"They're perfect!" my father-in-law exclaimed with his mouth full. "Especially the crust! When you make them again, don't change a thing!"
This comment had me both pleased and distraught. I was pleased, because he was talking about the lemon tartlets I had made. But I was distraught that I was being asked not to change a thing... You see, these tartlets were the result of a series of recycled leftover ingredients that would take some time to reproduce.
It all started when I made chocolate pots-de-crème several weeks ago. They require egg yolks, and so I was left with a rather large quantity of egg whites on my hands. I had already made dry meringues not too long before, and I didn't have enough time to make something elaborate like macarons, so I decided to try my hand at making amaretti cookies.
I flipped through my cookbooks and found at least four recipes for amaretti. I was surprised to find that they were quite different from one another: the quantities varied quite a bit, and some recipes required the egg whites to be beaten, while others didn't. Since I had a lot of whites, I decided on the recipe which required the largest amount.
Unfortunately, it turned out to be a recipe for coarse macarons, rather than amaretti (despite the title's claim). The cookies came out far too chewy; not only that, but I overbaked them and burnt the bottoms. In short, it wasn't a huge success. I kept them around for a few days, nibbling a couple here and there. But there were so many that it didn't look like Laurent and I could ever finish them by ourselves, and they weren't good enough to share with other people. So, I decided to recycle them into something else.
Inspired by the last Daring Bakers' challenge, I decided to reduce the cookies to crumbs and make tartlet shells out of them. I mused for a bit about what filling to make, and decided on a no-bake lemon cream: the acidity would balance the cookies' sweetness, and at least I wouldn't run the risk of overbaking the shells. I also added some freshly ground pepper, to add a little kick.
The tartlets came out better than I could have hoped for. And, as I mentioned, they were a huge hit with my father-in-law. The problem is, reproducing them exactly seems like a huge hassle: I'd have to make something involving egg yolks, then use the leftover whites to make failed macaron-amaretti hybrids (making sure to burn them), and only then would I get to make the tarts again... Or, I could use a recipe for lemon filling that requires yolks, rather than whole eggs, and that would solve the problem...
Well, I can't guarantee that the next batch will turn out exactly the same, but I will definitely be making this kind of recipe again! I think my father-in-law will be pleased!
Almond Cookie and Peppered Lemon Tartlets
Makes about 16 mini tartlets (5 cm/2 inches diameter), or 7 medium tartlets (9 cm/3.5 inches diameter)
For the shells:
About 30 almond-based cookies (coarse macarons, or amaretti)
100g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
For the lemon filling:
(Adapted from Le Cordon Bleu Quick Classics)
100ml (1/3 and a half cup) lemon juice (2-3 large lemons)
100g (2/3 cup) icing sugar
60g (1/3 cup) unsalted butter, diced
Preheat the oven to 190ºC (375ºF).
To make the shells: Run the cookies through a food processor until they are reduced to crumbs. Gradually pour the cooled melted butter over them, and mix until the mixture is moist enough to form bunches when you squeeze handfuls of it (you may need less butter than indicated, depending on how dry your cookies were).
Press the mixture into the tartlet molds of your choice (I tried molds with both removable bottoms and fixed bottoms, and they both worked), making sure to coat the bottom and edges uniformly. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the molds on it. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the shells are brown and very crisp. Let cool before unmolding.
To make the filling: whisk the eggs, lemon juice, and sugar together in a saucepan. Place over low to moderate heat and whisk constantly until the mixture is thick enough that you can make lasting traces in it with your whisk. Remove from heat, add the diced butter and continue whisking until butter is melted.
As soon as the tartlet shells are cool enough to handle, fill them with the lemon mixture. Sprinkle with fresh, coarsely ground pepper. Let cool in the fridge for at least an hour, until the filling has set.