This week’s challenge was chosen by Mary of Starting From Scratch – "The Most Extraordinary French Cream Tart" from Baking, From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, pgs. 331-332.
(I made mine with the "Sweet Tart Dough" on pg. 444.)
The first of my Tuesdays with Dorie!
I actually doubled the recipes. Our nephew and his girlfriend just closed on their first home, and I thought this tart would be part of a nice housewarming gift. And, of course, I would then need a second tart to keep for the family.
I’ve made lemon curd many times, and this lemon cream is similar in some ways, but oh so very different in mouth feel. It’s soft and smooth and light and lush.
**(I’m just writing out the directions for a single tart, though all my pictures will have twice as much of everything.)
Oh, and as is often the case, my daughter, Julia, helped out. Dorie’s instructions are in normal type, my own notes will be in italics.
Here’s what you will need:
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 tablespoons (10 1/2 oz) 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
Getting Ready: Have an instant-read thermometer, a strainer and a blender (first choice) or food processorat 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 simmer water. Off the heat, rub the sugar and zest together between your fingers
until the suar 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. (Sorry, no pictures here – hard to hold a camera with a thermometer in one hand and a whisk in the other.)
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. (Since I’d doubled the recipe, and neither my blender nor my food processor had the capacity, I used my stand mixer from here on out.)
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 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.
And for the Tart Shell:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
And the directions:
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 crest 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, perferably 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 oftenkeep 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 an dcool the crust to room temperature before filling.
(I had issues with the crust – totally my own fault. I should have rolled the dough out rather than just pressing it onto the pans. My shells came out a bit lumpy in spots, thin in others, and therefore overcooked where they were thin. You can see that particular problem in the shot below.)
I kept that one for us and gave the better shell to my nephew and his girlfriend.
Anyway, I filled the tart shells a little bit before the 4 hour minimum chilling time was up, partly because of time constraints at home, but also because my son whacked his toe on the leg of the dining room table and he was on the verge of tears. I said "I know what would make that feel better! Lemon tart!" And he nodded in agreement. So I filled the shells at that point.
And my son forgot all about his pain…
And my daughter enjoyed the fruits (intended pun) of her labor.
And here’s the tart we brought to Joe and Emily.
Couple other notes –
Exactly halfway through the first 25 minutes of baking the tart crusts, my kitchen was filled with the most wonderful buttery cookie smell. And once the tart shells were out, my son came drifting into the kitchen, led by his nose, and wanted to eat the shells right then and there.
I had some of the cream left over – probably because my tart pan is an 8" and the rectangular pan is about the same in volume. But that’s okay.
There’s hardly any of our tart left now. My husband had some, I’d had some with the kids, and we all agree it’s one of the most delicious lemony creations we’ve ever tasted.
And really pretty easy to make, too. (Apart from my own self-created problems with the crusts.) I’ll definitely make this again.