Sunday, May 24, 2009

When life gives you lemons

The dessert menu arrives. An apparently harmonious party of dining companions suddenly splits, decisively, into three distinct camps: The chocolate people, the vanilla people, and the fruit people. A smart restaurant will, of course, have a way to satisfy all three, hence the now standard after-dinner choices:

Flourless Chocolate Cake (camp chocolate)
Brownie sundae with hot fudge sauce (ditto)
Creme Brulee (camp vanilla)
Cheesecake (ditto)
Fresh Berry Crisp (camp fruit)
Lemon Tart (ditto)
Apple Pie (ditto)
Ice creams (chocolate, vanilla, fruit sorbets, something for everyone)

I am most definitely in Camp Fruit*, with brief forays into Camp Vanilla if caramelized sugar is involved. I also believe strongly that Camp Fruit can co-exist with Camp Vanilla when ice cream, vanilla sauce, or fresh whipped cream is attached to the fruit item, particularly if said fruit item is nice and warm, and the vanilla part starts to slowly melt and...

I digress. My point is, I've seen a lot of dessert menus in my time, and therefor I've had a lot of lemon tarts in my life. Having just put down my fork, I can now say with some authority and experience that I have just had one of the all-time great lemon tarts. Unbelievably good. As in RIDICULOUS. So when life gives you lemons, or even if you have to run out to the store and pick some up, make this Lemon Tart.

Adapted in part from Tartine, a great book for baking.

Ridiculously Good Lemon Tart with Fresh Whipped Cream

by Sharon Graves
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: several hours to chill
    For the Crust:
    For the Lemon Cream:
    • 1/2 c. + 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice (about 4 lemons)
    • 3 whole eggs
    • 1 egg yolk
    • 3/4 c. sugar
    • generous pinch of salt
    • 1 c. butter, cool, cut into 1 Tbs. pieces
    For the Whipped Cream:
    • 1 c. heavy cream, very cold
    • 3 Tbs. confectioners sugar
    • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract


    Lemon Cream:

    Pour water to a depth of about 2 inches in a large saucepan, place over medium heat, and bring to a simmer.
    Combine lemon juice, eggs and egg yolk, sugar and salt in a stainless-steel bowl that will rest securely in the rim of the saucepan over, but not touching, the simmering water. Whisk the ingredients together, then place the bowl over the water and continue to whisk until the mixture becomes very thick and registers 180 on a thermometer. This will take 10-12 minutes.

    Remove the bowl from over the water and let cool to 140, stirring from time to time to release the heat. This will take about 3-4 minutes.

    Get out your blender**. When the cream is ready, pour it into the blender. With the blender running, add the butter, 1 Tbs. at a time, blending after each addition until incorporated before adding the next piece. The cream will be pale yellow, opaque, and very thick.

    Pour the lemon cream into the prepared crust, and shake gently to level out the top of the filling. Chill the tart until the filling is firm, at least 2 hours or up to 1 day, before serving with...

    Fresh Whipped Cream:

    Chill a mixing bowl and the beaters of your mixer for several hours before whipping the cream. Pour cream into the chilled bowl and beat on high until thickened. Add sugar and vanilla, and beat a little more, until the cream is nice and thick and luscious looking.

    You can use this on anything! But for now...

    Final Tart Assembly:

    Remove tart from the fridge. You can either garnish each individual slice with a dollop of cream, or spread the cream over the whole tart. Either way, grate a bit of lemon zest over the whipped cream to make it look pretty. Slice into wedges, serve, and wait for the Camp Fruit people to bow down in gratitude.

    *Don't worry, Camp Chocolate people. I have some excellent chocolate-based goodies to share with you.
    **If you have an immersion blender, you can do everything in the same bowl.

    Leave a comment -- tell me what camp you are in!

    1 comment:

    1. Definitely Camp Chocolate (but I visit Camps Vanilla and Fruit regularly!)