Lemon Meringue Tart
by Samantha Barrow
“You can tell what a person’s day is going to be like by which treat they choose,” says Kate Rickard of Rickard’s Bakery. You know if they will have a casual get together with friends, or a quiet treat at the end of the day with tea. For her, sharing in the pleasure and satisfaction of her customers is an essential gift of being in the food business. “It’s nice to see someone’s expression change when they truly enjoy themselves.”
Kate and Gates Rickard, both Johnson & Wales University trained chefs, lived in Belgium and traveled through Europe to round out their culinary expertise before bringing their Europhile touch to our Island’s desserts. They opened their eponymous artisan bread bakery in Vineyard Haven in
2007. At first, they sold only to grocery retailers, but opened the doors to their retail outlet on State Road in 2009 as the demand for their breads and an increased variety of products grew. Now, with summer here, the couple have opened another location (in Edgartown), which fulfills another dimension to their dream. “We are so happy to see our products showcased in such a beautiful atmosphere. We love Edgartown and wanted to create something that would compliment the town,” says Kate.
The two bakers savor a different part of the baking process. “Gates likes shaping bread. He has always found it very relaxing,
meditative almost.” While Kate leans more toward the decorative and festive: “I like doing anything that is artistic, from designing a fruit plate to an occasion cake.” But in general they’re not trying to make the most dazzlingly innovative new creation you’ve ever seen. They would rather make the classics perfectly. They want you to walk away thinking ‘…that was the best _______(fill in your craving of choice like their chocolate éclair, opera torte, or Fraiser—the classic genoise cake soaked in kirsch) I’ve ever had.’
I asked Kate what they do over on the continent that we could learn from here in the States. “The first thing Europe has over American baking and pastries is butter,” Kate says. “The European recipe for butter has more butterfat in it. This creates a butter that is much creamier and better tasting.” I didn’t ask her take on why the French are so notoriously skinny, I just kept gazing at the case.
For my special treat, I bravely chose the Lemon Meringue Tart, because to step away from chocolate is a daring act for me to begin with, and I tend to get annoyed at desserts that are sweeter than they need to be or lack that earthy gratification. But the tart looked so pillowy and inviting that I pointed straight at it and said “Please.” My risk was rewarded. The house-made lemon filling proved tangy and zesty, but not so tart that it gave me that sourpuss face. The meringue top was so smooth and light and creamy, and I didn’t have to complain it was sweet enough to make your teeth rot on contact. When I asked her why it was so good, Kate explained the three main methods for making meringue: the American, Swiss, and Italian.
The Italian, what the bakery makes, produces the creamiest, and of course, is the most time consuming. You have to first mix the sugar into the water, boil it into syrup, then fold the syrup into the egg whites painfully slowly as they whip, and whip some more. The American style is quicker, but leaves the mouth-feel more granular.
And if there’s one thing these bakers picked up in Europe, it’s this: “The bottom line is that shortcuts sacrifice flavor.” I can tell the rest of my day will be rich and easy.