How’s that for a title? Because that’s really what they are; little vanilla tuille cookies shaped like ruffly free-form tartlets, filled with your choice of creamy fruit curd, and topped with a twist of meringue cookie. I made these around the same time as that angel food cake and grapefruit curd; so many of you mentioned that you hate wasting either the egg whites or yolks when you make a dessert which uses either one or the other, and I thought this was another great way to use both parts at the same time. The tuilles use 4 egg whites, and the meringues take 6, so find a fruit curd you love that uses around 10 egg yolks, and you’re all set.
You could say these require lots of work, but they don’t if you employ my method of doing things over time. Most curds keep for quite a while in the fridge, so that can be done well in advance. You can make the meringues the day before as well, or even two days prior, as long as you store them in an airtight container to keep any moisture out. The only thing I wouldn’t do more than a day ahead are the wee tartlet cookies, because they really are best eaten within 1-2 days of creation.
I’ve never had much success with recipes like this, involving a finicky batter and some fast-moving fingers to bend those hot-from-the-oven cookies into beautiful tartlet shells. That’s the kind of thing Martha Stewart interns do. In fact, this is actually a Martha recipe, but with some changes to make the batter and the assembly less troublesome. Were it up to her, she would have you making impossibly thin little batter circles on parchment and then praying to every available deity while they bake to ensure you don’t get the inevitable burnt edges and raw center.
This is not the way I do it.
Because making the cookie slightly thicker when you bake it does actually ensure you get a little golden-edged, baked-through cookie shell, and that’s exactly what you’re going to do. It works, and it works really well, and as a bonus, making them this way also gives you precious extra seconds to bend them into shapes. Here’s how to do it:
First, use a cup or small bowl with a 3-inch diameter. Draw 6 evenly spaced circles on a sheet of parchment paper fitted to a half-sheet pan with a pencil. Flip that sheet over so there’s no pencil marks on your cookies; you should be able to see the pencil lines through the parchment.
Use a tablespoon to drop the tuille batter into the center of each circle. It’s a loose batter, and almost runny, so it does a good amount of the spreading for you.
Finally, use a small spoon (if you have them handy, baby spoons work great) to evenly spread the batter. Key thing here? Don’t shortchange your edges; keep them as thick as the middle, or you’re going to have problems.
And that’s how to make a successful tuille cookie. Before you ask, yes; you can fit more than 6 on a half-sheet pan, but can you quickly shape more than 6 at a time before they harden? No. So stick with six and you won’t have any ruined ones. Speaking of the shaping, use anything you want for that: I like to use a mini-muffin pan, which is a nice size for plunging the cookies into, and your result will be just like mine above. For a wider, shallower tartlet cup, use a small bowl. If you want to practice, cut out a 3-inch diameter circle of paper and start pressing it into things to see how the folds work. One thing to watch for too is the balance of the tuille bottoms: aim to get them centered so they don’t tip over. If they want to lean, no worries. Use a slice of fruit or something to prop them up when serving if you want.
Or a ballerina. That’s a little “behind the scenes” action for you.
The rest of the components need little to no instruction. For the curd, use anything you want to. I was really wanting to try Stella’s new lemon curd on the BraveTart blog (no butter!) and it was absolutely gorgeous in these. Probably it’s my new favorite lemon curd. I’ll list some suggestions in the recipe notes below, but if you have a favorite, I bet it would be delicious in these.
As for the meringue twists, they are a tried-and-true meringue recipe from Martha Stewart which my mom (a meringue freak) uses on a regular basis. We use it to make the mushrooms for our annual Buche de Noel, and it’s delicious. You can use regular sugar for it, but when I make it, I like to use vanilla sugar, because it lends a nice, subtle flavor to the cookie.
People, I am no professional at twisting that meringue, obviously; it’s just that solid of a recipe, because normal meringue recipes may cave under my fierce refusal to be appropriate and purchase pastry bags and tips (which I will shortly, it’s on my list.) I’m not going to lie: I made those with a plastic zipper bag, hole cut in the corner, which means if I can do it, so can you. Simply use that (or for goodness sakes, an actual piping bag) and pipe out swirls, maybe an 1 1/2 inches in diameter on the bottom. Try to fill in as you go so they stick to themselves and don’t tip over. As you can see above, mine didn’t always work, but the recipe makes so many that it didn’t matter. And I think they’re cute in their slight tipsyness, anyway.
I’m officially in the home stretch before vacation: I have less than two weeks before we leave, and I have so much to get done. Thankfully, I’ve had lots of successful baking and cooking going on here, some of that due to your help (successful sourdough starter!), so this little space is not something I’m stressing over.
Get packing, folks; it’s almost time for our annual trip to Florida.
Tartlet shells and meringue twists adapted from Martha Stewart Living; the original recipes exist here and here. The curd above is a lovely one from BraveTart, found here.
(Any) Fruit Curd Tartlets + Meringue Twists
for the shells:
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 1 1/3 cup confectioners’ (icing) sugar, sifted
- 4 large egg whites, room temperature
- 1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
for the curd:
- I like to encourage you to find a curd you’re feeling presently, and go for it. When I made these, I was giving BraveTart’s new butterless lemon curd a whirl, and it was amazingly delicious. You can find it here.
- I have my own tried-and-true lemon curd here, and it’s perfect if you like a little butter to cut through the tart lemon.
- Faygie just did a beautiful triple berry curd which would look fabulous in these, and after all, it’s berry season.
- This gorgeous strawberry curd, which makes great use of all that strawberry goodness we have going on right now.
- That grapefruit curd I just made? Also delicious in this, and I know it uses a dozen egg yolks, so just cut it in half if you’d like.
so many curds; so little time.
for the meringues:
- 6 egg whites, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups superfine vanilla sugar* or superfine regular sugar
*here’s what: I’m not fancy and I don’t keep superfine sugar in my pantry, especially not vanilla superfine sugar, because I simply don’t use it that often. I do, however, consider it essential to a good meringue, or pavlova, or anything delicate like this. Measure out regular granulated sugar into the bowl of a food processor and spin, spin, spin like there’s no tomorrow. Or for several minutes, whichever comes first. Poof (literally; you may want to throw a kitchen towel around that processor): superfine sugar. As for the vanilla part, it’s a nice addition: I take a big mason jar, throw a few vanilla beans in there, fill it with granulated sugar, and let it sit. It’s wonderful for when a vanilla moment strikes you. Bonus: when you use it, just remember to fill it back up with regular sugar again, and you’ll always have some. So I guess I’m DIY fancy.
Draw your circles:
Take a glass out of your cabinets which measures a circle 3 inches in diameter. Using a pencil, draw 6 circles (2 rows of 3) on a sheet of parchment which fits inside your half-sheet pan. Flip the sheet over and place it on the pan; you should be able to see the penciled-in circles, but they won’t bleed onto your shells this way.
And yes: you could fit 8 on a sheet, but there are time constraints to consider; it’s much easier to handle 6 flaming hot wafers at a time than 8.
Make the shells:
Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium until pale and fluffy. Add the egg whites one at a time, mixing on low speed until each egg is combined. With the mixer still on low speed, add the vanilla, then the flour, and mix until everything is incorporated.
Scoop a level tablespoon of batter out on to the middle of each of the circles. Using the back of a teaspoon (or baby spoon!) spread the batter out until it matches your circle drawing, paying special attention to keep the outside edges just as thick as the middle, or you’ll have singed edges.
Bake in the oven until golden around the edges, 10-11 minutes, checking at the 9-minute mark. While they are baking, ready either a mini-muffin pan or several small custard cups, depending on how foldy you like your cups.
When your shells are baked, remove them from the oven and, working quickly, press them into your vessel of choice, using your fingers to fold the natural bends in the shells as they form. Don’t take too long for each one: simply press them in, and they’ll pop out slightly as you work on the other ones. This is fabulous: it makes for a nice shape. Repeat as necessary and allow to cool completely before filling.
Make the curd:
I directed you to several curds above: I hope you avail yourself of one of them, and follow the instructions they come with. Be happy in the knowledge that whichever one you make, you’ll have plenty left over to just eat indiscriminately.
Make the meringues:
Preheat the oven to 175˚F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment.
Place the egg whites into a large bowl and, using an electric mixer, beat them until they form soft peaks. Add the superfine sugar, one tablespoon at a time, and beat each addition on medium-high speed until dissolved into the egg whites, about 20-30 seconds per addition, no shortcutting. I’m serious: if you add the sugar too fast, you’ll see the grains sticking in the mixture. This leads to a really attractive thing called “weeping,” which is essential when your beautiful meringues ooze a yellow liquid, making them look like they have an vague, infectious disease. This is really unpleasant to see in a dessert, for obvious reasons.
Take your time with the sugar: it’s helpful to work near a sunny window, as you can see the sugar grains in the mixture and how they’re doing. When all your sugar has been added, mix until everything is glossy and incorporated, 1 minute or so more.
Transfer to a pastry bag with, I suppose, whatever tip you like. You’re making high swirls here, and I’ll be honest: I cut a hole in a plastic zipper storage bag to do this. You can too, or use a proper tip of your choosing. Make stable, piled swirls onto your prepared sheet pans, around 20 on each pan.
Bake in the oven for 3 hours, until meringues are dry to the touch and baked through. Remove and let cool on the parchment to room temperature.
Assemble the tartlets:
Take each tartlet shell and fill it with a spoonful of curd. Pop a meringue swirl on each one and have a party.
Makes 30, which means you could have extra meringues and curd, depending on which curd you use. Win-win.
Obviously, all of these things store well separate from each other, but not all put together. The meringue and shells are good for up to 3 days, stored in a tightly sealed container. The curd typically keeps up for a week in the refrigerator.