Making perfect pastry depends mostly on how well you coat flour proteins with fat—more difficult in a low-fat recipe. You want to leave small clumps of fat in the dough (here, from vegetable shortening) so they'll melt during cooking and give off steam, creating luscious layers. Meanwhile, we melted the butter so it would coat more than it would in solid form.
5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 1/4 cups)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 cup boiling water
4 teaspoons butter, melted
1 (12-ounce) package fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar, divided
3/4 cup water, divided
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons butter, softened
3 large egg whites
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
How to Make It
Weigh flour. Combine first 4 ingredients in a bowl; cut in shortening with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Make a well in center of flour mixture. Combine 1/4 cup boiling water and melted butter in a bowl. Pour butter mixture into center of well. Gently draw flour mixture into butter mixture until moist clumps form. Press dough into a 4-inch circle; cover. Chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400°.
Unwrap dough; place between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. Roll dough into an 11-inch circle. Remove top sheet of plastic wrap. Fit dough, plastic wrap side up, into a 9-inch round tart pan coated with cooking spray. Remove plastic wrap. Press dough into bottom and up sides of pan; fold excess crust back in and press. Pierce bottom and sides of dough lightly with a fork; freeze 10 minutes. Line bottom of dough with foil; arrange pie weights on foil. Bake at 400° for 18 minutes. Remove foil and pie weights. Bake 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.
Combine cranberries, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup water, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat 10 minutes or until cranberries burst. Combine 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup water, cornstarch, and egg yolks in a small bowl; stir with a whisk until smooth. Gradually add 1 cup hot cranberry mixture to egg mixture, stirring constantly. Return egg mixture to pan. Cook until a thermometer registers 160°, stirring constantly.
Place a food mill or fine sieve over a large bowl. Pour cranberry mixture into food mill, and press through. Discard solids. Add 2 tablespoons butter; stir. Spoon into baked crust. Cover and chill.
Place egg whites and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until soft peaks form. Combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook, without stirring, until candy thermometer registers 238°. Gradually pour hot sugar syrup into egg white mixture, beating until stiff peaks form. Spread meringue over cranberry curd.
Broil meringue for 30 seconds or until lightly browned.