Coconut Tarts (Lemon Sugar Cookie Crust + Meringue Topping)

Okay I’ve got another confession. A lot of the things I try to bake end up being total disasters. I’ve never burned bread or ended up with liquid cookies or anything, but sometimes I pull the tray out of the oven, stare at it in disgust, and feel tempted out of my mind to tip it all into the garbage can.

Yesterday was one of those days. I wanted to bake lemon sugar cookies but because I wasn’t directly working off a recipe, my dough was slightly too buttery and didn’t have quite enough flour. My cookies were still cookies when they came out of the oven, but they weren’t great.

So I felt torn. I hate wasting food so there was no chance I was about to toss them all into the trash, but I didn’t want to serve them to people either. I stared at the cookies for a good fifteen minutes while I wracked my brain for ideas.

Zing. It hit me. I grabbed my muffin tin, pressed the cookies into the bottom of each well, and started making a coconut cream filling. I let them set overnight and woke up this morning (I’m a bit of an early riser) to start whipping egg whites.

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As luck would have it, we had let our friend borrow our hand mixer for the week so I ended up separating my egg whites, realizing that I’d be whisking by hand, and feeling an odd combination of frustration and determination. I WOULD END UP WITH THESE TARTS AND THEY WILL HAVE MERINGUE TOPPINGS. That was my inner voice qualifying the fact that I spent the next half hour whipping egg whites with a wire whisk instead of studying for my embryology final (which may or may not be tonight).

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Ingredients

Lemon Cookie Crust
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg
zest of 1 medium lemon
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Coconut Filling
1 1/2 cup coconut milk
2 egg yolks
pinch of salt

Meringue Topping
1 egg white
pinch of salt
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp granulated sugar
lemon zest, for garnish

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
2. Whisk dry cookie ingredients together in a bowl. Cream butter and sugar in a separate bowl.
3. Whisk egg in a separate bowl, then combine with zest, lemon juice, and vanilla before adding it into the butter and sugar mixture. Then incorporate the dry ingredients until fully combined.
4. Shape into balls about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and place them on a cookie tray. Bake for 8-10 minutes.
5. While the cookies are baking, whisk together the ingredients for the coconut filling.
6. Once cookies have baked and cooled for about 5-10 minutes, press them into a greased muffin tin. Turn down oven to 325ºF.
7. Add coconut filling on top and bang tin gently against the counter to release air bubbles.
8. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes or until the coconut filling has set.
9. Refrigerate tarts for at least 3-4  hours, overnight if possible.
10. To make the meringue, beat egg whites with salt and lemon juice until stiff peaks form (even stiffer than mine! There are things that hand mixers can do a bit better than the old-fashioned whisk…) Halfway through, add in sugar and continue beating.
11. Top each tart with the meringue and set your oven to broil. Pop them into the oven until the meringues have turned golden brown at the tips. This should only take a minute or two.
12. Allow tarts to cool and then zest a lemon over them for garnish.

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Moral of the story? Even the most questionable dessert misadventures can turn into a great dessert. You just have to get a little creative.

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