Texas Big Hairs Lemon-Lime Meringue Tarts
- 1 1/2 cups pecans or sliced almonds
- 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus about 2 tablespoons for greasing tart pans
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Lemon-Lime Curd:
- 10 extra-large egg yolks (reserve the egg whites for the meringue)
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezec lime juice
- zest of 2 lemons
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 10 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
- 3 cups sugar
To Make the Crusts: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the pecans on a baking sheet in a single layer and toast them in the oven for 7 to 9 minutes, until golden brown and aromatic. (If using almond slices, toast for 5 to 7 minutes.) Coarsely chop the pecans.
With your fingers, butter eight 4 3/8-inch, 1 cup capacity disposable foil tartlet pans, using about 2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter total.
Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar in a large bowl on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla, then gradually add the flour and salt and combine on low speed until incorporated. Add the nuts and mix on low speed just until they are incorporated. Form the dough into a ball it will be sticky and cover it with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, divide into 8 equal portions, and press into the prepared pans, making sure it comes up to the top edge of the pans. If the dough sticks to your hands, dust them with flour as often as necessary.
Bake the crusts about 20 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool at least 30 minutes before filling with lemon-lime curd. (Don't worry if the tart bottoms look wrinkly.) At this point, the crusts can be cooled and stored in airtight containers for up to 2 days.
To Make the Curd: Whisk the egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, lime juice, and zest in the top of a double boiler or in a metal bowl placed over a saucepan filled with 2 inches of simmering water (the simmering water should not touch the bottom of the bowl). Add the butter to the egg yolk mixture and whisk until melted and smooth. Cook about 40 minutes, stirring lightly with a whisk about every 15 minutes. The curd should be thick, resembling the consistency of loose custard. Transfer warm mixture to a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap onto the surface of the curd, sealing it and leaving no air between the wrap and curd. Refrigerate the curd for at least 4 hours and up to 3 days. For express cooling, freeze it for at least 1 hour.
To Make the Meringue: Set a large, perfectly clean metal bowl over a pot of simmering water. Pour in the egg whites and sugar. (If there is a trace of fat in the bowl, the eggs won't reach their proper volume.) Heat the egg whites and sugar while whisking constantly until the sugar melts and there are no visible grains in the meringue. Take a little meringue mixture and rub it between your fingers to make sure all the sugar grains have melted. Remove the meringue from over the simmering water and whip it with a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment on low speed for 5 minutes longer, until the meringue is stiff and shiny.
Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the broiler. To assemble the tarts, spoon the chilled lemon-lime curd into the crusts, filling them about three-quarters of the way to the top. Pile the meringue on top of the curd. Style the meringue on top of the curd. Style the meringue with your fingers by plucking at it to tease the meringue into jagged spikes. Having a bit of meringue stuck to your fingers will help you form big spikes on the tarts. (For those who do not like the hands-on approach, stroking the meringue with the back of a spoon works almost as well but is not as much fun.)
Set the tarts on the middle rack of the oven and broil until the meringue topping turns golden brown, about 1 minute. Watch the tarts closely, as they can turn from browned to burned in a matter of seconds. (If you are using a kitchen torch, hold it 2 to 3 inches away from the meringue and move the flame slowly around the meringue until it is browned all over.) The tarts should be served the same day they are assembled.