These little lemon tartlets have sweet French pastry dough crusts filled with tangy lemon pie filling. Each pie is topped with a generous swirl of fluffy marshmallow and then toasted until golden brown.
I’m not sure there’s anything better than the scent of lemon. It is the single sparkling clean note I crave year-round. In cool weather months it sweeps away staleness and reminds us that the grey landscape won’t last forever. In warm months, it helps us celebrate the lightness of spring and sunny weather.
These pies begin with my favorite sweet golden crust. Pate sablee is a French pastry dough that has a low flour ratio with big buttery flavor and a soft texture. I love using it to make apple pies, but it is absolutely wonderful in this recipe. It’s a nice foil for the sweet-tart lemon filling.
There was a time when I made this dough by hand, scraping and cutting it together with a bench scraper on my counter top. Recently I’ve found it’s a quick fix in a food processor, and it yields consistently good results. Just four steps gets you there!
- Pulse together the butter and dry ingredients until the mixture resembles cornmeal.
- Add the egg and pulse again until dough begins to clump.
- Keep pulsing until the dough forms a ball to one side of the processor bowl.
- Form into a ball, cover, and rest for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
You’ll need a 4 inch round cutter to stamp circles from the rolled dough. I used an English muffin form. You could also use a cup or bowl with a 4-inch round opening.
The crusts will need to be blind baked for about 20 minutes with pie weights. Cupcake liners filled with dried rice (or beans!) will work just fine for this. After baking, the liners are removed and the crusts are baked for a second time until golden brown.
It’s Meyer lemon season, so use them while you can! They make a lovely mild-tasting lemon curd with floral notes. It’s the best gift that winter gives us, if you ask me.
The topping is true homemade marshmallow piped and swirled over the lemon curd. Toasting it gives the entire dessert a lemon s’more vibe, which I love! I used a kitchen torch for this, but you can also put the pies in a well-preheated oven broiler for a few seconds.
These little pies need no further garnish, really, but edible dried rose petals will make them a pretty sight. The light flavor of the petals is a nice compliment to the floral notes of Meyer lemon, too. A little edible gold leaf gives them some sparkle, but it is completely optional. You can find the culinary grade petals I used for purchase here, and the gold leaf here.
This recipe makes 12 mini pies, which is plenty to share!
Lemon Tartlets with Toasted Marshmallow Topping
- Cupcake pan
- pie weights or dry rice
- cupcake liners
- kitchen torch optional
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 8 large egg yolks
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 3/4 cup Meyer lemon juice
- Yellow food color optional
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
Sweet pastry crust (pate sucree)
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
- Zest of one lemon
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons 7 oz. unsalted butter, very cold
- 1 egg
- Ice water as needed
- 1 package .25 oz. unflavored powdered gelatin
- 1/2 cup cold 120 ml water, divided
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1/8 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Edible dried rose petals
- Edible gold leaf
- Ribbons of lemon zest
- Combine the sugar, cornstarch and egg yolks in a stainless steel (or nonreactive) saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly until the mixture is smooth and the sugar dissolves (about 2 minutes). Add the lemon zest and lemon juice and continue to cook, whisking constantly until the mixture is thick like pudding, about 5-7 minutes. Add food color, if using. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl. Whisk in the butter one cube at a time, until smooth. Stir occasionally until the mixture is cool, or refrigerate (still stirring occasionally). You may also place the bowl over a larger bowl filled with ice to speed cooling.
- Add the flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest to the bowl of an electric food processor. Pulse twice to mix. Add the cold butter on top of the flour mixture and pulse until the mixture resembles corn meal. Make a well in the flour on one side of the bowl and add the egg. Pulse in long bursts until the mixture starts to clump. Add 1 tablespoon ice water and pulse until mixture forms a ball to one side of the bowl. Add additional water 1 tablespoon at a time if mixture is still dry and won’t form a ball. Remove the pastry to a lightly floured surface and form into a ball; flatten to a disk. Cover with plastic wrap and let the pastry rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Place the chilled dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll to about 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out twelve 4 1/2-inch rounds of dough using a cookie cutter. Place a round into the cavity of each cup of a nonstick muffin tin. Use your fingers to press the dough flat against the bottom corners of the pan, and also up the walls of the cavities. (A shot glass with a flat bottom is a good tamping tool for the crust bottoms.) Freeze the dough in the pan for 15 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Remove pan from freezer. Fit a cupcake liner on top of each crust and fill with pie weights (dried rice works well!). Bake for 20 minutes. Carefully remove cupcake liners with the pie weights from each crust. Bake for an additional 15-17 minutes, or until the crusts are golden brown. Let crusts cool in the pans for 5-7 minutes, or until they are firm enough to lift from the pan. Place on wire cooling racks to cool completely. When the cups are cool, spoon or pipe the lemon filling into each cup. Refrigerate the cups while you prepare the marshmallow topping.
- Sprinkle the gelatin over 1/4 cup of the cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment.
- Combine the sugar, corn syrup and the remaining 1/4 cup of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until the mixture reaches 240°F on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat. With the mixer running on low speed, gradually pour the syrup down the side of the mixer bowl into the gelatin mixture. When all the syrup is added, increase to high speed and beat for 6 minutes, until the mixture is thick and opaque. Beat in vanilla extract. Immediately transfer the mixture to a piping bag and pipe the marshmallow on top of each pie. Alternatively you may spoon the mixture on top of the pies.
- Lightly brown the marshmallow with a kitchen torch, or under a well-preheated broiler in the oven (watching very carefully!).
- Sprinkle rose petals over marshmallow while it is still sticky. Add gold leaf with kitchen-dedicated tweezers. Zest ribbons of lemon peel and garnish with the peel just before serving so it is fresh and fragrant.