This past week’s Tuesdays with Dorie challenge was The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart as selected by member Mary of Starting From Scratch. This recipe is in 2 parts: one for the lemon cream and the other for the tart crust. Neither Carlo or I ever made a tart before, but we were definitely up for it. In fact, I was really eager to make it.
Yesterday, we got all of the ingredients we needed for the cream. Then, this morning, Carlo and I, armed with a 50% off coupon, picked up a 3-pack of tart pans from Michaels. We definitely were in store for a lot of fun over the past 2 days.
First, we made the lemon cream. The only issue we had with it was trying to get the cream mixture at the right temperature and consistency. The recipe called for it to get thicken and to reach 180 degrees. When we finally saw the whisk’s track marks, we couldn’t understand why we couldn’t get the temperature to reach 180. It wavered between 150 and 155 degrees. However, since the tracks were there, we just decided to move forward to straining it and then putting it in a blender.
Carlo and I kept tasting the cream mixture even before we put it in the fridge. It was too good!
Today, after getting the tart pans, we embarked on making the crust. I should say ME! Carlo took a nap this afternoon and missed the fun. Everything that Dorie wrote on how to make the crust was spot on. I must say that pressing the dough into pan was a bit of a pain, because I struggled to get it even. I’m glad I was finally able to get it and keep the crumbly texture.
After the crust was set and the cream was thick and ready, Carlo woke up from his nap, and it was time to put it all together! I smooth the cream on the tart and topped it off with a lemon slice for decoration. As soon as it was complete, we had a knife, forks and plates ready. It was delicious. Too good even. Carlo and I both limited ourselves to 2 small slices.
Now, here’s the recipe from pages 331 & 332 from Baking from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan:
For the cream:
- 1 cup of sugar (I used 1/2 cup of Splenda Sugar Blend)
- Grated zest of 3 lemons
- 4 large eggs
- 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 4-5 lemons) (I was able to get that amount from 3 large lemons)
- 2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons (10 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces, at room temperature
- 1 9-inch tart shell made with Sweet Tart Dough (page 444), Sweet Tart Dough with Nuts (page 444) or Spiced Tart Dough (page 447), fully baked and cooled (I used the Sweet Tart Dough)
For the tart dough:
- 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1 large egg yolk
For the cream:
Getting Ready: Have an instant-read thermometer, a strainer and a blender (first choice) 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.
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 and, 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.
For the tart dough:
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 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, preferably longer, before baking.
To partially or fully bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. (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. For a partially baked crust, patch the crust if necessary, then transfer the crust to a cooling rack (keep it in its pan).
To fully bake the crust: Bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. (I dislike lightly baked crusts, so I often keep the crust in the oven just a little longer. If you do that, just make sure to keep a close eye on the crust’s progress—it can go from golden to way too dark in a flash.) Transfer the tart pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature before filling.
To patch a partially or fully baked crust, if necessary: If there are any cracks in the baked crust, patch them with some of the reserved raw dough as soon as you remove the foil. Slice off a thin piece of the dough, place it over the crack, moisten the edges and very gently smooth the edges into the baked crust. If the tart will not be baked again with its filling, bake for another 2 minutes or so, just to take the rawness off the patch.