Sunday, May 10, 2009

Lemon Cream Tart

This was the dessert I made for a recent family event. I'd been dying to have a reason to try Dorie's Lemon Cream tart, and I thought it made a perfect springy dessert.

And I was right. Let me tell you, this is without a doubt the most delicious thing I've ever made. I suppose my love of lemon makes me slightly biased, but honestly, it was wonderful. My mom and I ate it two pieces at a time. (which I actually don't recommend because after we were both completely stuffed- it's very rich!)

Making the tart itself was fun. My shell came out a little imperfect as I have an 11" tart pan, and the recipe made a shell for an 9" pan. I managed to stretch it a bit, unfortunately it didn't have that perfect professional look on the sides, but we'll just call it rustic. And maybe next time I should check things before I rush into them.

Making the cream was unlike anything I've ever done for a dessert. It involved making a lemon curd over a double boiler and then mixing it up in a blender with TONS of butter. The result is an absolutely amazing, creamy, sweet lemon filling, that I could not stop spooning out of the bowl and eating.

I then candied slices of lemon to decorate the tart. This is an incredibly simple thing to do. I sliced lemon very, very thin, and boiled it with a cup of sugar and 1 and 1/2 cups of water until the lemon slices were translucent (that's how you know they're not bitter anymore). I laid them out on a paper towel, sprinkled with sugar for a sparklyish effect, and let them hang out until tart time.
In keeping with my "rustic" shell, I went for a rustic look on the filling. I spread it out into the shell, and used the back of a teaspoon to "lift" up the filling sporadically across the tart- that's those peaks you see. You use the back of the spoon to make a small circles all over the filling, and lift the spoon when you're done with each circle. I topped with my candied lemon, and then I ate a billion slices.

Sweet Tart Dough, from Dorie Greenspan, Baking From My Home to Yours

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick plus 1 tbsp very cold unsalted butter
1 large egg yolk

Put the flour, salt, confectioner's sugar in a food process and pulse to blend. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in. You will have pieces in all different sizes. Stir the yolk and add it a little at a time, pulsing to blend for about 10 seconds after each addition. The dough will form clumps and curds, and as you continue processing, the sound of the machine will change, indicating that it's done. Turn the dough out, and knead it to incorporate any dry ingredients.

Butter a 9" tart pan. Press the dough evenly on the bottom and up the sides, being careful not to overwork it, lest the dough lose its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for 30 minutes before baking. (Or, if not baking immediately, freeze for up to 2 months).

To bake, butter the shiny side of tin foil and fit it, buttered side down, on the crust. Bake it for 25 minutes, and if anything puffs (it shouldn't, as you froze it) just press it down with a spoon.

Lemon Cream Filling (also Dorie Greenspan)

1 cup sugar
Grated zest of 3 lemons
4 large eggs
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 sticks plus 5 tbsp butter, cut into tbsp size pieces, at room temp

You will also need a blender, a pan of simmering water and bowl to set over it (ie a double boiler), and instant read thermometer. I suppose it's better to have a pastry or candy thermometer, but I just used the one we normally stick in a roast.

Rub the sugar and lemon zest together in your double boiler bowl until fragrant. Whisk in the four eggs and lemon juice.

Set the bowl over the pan of simmering water and place your thermometer in it. Begin whisking it when it feels tepid. Whisk constantly until the mixture reaches 180 degrees. It will be close to 180 when the whisk starts to leave track marks in the cream. Don't stop whisking yet, but be aware that you will be close to finishing.

As soon as it reaches 180, strain it into the blender. You can discard the zest. Let it stand until it reaches 140 degrees. You can stir it occasionally to let some air in and help speed the cooling process, but it will most likely take a good 10 minutes. (During this time feel free to enjoy licking the lemon/egg mix out of the sieve like I did).

Turn the blender on high and with the machine running, add the butter 5 pieces at a time. (If you're afraid of splattering lemon cream all over your kitchen it's okay to shut the machine off for a second to drop the butter in). Once all the butter is in, continue to let the machine run for 3 minutes. If your machine is as loud as mine, those 3 minutes will be excruciating, but deal with it.

Pour the cream into a container and press a piece of plastic wrap into the surface, then cover with container's lid and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight. The cream will last in fridge for 4 days, or can be frozen for 2 months and thawed in fridge.

Assemble the tart shortly before you want to serve it. Just whisk the cream, pour it in, top with your candied lemon, and enjoy!! Everyone will LOVE it.

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