On Sunday morning I walked across a stage and received my Master’s degree in Nutritional Science. Words can’t even begin to describe how great it felt to finally bring that chapter of my life to a close.
5 years ago, this was just a crazy idea I whipped up in my Dad’s kitchen one afternoon. I remember scouring blog posts and websites looking for clues into how difficult this journey could actually be. I also recall seeing the list of science prerequisites (organic chemistry, physiology, microbiology, oh my!) and sorrrrrta flipping out/doubting I could get through them/hiding in the corner.
But I pursued the degree anyway, and much to my surprise, found out I really really really love science. Just another example in life where you just don’t know unless you try it.
Bottom line: life feels pretty incredible right now. Today I’m pausing to take it all in, sipping coffee, breathing deeply, and waiting until tomorrow to start studying for the RD exam and jumping on the job hunt. For now, let’s zoom in on this beautiful lemon tart. It’s gluten-free, completely vegan, bursting with immunity-boosting lemon juice and lemon flavor, and full of calcium-and-protein-packed tofu.
Vegan meringue? I know what you’re thinking, but this meringue topping is actually made from the liquid in a can of chickpeas instead of egg whites. It’s officially nicknamed “aquafaba” and to make it, you simply drain a can of chickpeas and reserve the liquid, add a pinch o’ this and a pinch o’ dat to the bean-water, and whip it up until it becomes a foamy marshmallowy like topping. Then, you can burn that baby with a blowtorch, or just broil the tart to create that torched look that is so very picturesque. It tastes incredible and behaves just like its foamy-eggy-cousin.
Plus, you have to start with a good base- and this pie crust is flaky and ever so sweet. This is a tart you’ll just never want to part with.
Torched Lemon Meringue Tart
For the crust:
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose gluten free flour
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 7 tablespoons *cold* vegan butter (I used earth balance)
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 5-7 tablespoons ice cold water
For the meringue topping:
- 1 15-ounce can chickpeas (low-sodium)
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup white sugar
For the pie filling:
- 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (from 3 large lemons)
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 14 ounces silken tofu
- 4 tablespoons corn starch
- 6 tablespoons unsweetened plain almond milk
- Make the crust first! From the crust ingredients, tir together flour and salt. Then drop the tablespoons of butter in and use a fork or a pastry-cutter to mash. Don’t overcombine, but you want the butter to become a crumbly pea-sized mixture. Like this:
- Add in ice cold water one tablespoon at a time until a dough begins to form. How much water you use will depend on how quickly dough forms; stop adding water when you can form a dough ball. When done, form into a flat disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 35 minutes.
- While pie dough is refrigerating, make the filling by combining all the items from the filling ingredients list in a food processor or blender. Blend until a sweet opaque liquid forms. Set aside.
- When pie dough is done chilling, pull it out and let it sit, wrapped and all, on the counter for about 3 minutes to soften. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Next, place dough disc in between two sheets of wax paper and roll the dough out with a rolling pin until it’s about the size of your pie or tart pan. Don’t stress if it cracks, you can use your hands to easily coax it back together. Carefully peel off the top layer of wax paper, place your pan face down on top of the rolled out dough, use your hands to quickly flip it over to invert it. Peel off the other layer of wax paper and use your fingers to shape the dough into the pan. It won’t take long to do this.
- Fill pie crust with “pie weights”- you can use actual pie weights, pennies, or even dry beans. These will prevent the crust from bubbling up. Bake pie crust for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown. Watch carefully to make sure it doesn’t burn. This is called “blind baking” and will ensure the crust doesn’t get soggy when you add the filling and bake it. When it’s done, turn oven down to 350 degrees.
- Now fill the pie crust with the filling and place in oven to bake for 30 minutes, or until crust is slightly brown and filling is fully set but a little jiggly when you shake the pan around gently. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
- While pie is cooling, make your aquafaba meringue topping! Pour the liquid from the chickpea can into a clean, dry bowl (reserve ‘dem beans for something else). Add cream of tartar and whip with electric mixer or beaters until mixture turns foamy and soft peaks begin to form. Add vanilla. Slowly add sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, continuing to whip, until stiff peaks form and the texture is like very thick whipped cream. This could take anywhere from ~7 to 20 minutes. It’s done when it’s thick enough that it wouldn’t drip if you held it upside down.
- Top the cooled pie with the meringue, and use a spoon to create pretty swirls. If you wanna get fancy with a blowtorch (which I highly recommend, because fire) you can turn it on and give it a quick roastin’. You can also broil the whole pie for 1-2 minutes, but keep a very close watch on it because that thang can burn in no time at all.