Monday, April 12, 2010

Lemon Tart

I love lemon curd. I like it swirled into cheesecake, I like it sandwiched between cake layers, I like to eat it with a spoon, still warm in the bowl.

This lemon curd might actually be better called a lemon cream. It is light and so smooth and just plain ethereal. If something can be "plain" ethereal.

It's been so hot here, and I've been dealing with melted chocolate all over my kitchen and my clothes, so the accompaniment to the Peanut Butter Torte was this light, refreshing lemon tart. Which is deceiving because there's over 2.5 sticks of butter in it, so it's not really that light.

The secret is not melting the butter with the curd, but adding it at the end and blending it in with a blender, making it incredibly creamy and fluffy.

"The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart" by Dorie Greenspan

1 cup sugar
Grated zest of 3 lemons
4 large eggs
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 4-5 lemons)
2 sticks plus 5 T unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces, at room temperature
1 9-in tart shell (recipe follows)

Grab a heat proof bowl and bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan. Put the sugar and the zest in the bowl, and rub them together until this sugar is moist and fragrant. Whisk in the eggs, then the lemon juice.

Set this bowl over the simmering water and start stirring once it's warm. The recipe says cook the curd until it reaches 180 degrees, but for me it never really got there. I'd say just cook until the whisk leaves tracks. I would say you could even skip the bowl part and cook it in the saucepan over really low heat until bubbles start forming. Don't heat too quickly, though, or your eggs will curdle, and stir, stir all the time.

Once the egg mixture has thickened and reached the appropriate temperature, remove the curd from heat and strain it into a blender or food processor. The straining is a pain but completely necessary as it removes the zest and any eggy bits that may have formed. Let the curd stand 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Turn on the blender and add the butter a little bit at a time. Make sure the curd keeps moving and scrape down the sides as you go. Once the butter is all incorporated, keep the blender going for about 3 more minutes to get it all nice and creamy/fluffy.

Pour the cream into a bowl, press a piece of plastic wrap to the surface and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight. (3 hours was completely adequate for me.)

When you're ready to assemble the tart, stir up the cream to loosen it and spoon it into your waiting tart shell. It's best eaten the day you assemble it, but you can keep the curd by itself in the fridge for 4 days or freeze it for up to two months.

And the sweet dough tart shell....

1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1/4 t salt
1 stick plus 1 T very cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Get out your handy food processor, and dump in the flour, confectioner's sugar and salt. Pulse a couple of times to combine, and then scatter the butter over the surface. Pulse until the butter is the size of peas, then add the egg yolk and pulse until it's all combined and clumpy. Don't over blend or your tart crust won't be flaky. Pull all the bits together into a ball and press it into a 9 in tart pan. (But don't press too hard or you'll have cement crust)

Freeze the crust for 30 minutes before baking*. Meanwhile, preheat to 375 degrees.

Now, take a piece of aluminum foil and rub butter on the shiny side. Press this buttered side onto the dough in the tart pan and bake the crust for 25 minutes. At this point, take out the crust, remove the foil, and press down the bottom with the back of a spoon if it's puffed up. Bake for another 8 min until the crust is golden. If the edges are getting too dark, you can cover them with aluminum foil.

Let the crust cool before filling.

* Extra steps like freezing always annoy me, but in this case, the freezing means you don't have to weigh down the bottom of your crust with pie weights or beans. I would much rather freeze than mess around with a bunch of dry beans.

Friends: this is one of my new favorite desserts. The crust is crunchy and fab and the cream is so silky and so good after a winter of chocolate. Welcome to spring.

Not that I'm over chocolate, by any means.

1 comment:

  1. Best sentence I have read this week:

    I love lemon curd.