Lemon Cloud Tart
For the sugared violets (optional):
- 20 pesticide-free violets
- 1 egg white, at room temperature
- 1 tsp. water
- 1 cup superfine sugar
For the short-crust tart shell:
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 Tbs. granulated sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 12 Tbs. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, out of the
refrigerator for 15 minutes, cut into pieces
- About 1 1/2 Tbs. water
For the lemon filling:
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 3 Tbs. grated lemon zest
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 3 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
- 1/3 cup lightly toasted and finely ground
For the meringue:
- 3 egg whites, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
In a bowl, beat together the egg white and water until frothy. Using some of the superfine sugar, spread a thin layer over a large plate. Holding each flower by its base and using a pastry brush, paint each violet on both sides with a thin coating of egg white. Then sprinkle lightly on both sides with sugar. Place in a single layer on the sugared plate and let dry for 2 hours before using. The violets may be stored in single layers between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
To make the tart shell, in a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine the flour, granulated sugar and salt and pulse a few times to mix. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. With the motor running, add water as needed to bind the ingredients. Gather into a ball, flatten into a disk 6 inches in diameter and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat an oven to 400°F.
Gently press the pastry into the bottom and sides of a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, forming a slightly thicker layer on the sides. Place the shell in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Line the pastry with aluminum foil and fill with pie weights. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the weights and foil and reduce the oven temperature to 375°F. Continue to bake until lightly golden, 15 to 20 minutes more.
Meanwhile, make the filling: In a bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together the egg yolks and granulated sugar until they form a stiff ribbon that leaves a trail atop the batter when the beater is lifted, about 1 minute. Stir in the lemon zest and juice, then the melted butter and finally the ground almonds.
Remove the tart shell from the oven and immediately pour the filling into it. Return it to the oven and bake until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
Increase the oven temperature to 450°F. To make the meringue, using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Slowly add the granulated sugar while continuing to beat until stiff peaks form. Fold in the vanilla. Spoon the meringue over the cooled filling, spreading it to the edges of the pastry and forming peaks.
Bake until the meringue is golden brown, about 7 minutes. Let cool and refrigerate until set, about 1 hour. Garnish each serving with sugared violets, if desired. Serve chilled.