Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Tuesdays with Dorie - The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart
It's time again for Tuesdays with Dorie! This week's recipe was chosen by Mary from Starting From Scratch. I was really excited about this lemon tart recipe. I've only made one tart prior to this (a yummy cranberry tart for Christmas 2005), and my tart pan has been sitting in my cupboard ever since, lonely and longing to be put to use again. Well, wait no longer, little tart pan!
The tart was fairly easy to make, though I did have a few small complications. First was the lemon cream filling. I don't know if there was something wrong with my thermometer, but after something like 30 minutes over the simmering (and at some points, full-on boiling) water, it never did reach 180 degrees. What the hell??? I finally just gave up at 165 degrees and took it off the heat. Does anyone have tips for checking the calibration of my thermometer? it's a digital, and I've never had problems with it before, but I have to wonder about it's accuracy after this recipe. Or maybe it's just me. I tried making lemon curd back in the mid-90s, and it never got to temperature, either. Hmmmm.
But I'm not upset, because the filling tastes fab. u. lous. It was all Brad and I could do to not dig in with a spoon and just eat it by itself. But we were good, and I covered it with plastic and stuck it in the fridge.
[UPDATE: I just realized while looking through the recipe that I only used 2 sticks of butter in the filling, and not the additional 5 Tbsp it calls for. FYI, it tastes glorious and the texture is just fine even without the extra butter, so feel free to leave it out if you make this tart. You could probably even get by with less than 2 sticks, in all honesty.]
Yellow is my favorite color, so I couldn't resist snapping a picture of all those gorgeous yellow ingredients!
I prepared the crust Saturday night after we got back from the football game. It came together really easily in my food processor, and pressed neatly into the tart pan. I was skeptical of the instructions to butter foil and press it against the dough, but I did it anyway. And yeah, when I VERY CAREFULLY removed the foil as directed, it peeled up half the dough with it. Nooooooo! I was ticked, let me tell you. I managed to piece it back together, and used some of the held back scraps to patch the rest, but I'm still annoyed that it came to that. Why not just bake it without the foil pressed so tightly against it? I don't get it.
But at least it turned out in the end! I decorated mine with thin lemon slice halves around the edge, and to be honest, I'm almost ridiculously pleased with how pretty it is. And it's just as delicious as it is beautiful! The filling is fairly tart, which I love, so the sweet pastry crust provides a great balance. This is definitely something I'll make again. In fact, I'm going to be preparing the food for an upcoming bridal shower, and I think this will have to be featured on that menu.
The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart
From Baking: From My Home to Yours
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 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces, at room temperature
1 9-inch tart shell (recipe below)
Have an instant-read thermometer, a strainer and a blender or food processor at hand. 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 reaches 180 degrees F. 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 degrees F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks. Heads up at this point - the tracks mean the cream is almost ready. Don't stop whisking or checking the temperature, and have patience - depending on how much heat you're giving the cream, getting to temp can take as long as 10 minutes.
As soon as it reaches 180 degrees F, remove the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of the blender (or food processor); discard the zest. 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 processor) and, with the machine going, add the butter about 5 pieces at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed as you incorporate the butter. Once the butter is in, keep the machine going - to get the perfect light, airy texture of lemon-cream dreams, you must continue to blend the cream for another 3 minutes. If your machine protests and gets a bit too hot, work in 1-minute intervals, giving the machine a little rest between beats.
Sweet Tart Dough
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 T) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (I used only 1 stick of butter)
1 large egg yolk
Put the flour, 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 fakes and others 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 and 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 in 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, preferable longer, before baking.
To partially or fully bake the crust: center a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.
Butter the shiny side of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, against the crust. (since you froze it, 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, carefully press it down with the back of a spoon. For partially baked crust, patch the crust if necessary, then transfer the crust to a cooling rack. To fully bake the crust, bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. Transfer pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature before filling.
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 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).
When you are ready to assemble the tart, just whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell. Serve the tart, or refrigerate until needed.