 of stuffing your face with all the apps, turkey, and side dishes.
LEMON CREAM VS. LEMON CURD
Unlike most lemon meringue tarts, this tart recipe has a lemon cream instead of a lemon curd. The lemon cream has a silky, smooth, luxurious texture. Hence, the name lemon cream. The ingredients are all the same as a lemon curd, but the difference is in the technique. Instead of adding the butter along with the ingredients and cooking it altogether, the butter for the lemon cream is added at the very end. Adding the softened butter at the end will create an emulsion and will ultimately result in a creamy texture which is the same method used for making pastry cream.
But, I can’t take credit for this genius recipe. The recipe for this lemon cream comes from none other than the French pastry master, Pierre Hermé. And let me just tell you. This recipe is super famous. I can confirm that well-known bakeries and restaurants across the nation use this exact recipe for their lemon tarts. And I’m so glad I can pass this on and share it with you. Because it’s too good not to share.
WHAT IS ITALIAN MERINGUE AND HOW IS IT DIFFERENT?
There are three different types of meringue: 1) French meringue, 2) Swiss meringue, and 3) Italian meringue. Each meringue uses a different technique for when and how the sugar is added to the egg whites which ultimately produces different results.
- French meringue is just whipped egg whites with raw sugar. It is the easiest meringue to make and is also the least stable. As a result, it is typically baked whether it be for a pavlova or folding it into a cake batter.
- Swiss meringue is more stable than French meringue and is made by heating the egg whites and sugar together in a double boiler until the sugar is completely dissolved and the egg whites are warm. Then the egg whites and sugar are whisked in an electric stand mixer until doubled in volume. However, because the sugar and egg whites are combined prior to whipping the egg whites, this type of meringue does not achieve as much volume as its counterparts because the sugar interferes with the egg whites. But, dissolving the sugar will yield a fine and smooth texture.
- Italian meringue is the most stable of all the meringues because it is made by pouring a hot sugar syrup that has been heated to 240°F over the egg whites that have formed soft peaks. This method results in a silky smooth texture and glossy peaks. Making it the perfect candidate for topping pies or frosting cakes.
TIPS ON HOW TO MAKE FOOLPROOF ITALIAN MERINGUE
I know Italian meringue can be a little intimidating, but as long as you have a thermometer and follow these tips listed below, then you’re good to go. Here are some tips and notes about Italian meringue:
- This may seem obvious, but make sure your bowl and whisk are clean and have no grease or soap residue stuck on them.
- Make sure your egg whites are completely free of any egg yolks. Even the slightest bit of egg yolks can cause a failed meringue.
- Make sure there are no dry patches of sugar. I do this by carefully swirling the water into the sugar with my index finger. The sugar should resemble wet sand.
- Be sure to clean the sides of the pot after adding the sugar so no dry granules of sugar remain. I do so by wetting my hand with water and wiping it. You can also use a wet pastry brush to wet the sides and remove the excess sugar.
- Whip the meringue until has doubled in volume and is still slightly warm to the touch. If it is cold, then you’ve gone too far. To monitor the temperature, I like to feel the bowl of the electric stand mixer while it whips. And then I top the tart with the warm meringue.
WHAT TYPE OF BLOW TORCH DO YOU USE?
When I posted this cranberry lemon cream tart on my social media, I received a LOT of messages asking me about what blowtorch I use. I prefer to use a regular blow torch over the smaller kitchen blow torches because I find those to be too weak. I purchased my blow torch at the hardware store and use the blue Bernzomatic brand. It works like a charm! Here is the one I use: Blowtorch
WHAT YOU WILL NEED FOR THE LEMON CREAM
- A thermometer - to ensure we heat the lemon cream to 180°F
- A fine mesh strainer - to remove any cooked egg
- An immersion blender or blender - to emulsify the butter
WHAT YOU WILL NEED FOR THE CRANBERRY-ORANGE GELÉE
- A blender - to purée the cooked cranberries
- A fine mesh strainer - to strain the cranberry skins
WHAT YOU WILL NEED FOR THE ITALIAN MERINGUE
- A thermometer - to ensure the sugar syrup reaches 240°F
- A blow torch - to make the perfect toasty meringue peaks
Happy baking! I know this tart is a bit more advanced, but I can personally guarantee that it is worth all the time and effort. And dishes! If you make this cranberry lemon cream tart, please tag me on Instagram @studiobaked. I love seeing your creations!
Cranberry Lemon Cream Tart with Italian MeringuePrint Recipe
For the pate brisée tart crust
- 2 ¼ cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon (12 grams) granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon (1 gram) kosher salt
- ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks; 170 grams) unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
- 2 tablespoons ice cold water
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
For the cranberry orange geleée
- 10 ounces fresh cranberries
- ½ cup (100 grams) granulated sugar* (or more depending on preference, see note below)
- ¼ cup (60 grams) water
- ¼ cup (60 grams) orange juice
- 2 tablespoons (16 grams) cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons water
For the lemon cream
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
- Zest of 3 lemons
- 4 large eggs
- ¾ cup (180 grams) freshly squeezed lemon juice; about 4-5 lemons
- 21 tablespoons (295 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
For the italian meringue: (see tips above)
- 1 ½ cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup water (80 grams) water
- 5 (180 grams) egg whites , at room temperature
For the páte brisée tart crust
- Cut butter into ½ inch cubes. Let chill in the freezer for 5-7 minutes to get cold.
- In a bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the flour, sugar, and salt on low speed until combined.
- Add the cubed butter to the flour and mix on low speed until the mixture is coarse like sand and resembles the texture of almond meal; about 3-5 minutes.
- Add the ice cold water and vanilla extract and mix just until it starts to come together.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface, shape into a round disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Let chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
Bake the tart crust
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Roll the dough out into a 11” circle and fit into a 9” tart pan. Trim the top edges so they’re smooth. Dock the bottom of the tart crust with a fork. Line the tart pan with parchment paper and pour in dried rice or dried beans to act as pie weights. This will prevent the tart shell from shrinking.
- Blind bake for 10 minutes. Remove the tart shell from the oven and remove the parchment paper with the dried rice of beans. Bake for another 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool completely on a wire cooling rack.
For the cranberry-orange gelée
- In a saucepan, combine cranberries, sugar, water, and orange juice. Bring to a boil on medium heat, stirring occasionally. Cook until the cranberries start to pop, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
- Transfer to a blender or Nutribullet and purée until smooth. Strain through a fine mesh strainer to remove the skins.
- Wipe out the saucepan and add puréed cranberries. Taste test to ensure you've reached your desired sweetness. See note below. Mix the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water to make a slurry and whisk into the cranberry purée. Bring to a simmer on medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and the cornstarch has cooked off, about 2-4 minutes.
- Pour the cranberry gelée into the cooled tart crust and smooth it out using an offset spatula. Let cool to room temperature. In the meantime, prepare the lemon cream next.
For the lemon cream
- Combine the sugar with the lemon zest and rub together. Set aside.
- Make a double boiler. Fill a saucepan with about 2 inches of water. Bring to a simmer on medium heat.
- Meanwhile, in a heat-safe bowl that can be fitted on top of the saucepan of simmering water, whisk the eggs. Slowly whisk in the sugar and lemon zest. Then add the lemon juice. Whisk until combined.
- Place the bowl on top of the saucepan of simmering water (you do not want it to be boiling), ensuring the bottom of the bowl is not directly touching the water. Whisk constantly until the lemon cream has thickened and reaches 180°F, about 7-10 minutes. Whisking constantly will prevent the eggs from cooking.
- As soon as the egg mixture reaches 180°F, turn off heat, remove the bowl, and strain the lemon cream through a fine mesh strainer. If using an immersion blender, strain it into a bowl. If using a blender, strain it directly into the blender. Let cool slightly to 140°F, whisking occasionally; about 8-10 minutes.
If using an immersion blender
- Place the immersion blender into the bowl and turn on high ensuring the blender stick is submerged in the lemon cream otherwise it will splatter everywhere. Add a few tablespoons of butter at a time and buzz for about 1-2 minutes to ensure the butter is fully incorporated and emulsified. There should be no chunks of butter and the lemon cream should be a pale yellow color and silky smooth.
If using a blender
- Turn blender on high speed and add a few tablespoons of butter at a time, scraping down the sides of the blender as needed. Continue to add in the butter a few tablespoons at a time and then blend for 2-3 minutes to ensure it is fully incorporated and emulsified. There should be no chunks of butter and the lemon cream should be a pale yellow color and silky smooth.
- Pour the lemon cream into the prepared tart shell. Smooth out with an offset spatula. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the cream to prevent it from forming a skin. Chill for at least 4 hours in the refrigerator.
For the Italian meringue topping: (make right before serving)
- *If you have never made Italian meringue before, read the tips above before starting*
- Add the egg whites to a clean bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
- In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Gently stir with your index finger until the sugar resembles wet sand and ensuring that you do not get any of the sugar on the sides of the pot. Heat on medium-high heat and bring to a boil to dissolve the sugar.
- Once the sugar syrup reaches 200°F, begin whipping the egg whites. Whip just until the egg whites have barely reached soft peaks and are still foamy. Turn off the mixer.
- When the syrup has reached 240°F, remove from heat, turn the electric mixer on high, and carefully stream the hot sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into egg whites avoiding the whisk.
- Once the sugar has been incorporated, whip on high speed for 1 minute and then reduce the speed to medium and whip until the meringue is still slightly warm. If the meringue is cold, you’ve gone too far. Immediately top the tart with the warm meringue and make peaks with a spoon or offset spatula. Toast with a blow torch.