Grapefruit and Pepper Meringue Tartlets

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These divine little tartlets use a traditional Breton biscuit recipe for the base which I like because, unlike traditional pastry, there is no need to chill or roll out the dough. The addition of freshly ground black pepper might seem contradictory but it gives the meringue a real spicy kick which works so incredibly well with the grapefruit curd. I really like this curd and it also goes well in place of lemon or even passionfruit curd. This really is a treat and you can make one large tart using a 25cm tart tine if you choose rather than individual tarts. If you decide to do so, you need to increase the baking time to 40 minutes.

Tartelettes au pamplemousse et poivre meringues

1 unwaxed grapefuit

100g caster sugar

1 egg, plus 1 yolk

1 tablespoon cornflour

50g unsalted butter, softened, cubed

Biscuit base

75g unsalted butter, softened

75g caster sugar

grated zest of 1/3 unwaxed lemon

2 egg yolks

100g plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

Meringue

100g caster sugar

2 egg whites

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

To make the grapefruit curd, finely grate the zest of the grapefruit and squeeze 90ml of juice into a pan. Add zest, sugar, a pinch of salt and the eggs and whisk together over a gentle heat. Sift in the cornflour and continue to whisk. Don’t stop whisking at any point, otherwise eggs will curdle. Once the curd is as thick as pureed tomatoes and has released a bubble or two, take it off the heat and whisk in the butter, a cube at a time. Pour into a bowl and place cling film in direct contact with the curd. Refrigerate for at least one hour but preferably overnight. Makes 1 cup.
 
To make the biscuit base, preheat the oven to 180C. Grease 6 x 8cm x 5cm metal dessert rings. Cream together the butter and sugar with a generous pinch of salt and the lemon zest until fluffy and pale. Add egg yolks and continue to beat. Sift flour and baking powder together, add to creamed mixture and continue beating until dough comes together as a smooth paste.
 
Put dough into a piping bag fitted with a 1cm round nozzle. Pipe into dessert rings to come up about 4mm high, then use a spoon dipped in hot water to level out the pastry. Bake for 15 minutes or until just golden. Leave to cool for a couple of minutes, then run a knife around the inside of each ring to release the biscuit. Carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool.
 
To make the meringue, put sugar and 2 tablespoons of water into a small pan over high heat. Bring to the soft-ball stage (118C on a sugar thermometer); this will take about 10 minutes. To test without a thermometer, drop a tiny bit of the sugar syrup into a bowl of very cold water. When it form s soft sticky ball, it is ready.
 
Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, whisk egg whites with a pinch of salt and the pepper in a glass or metal bowl. Do not whisk to soft peaks, just to a light froth. Once the sugar syrup has reached soft-ball stage, beat egg whites on high speed while pouring the syrup into the mixer in a thin stream, down the side of the bowl. Continue to whisk for another 10 minutes or until glossy and stiff.
 
To assemble, spread the grapefruit curd on top of the biscuits, followed by the meringue. To brown tops, place under a very hot grill for a couple of minutes or use a kitchen blowtorch.
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