Apple Meringue Tart- Butter Crust, Meringue, Chai-scented Apple Curd

Autumn, Sweet Recipes • 9 Oct 2013

We awake early and clumsily, at an hour where the autumn air stings your skin and leaves you breathless. I trip out of bed, throw on a sweater, and shove my chilly ankles into my sneakers. We hit the road immediately, racing against the rapidly unfurling clouds, rippling like waves, the sun trapped in a wispy cumulus undertow.

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By the time our senses settle, the air has changed. We’re flying on the thruway, heading north, and already the wind smells of Macintosh apples and decomposing leaves. The honeyed wind rushes through the window cracks, burning our cheeks and filling our lungs. The landscape is sprinkled with apple orchards and sprawling country pastures. We revel in our freedom from the city’s confines, breathe deeply and exhale the thick, sappy scents.

We arrive at the apple orchard eager to pick and pluck and forage. I’m already dreaming of apple pies, apple tarts and apple butter.

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Buckets in hand, we amble along ceaseless rows, lined neatly with shimmering, taut-skinned globes hanging heavily from their clustered boughs. Golden brown trees neatly punctuate the orchard like genuflecting soldiers, ruby and emerald apples weighing down their barky arms. Our son skips up and down the grassy alleys, hiding among the thick branches. Apples tumble like Icarus from the sky as he shakes the branches haphazardly.

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With our bounty sweetly perfuming the back seat, a few short of a bushel thanks to bewitching scents and our growling bellies, I mentally construct an apple tart; attractive for its imperfections and forgiving nature.

I like a malleable crust, texture akin to children’s dough, submitting to my finger tips with a light, feathery touch. The buttery, flaky crust is fragile, yes, but also extremely compliant and pliable. After the dough rests in the refrigerator, use extremely icy fingers and a frigid work surface to roll out the cold dough, and work rapidly but carefully to mold the dough into the tart pan. Baked until richly golden, you fill the flaky shell with a buttery, tart, sweet, creamy and velvety apple curd, made with silky smooth freshly-made apple puree, vanilla bean, butter, egg yolk and subtle chai spices. A little lemon juice brightens the curd, adding a tart punch.

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Vigilantly messy, delicately quivery and furiously spiked like a court jester’s cap, the tart wears a magisterial crown of sugar and egg white, a hefty plume of meringue burnt and blistered under the heat of an oven.

Apple Meringue Tart- Butter Crust, Chai-Scented Apple Curd, Meringue

Tart Shell:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch kosher salt
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
1 egg yolk, beaten
1 tablespoon ice water

Apple curd:
3/4 pound apples
1 lemon, zest and juice
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon corn starch
1/2 vanilla bean pod, sliced down the middle, seeds removed
1 whole star anise
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

Meringue:
6 egg whites
Pinch of cream of tartar
3 tablespoons sugar

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees with rack in the middle.

2. Pulse flour, sugar and salt in a food processor until well combined. Add butter one tablespoon at a time and pulse, about 10 times, or until mixture resembles pea-sized lumps.

3. Add egg yolk and water and pulse until ingredients are just incorporated and dough is very soft.

4. Ball up the dough and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 2 hours.

5. When the dough is chilled, roll out on a lightly floured work surface until about 1/8-inch thick. Transfer pastry dough to a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. With cold hands, press the dough up the sides of the tart pan and trim off overhang. Prick the dough with the tongs of a fork several times.

6. Line tart shell with a piece of foil and fill the shell with dried beans. Bake, on middle rack for 10 minutes. Remove the beans and foil and continue to bake until golden, about another 15 minutes. Cool tart shell on wire rack.

7. To make the curd, peel, core and cut the apples into large pieces. Add them to a heavy bottomed pot along with the zest and juice of 1 lemon and 1/8 cup water. Bring to a boil and simmer, partially uncovered, over medium-low heat, until the apples are completely soft, about 15 minutes. Uncover the pot and cook over low heat, another 3-5 minutes, until some of the juice has evaporated.

8. Let the apples cool for about 10 minutes and then pass through a food mill, discarding skins. Add apple mash to a blender or food processor and blend until very smooth and silky.

9. Put the egg yolks in a double boiler over medium heat and whisk vigorously until frothy. Add the sugar, corn starch, vanilla beans and pod, spices and apple puree. Lower the heat and continue to whisk for about 7-8 minutes until thick and smooth.

10. Remove pan from heat and add butter, one tablespoon at a time, until incorporated. Cool slightly and remove star anise and vanilla pod. If your curd has lumps, pass through a fine mesh strainer to remove impurities.

11. Pour the slightly cooled curd into the tart shell leaving a bit of room at the top. You may have a bit of extra curd.

12. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, beat egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until they hold soft peaks. Increase to high speed and add sugar, one tablespoon at a time, until meringue holds stiff, glossy peaks.

13. Carefully spread meringue over the curd.

14. Bake in a 375 degree oven until meringue is slightly golden, about 10-12 minutes. Cool completely on wire rack, about 3 hours, before serving.

7 Responses

  1. Jessica

    You are so talented.

  2. John S.

    I just made this today and it is delicious, however I had a huge discrepancy with cooking time for the merengue. 2 minutes was enough to blacked the tops of some peaks. How did you get 10 to 12?

    • So glad it was delicious, John! It took 10 minutes to fully brown the meringue at 375 in my oven. Most meringues pies I have made take this long at this temperature. Perhaps you have a hot oven? Did you put the tart on the middle rack? 2 minutes seems fast to get a consistently browned meringue. It does start to go golden rather quickly, but I found 10 minutes wasn’t overdoing it. Either way, very good that you kept your eye on it while it browned! How much meringue did you use?

  3. Alyce

    Hello I was just wondering how many you usually make out of this full recipe?

  4. Alyce

    Thank you so much for your help!

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