Monday, March 20, 2023

Sweetie's Lemon Tart

Sweetie had a great birthday weekend! He was treated to breakfast, including an Irish Coffee, on Friday, treated to dinner that night at a new-to-us restaurant in Petaluma, treated to breakfast by other friends on Sunday, given some lovely birthday gifts.

Sweetie prefers pie or tart instead of cake to celebrate his birthday. On Saturday, I made him a lemon tart using the lemons that grow near the barn. It's almost the end of lemon season, so these lemons were ripe and full flavored. Meyer lemons sometimes have a mild flavor and certainly an almost floral one, but I made sure that there was lots of zest in the filling and the recipe calls for 3/4 of a cup of lemon juice, too. I made the components ahead. Here they are ready to be put together late Saturday afternoon.

The recipe isn't one of my own. It's by Dorie Greenspan from her cookbook Baking: from my home to yours. I added fresh raspberries around the outer rim of the tart and then another circle of them closer to the middle, but the filling is just as written. The tart shell is delicious, too, and easy to make if you have a food processor. 

Both the tart shell and the filling require chilling time, so start this recipe ahead. You can even make both parts a day before...just put them together at least an hour before you serve the tart so the filling can thicken with the cold...for cleaner slices. I didn't wait long enough after filling the tart shell, so the slices on Saturday were not clean cut. When we had another piece instead of lunch today the filling had chilled enough that the pieces looked very nice. The flavor was even more lemony if that's possible!

The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart 

By Dorie Greenspan in Baking, From My Home To Yours

1 cup sugar
Grated zest of 3 lemons
4 large eggs at room temperature
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 4-5 large lemons or up to 9 smaller ones)
2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons (10 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces, at room temperature
1 9-inch tart shell made with Sweet Tart Dough (recipe follows), fully baked and cooled

Have an instant-read thermometer, a strainer (if straining out the zest), and a blender (first choice) or food processor at hand.
Bring a few inches of water to simmer in a saucepan or the bottom of a double boiler.

Put the sugar and zest in a large heatproof bowl that can be set over the pan of simmering water, or in the top pan of a double boiler. Off the heat, rub the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic. Whisk in the eggs, followed by the lemon juice.

Set the bowl over the pan, or set the top into the bottom of the double boiler, and start stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch. Cook the lemon cream until it reaches 180 degrees F. As you whisk and you must whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling, you'll see that the cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then as it gets closer to 180 degrees F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks, which means that the cream is almost ready. Don't stop whisking! Continue to check the temperature. It might take a while. so be patient. Usually it's done in about 10 minutes.

As soon as the cream reaches 180 degrees F, remove from the heat and, if removing the zest, strain it into the container of the blender (or food processor); discard the zest. If not removing the zest, just scrape the cream right into the blender (or food processor). Let the cream stand, stirring occasionally, until it cools to 140 degrees F, about 10 minutes.

Turn the blender to high (or turn on the food processor) and, with the machine going, add the butter, about 5 pieces at a time. Scrape down the sided as needed as you incorporate the butter. Once all the butter is in, keep blending/processing for another 3 minutes.

Pour the cream into a container (I used a large Pyrex bowl), press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

When you are ready to assemble the tart, just whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell. I like to swirl the top with the back of a spoon. Serve the tart, or refrigerate until needed. If desired decorate with fresh berries.

Note: The filling will keep in the fridge for 4 days, or tightly sealed, in the freezer for up to 2 months. Thaw it overnight in the refrigerator and whisk before putting into the tart shell.

Sweet Tart Dough
From Dorie Greenspan

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) very cold (Frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Put the flour, confectioners' sugar and salt into 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- there will be some tiny pieces and some the size of peas.

Stir the yolk to break it up, then add it a little at a time, pulsing afer each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses - about 10 seconds each - until the dough forms clumps and curds. (I had to add about 2 teaspoons of water before clumps would form.) Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, knead lightly just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing. In all of this, don't overwork the dough.

Butter a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Press clumps of the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece (about a teaspoon worth), which you should save in the fridge wrapped in plastic wrap to patch any cracks after the crust is baked. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.

Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Patch the crust if necessary, then bake for another 8 minutes or so, until it is firm and golden brown. Keep an eye on it the last few minutes and pull it out if it gets darker than golden. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and cool to room temperature before filling. 

Happy Spring! We have some spring bulbs blooming, but it has been rainy and chilly, so we are behind the usual blooming time. Still, it's the Spring Equinox today, so let's celebreat the coming of another season.

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