It seems that lately I can´t help but post on a weekly basis. I certainly don´t plan it that way and the cooking part isn´t what´s lagging, it´s mainly the writing part. I´m in one of those life-reassessing stages, so there´s a lot of thinking and pondering going on, but it doesn´t really involve food, so my energy, which was never that great to begin with, gets drained out and I don´t feel like writing and putting on a facade.
But there are certain recipes that are meant to be shared, and this would be one of them. Plus, sometimes I need a push to get things done and I certainly don´t want to go on a hiatus here (my poor Spanish blog is another story!).
Ok, so where were we? Oh, yes… I don´t know if you remember, but I recently bought some long-pined-for books from Amazon, among which was Dorie´s book (Greenspan, in case you have been living under a rock).
The problem with a book like that is that you never know where to start. The pictures were simply killing me and I just couldn´t pick a single recipe. But, mother nature came to my rescue in the form of lemons.
You see, my parents have a small lemon tree and the fruit was begging to be picked. Being a generous person, I didn´t want to make them suffer… that´s were this French lemon cream tart comes in.
One of my favorite pies ever is lemon meringue pie, but I´ve always felt that the meringue part could be done withouth. In fact, when I order it at restaurants, I usually discard some of the meringue because the lemon curd isn´t lemony enough to withstand all that meringue.
So this tart made my wishes come true. It´s a softer, creamier variation of the lemon curd with no meringue. The original recipe is by Pierre Herme and since it´s included in this other book I got, I fused together both recipes, which is what you´ll get here.
For me, the pate sableé recipe was a bit too buttery, so next time I make this tart, and trust me, there will be a next time, I´ll use the pastafrola dough recipe I posted about a while ago, but you be the judge.
This is my entry to a new foodblog event called Fresh Produce of the Month started by Marta of An Italian in the US. This month, it focuses on lemon. Hurry on up! The deadline is June 22nd.
Sweet tart dough, or pate sableé (from Baking: from my Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter (115g) plus 1 tablespoon, very cold or frozen, 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 it 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: heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.
TO PRESS THE DOUGH INTO THE PAN: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece of dough, which you should save in the refrigerator to patch any cracks after the crust is baked. Don´t be too heavy-handed, press the crust so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.
TO FULLY BAKE THE CRUST: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F (around 180°C). Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the rust. (Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights.) 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 necesary. Bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it´s fully baked and golden brown. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature before filling.
1 cup sugar (240g)
Grated zest of 3 (big) lemons
4 large eggs
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon size pieces, at room temperature (300g)
GETTING READY: Have an instant read thermometer, a strainer and a blender (first choice) or food processor at hand (Pierre Herme´s recipe uses an immersion blender, and that´s what I decided to use.) Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.
Put the sugar and zest in a large heatproof bowl that can be set over the pan of simmering water. 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 and start stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch. Cook the lemon cream until it reached 180°F (82-83°C, I used a regular termometer and with the stirring I had to make with my other hand I couldn´t get it to read more than 75°C, but it still turned out perfectly). As you whisk (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°F, it´ll start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks. Heads up at this point: the tracks mean it´s almost readt. Don´t stop whisking or checking the temperature, and have patience (depending on how much heat you are giving the cream, getting to temp can take as long as 10 minutes.)
As soon as it reaches 180°F, remove the cream from the heat and strain into the container of the blender (or the bowl you´ll use to blend with the immersion blender) ; discard the zest. Let the cream stand, stirring ocassionaly, until it cools to 140°F, about 10 minutes.
Turn the blender to high and, with the machine going, add the butter about 5 pieces at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed to incorporate the butter. Once the butter is in, keep the machine going for 3 more minutes. (Pierre Hermé recommends blending for 10 minutes overall to get the butter to emulsify fully, and that´s what I did, stopping for a few seconds when I felt my poor machine was getting too hot.)
Pour the cream into a container; press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. (The cream keeps in the fridge for 4 days, or, tightly sealed, in the freezer for up to 2 months, thaw it overnight in the fridge.)
When you are ready to assemble, just whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell. Serve the tart, or refrigerate until needed. (Dorie recommends spooning the cream before serving so that the cream is cold and contrasts nicely with the room-temperature crust. Pierre Herme uses warmed up light-colored jelly to glaze the tart, but I think it´s beautiful as it is. What I did do is make a simple water-sugar syrup with a bit of lemon peel and poured a bit of it over the tart when it had cooled down, using the lemon peel as decoration.)