Thursday, April 10, 2008

Lemon Tarts

November 2007

Baking again? Who me? After the enormous amount of food I consumed last week?! Umm, yes. See, I had enough leftover tart dough from this recipe to make another tart, and although I could have frozen it, our freezer is mean to things and I know it would have ended up tasting funny. So I took a look around and realized that I had everything I needed to make a Lemon Tart from the Tartine Cookbook. This lemon tart was a favorite of mine when I used to go to Tartine; it’s tart, smooth, and creamy. Simple on the palate but something of a workout in the kitchen as it turns out. It’s totally worth it though, so if you have a tart that needs to be filled this is a fine way to do it.

Lemon Cream Tart
From Tartine

Have your tart shell baked and ready for filling; you will not be baking it again so make sure it’s golden in color. I recommend blind baking it with pie weights or beans or whatever you like to use – the Tartine tart dough recipe does not call for this but my tart shells always shrink if I don’t weight them down in some fashion. Again, I used the recipe here, and found it easy to work with, although note that it’s more of a shortbread crust.

Here are the ingredients as printed. Reader, I know I said I was not going to fiddle with things the first time I made them. Call it a relapse. Changes in instructions below.

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 large eggs + one large yolk
3/4 of a cup of sugar
Pinch of salt
1 cup of unsalted butter, cool

Fashion yourself some sort of double boiler arrangement. The pan or bowl with the ingredients must be stainless steel – the lemon will pick up a metallic flavor from most cheaper metals. This same pan should not actually touch the water bath, but rather rest just above it. Bring water (two inch depth) to boil and keep at a simmer. Whisk the lemon juice, all eggs, sugar, and salt together in your pan or bowl. Do NOT let this mixture sit without stirring for more than a minute or the lemon will react with the eggs and a granular texture will result. Place over the simmering water and continue to whisk until the mixture becomes very thick and registers 180 degrees on a thermometer. The book says this should take about 10 to 12 minutes, but this part took me a good half an hour. This might be because I don’t have the perfect pan/bowl combo for this so there was a gap between the edges of my upper pan and lower pan. But I have also come to suspect that most cookbooks wildly underestimate preparation times. Is this because they are worried about people nixing recipes with long preparation times? Perhaps I am a snail in the kitchen. Hmm. Anyway, here’s where I would make my first ingredient adjustment: I’d add another tablespoon of lemon juice. At the end of the day I could have taken this tart with just a *tiny* but more tang; what I ended up with was not quite as tart as I remember from the bakery.

Anyway, when your mixture gets nice and thick, remove it from the heat and let sit, stirring occasionally to release the heat, until it registers 140 degrees. If using an immersion blender (lucky you!), leave in bowl for next step, or otherwise transfer to a countertop blender. With blender running add the butter one tablespoon at a time, waiting for each piece to be thoroughly incorporated before adding the next. Here’s where I really went mad: I did not add all the butter. I used 10 tablespoons of butter, rather than 16. Honestly, I think I could have stopped at 8. Less than that and your texture will be more in the neighborhood of a lemon bar, and what I love about this tart is that it’s very different from that, but a whole cup just seemed like overkill and I was already fretting that the butter was diminishing the lemon flavor. Up to you.

Pour into cooled tart shell (you may have extra, depending upon how much butter you opt for and whether your tart shell shrank). Chill the tart until firm, about 2 hours. To serve, top with whipped cream and drizzle a raspberry reduction that your boyfriend will whip up from raspberries lounging in the freezer (be sure to strain, this tart would be totally offended by seeds) on top.

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