I have been more than ready for BWD Monday: this has been the longest, most exhausting and emotionally draining week for me. And so this recipe for Lemon Cream Tart, chosen this week by Elizabeth of Gluten Free Baking, was just what I needed to help me unwind.
I turned it into a weekend project, and let me tell you: making this tart was a real labor of love. I started by making the lemon cream a day in advance. Now I love all things lemon - and any desserts with 'lemon' in the title sound wonderfully light and refreshing. Which is why I gawked a little when I read the recipe and discovered how much butter just the lemon cream requires: 21 tablespoons!! Yes, you read that right. 21. And 9 more in the tart. Did you just feel your arteries clog up upon reading that? I did!
This was a tough one: I had to decide whether to play around and reduce the amount of butter or just go ahead and make it the way it is. But since this was my first attempt at making any kind of tart, I didn't want to mess it up. So, I chose the latter option, and decided to make mini-tarts and spread the love, so to speak, instead of making one large tart.
The lemon cream: let's just call it extraordinary and leave it at that. Because I can't find a better word to describe how lovely it is: less sweet than lemon curd, tangy and silky with a burst of citrus flavor. In short: the stuff MY dreams are made of.
Now if only it contained less butter!
It took me just a little over 10 minutes to prepare the cream. I don't own a double boiler so I prepared it in a stainless steel bowl placed over a pan of simmering water. I wasn't really sure if I was getting it right - my candy thermometer crept up to almost 180F but the cream didn't look very thick to me. So I left it on for a few more minutes and then strained it into my food processor. My butter was very, very soft so it got incorporated pretty quickly. And my food processor didn't even protest, like Dorie had predicted it might.
I still don't have much of a sense of smell and can only catch faint whiffs of stuff. Most of the time it is undertones that other people can't smell at all
which makes me a freak of nature, so all I could smell was the eggs in this cream while I prepared it. I couldn't smell the lemon at all. While pouring it out into a jar for refrigeration, I decided I was going to give all the tarts away because I was definitely not going to like eating something that smelled so egg-ish.
And then I licked my spatula. Oh my.
I decided right then: I'm not sharing!
And I also decided that I had to do one better than just simple Sweet Tart Dough and make it with either pecans or almonds. The lemon cream really deserved that little extra attention to detail.
So I reduced the amount of flour and made the Sweet Tart Dough with ground pecans like Dorie suggests. And I wasn't disappointed. I really loved the hint of nuttiness they lent to this tart.
Once again, the dough was easy to make and I didn't need to knead it at all because I figure I over-processed it and it formed a ball of dough right there in my food processor. I didn't have mini-tart molds with removable bottoms so I lined my mini tart pan with foil, which I greased lightly, pressed the dough in and froze the pan for half an hour.
Since I have never made tarts before, I wasn't sure how thick the shells should be. And I had been warned by Susi that the dough could get flaky, so I kept them on the thicker side and made just 6.
I ended up over-baking a little because I forgot that I was using a dark pan and should have reduced the temperature. No harm done: the tarts came out great. They were a little puffy in the middle so I pressed them down gently with the back of a spoon as soon as I got them out of the oven. I didn't put them back to bake longer even though the middles looked like they might be a little under-baked - I was too afraid I'd burn them because the edges were brown already.
The only problem I had with this recipe was that when I took out the lemon cream out of the fridge the next morning the texture was not soft and pillowy as I had imagined, but a little on the harder side. I figured, I must have added a little more butter than called for: that is the only explanation I could come up with. Our sticks of butter here are not marked with tablespoon measures so we really have to eye-ball it.
Leaving the cream out on the counter for a short while solved the issue - it softened up and then I simply whipped it a little before adding to the tarts. The whipping seemed to have done the trick because I refrigerated the filled tarts, and hours later the cream was still soft. So it wasn't the quantity of butter after all.
Will I make this again? Yes : but only if I can find a way to reduce the amount of butter in the cream. I really, really loved the lemon cream and artery-clogging it might be, but I am still going to save the leftover cream in my freezer and think up other uses for it. I dipped some gingersnaps in it & I loved the combination of flavors so it could be great as a filling for gingersnap sandwiches. Or something. I'll find a way to use it.
I'm beginning to think that every recipe in this book is extraordinary & I'm loving Baking With Dorie.
Check out what my fellow bakers Susi and Elizabeth have done with their Extraordinary Lemon Cream Tarts.
The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Tart
(Baking: From My Home To Yours, by Dorie Greenspan. Pages 331-332)
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 tablespoons (10.5 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon sized pieces, at room temperature
one 9-inch shell made with Sweet Tart Dough (recipe follows), fully baked and cooled
You will need an instant read thermometer, a strainer and a blender or food processor for this recipe.
Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a pan.
Place the sugar and zest in a heat-proof bowl that will fit over the pan. Prior to placing it over the pan, rub the zest and sugar together with your fingers till the sugar is moist and very aromatic. Whisk in eggs, followed by the lemon juice.
Set the bowl over the pan with simmering water and start stirring with a whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch. Cook the lemon cream, stirring and whisking constantly, until it reaches 180F. The cream will start out bubbly but as it gets closer to 180F, it will start to thicken and leave tracks. This means the cream is almost ready. Getting the cream to this temperature can take up to 10 mins.
As soon as it reaches 180F, take it off the heat and strain it into a blender or food processor, discard the zest. Let the cream cool to 140F (about 10 mins) and then blend on high, adding in the butter 5 pieces at a time with the machine running. Scrape down the sides of the processor as you go. Once the butter is all in, continue to blend for another 3 minutes to get the perfect light, airy texture.
Pour into a container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. (The cream will keep well in the fridge for 4 days, or tightly sealed, in the freezer for up to 2 months).
When you are ready to assemble the tart, just whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell. Serve immediately or refrigerate until needed.
Sweet Tart Dough
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) very cold, or frozen butter, unsalted, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
Put the flour, confectioners' sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in - you should have some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses - about 10 seconds each - until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change. Turn the dough out onto a work surface, very lightly and sparingly knead it just to incorporate the dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.
Butter a fluted 9" tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and sides of the pan. Freeze at least 30 mins before baking.
Center a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375F.
Butter the shiny side of aluminum foil and press it tightly against the crust, buttered side down. Put the tart onto a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 mins. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Bake another 8 mins until it is golden brown.
Place tart pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature before filling with Lemon Cream.