I went to the market in Venice yesterday, gathered winter citrus & fresh eggs—the sun, the eye, some strange warmth in the dead of winter—and walked back to my friend Skye’s family home through the narrow streets and over marbled bridges that arch canals the color of eyes that waver so undecided between green & blue. I felt light of step and grateful and safe and all manner of things one would hope to feel from time to time. I laid the citrus out when I returned, and they, the mandarins and oranges and lemons so spread upon the marble kitchen island with the spectres of branches still clinging to their stems, struck me as summer trying to communicate from the grave. Like Persephone sighing somewhere down below. Summer, I thought, haunts winter. And I felt warm.
I hovered back and forth from the kitchen (where my friend, and incidentally very talented chef, Aaron was doing, if I’m honest, most of the work) to the little wooden table by the window where I was photographing and styling, and before I knew it, it was time to bake them off. Many hands, as they say, make light work. The meringue was whipped into glossy clouds. Positively shiny. And that’s why I love Italian meringue, and it seemed only fitting given that we’re in Italy.
I always opt for an Italian meringue, be it my Tennessee kitchen or elsewhere. It’s only a small extra step, and well worth the minimal effort for a meringue that really lasts & behaves. An Italian meringue is, essentially, whipped egg whites in which you pour a simple syrup cooked to the soft ball stage. It won’t weep, and the syrup “cooks” the fluffy whites, rendering them shiny & sturdy.
Meringues require, naturally, the separation of a fair amount of yolks from the whites (I always save the yolks for custard or bread pudding or some such other yolk heavy thing). Everyone has their way of doing this, but one of the nicest ways saves you from dirtying either your hands or anything else: using the halves of the shells to pass the yolk back & forth allowing the whites to fall down in to a bowl. It’s a pleasant, tactile process. I love separating eggs. It always makes me think of Bataille. There’s a video from Samsung’s #ChefSecrets series below for those of you that haven’t given this method a go before. And if you want to head over to Instagram they’re having a contest that involves giving away a shiny, new fridge. You can create a video or photograph to enter; it’s well worth a shot.
winter citrus meringue tarts
- 5 large eggs
- 1 egg yolk (reserve white for the meringue)
- 200g (1 cup) granulated sugar
- 1 blood orange (preferably unwaxed), grated zest and juice
- 1 meyer lemon (preferably unwaxed), grated zest and juice
- 2-3 satsumas or mandarins (preferably unwaxed), juice
- 200 ml double cream
- 4 egg whites
- 200 grams (1 cup) sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 batch of your favorite recipe for paté brisee (pie dough)
- Heat oven to 425°F. Par-bake (blind bake) your shell or shells in the pans of your choice. Prick the bottoms evenly & lightly with a fork. Make sure to weight them either by lining them with parchment and filling it with dried beans, rice, or pie weights. They should be golden & just about half way cooked, about 15 minutes and less time if making minis like pictured here. Remove to the counter. Reduce heat to 350°F.
- Zest and juice your citrus. You can use any combination of citrus. You should end up with about 180 ml (or about 3/4 cup). You can any combination of citrus you like. Set aside combined in a bowl.
- Make your filling. Whisk the eggs, egg yolk, and sugar together in a medium mixing bowl until smooth and foamy, about 5-10 minutes by hand.
- Whisk the cream into the egg & sugar mixture, then pour the citrus juices & zest into the cream mixture. Using a large pyrex measuring cup, pour the filling mixture into a par-baked pastry shell or shells with them sitting on the oven rack (so you don't have to move sloshy, filled shells) bake for about 45 min. to an hour until just set.
- Remove the tart from the oven and allow to cool on a rack. Turn the oven back up to 425°F.
- Meanwhile, make your meringue. In the bowl of a stand mixer whip your egg whites to soft peaks. In a small saucepan combine the water and sugar and bring to a boil. Boil until it reaches 238°F on candy thermometer, and then, with the mixer running on medium, carefully pour the hot syrup into the egg whites. Beat on high until the bowl is cool to the touch, at least 15 minutes.
- Top the tarts with the meringue, using the back of a spoon to create curls. Make sure to cover the entire surface of the filling. Bake the meringue covered tarts for about 5 minutes but start checking at three until the tips are nicely browned.
This post is brought to you by Samsung. Try one of our top #chefsecrets tips next time you’re whipping something up. Terms and details of the contest available here.