Sunday, October 11, 2009

Tarte au Citron

The tarte au citron is a dessert that seems totally simple at first glance. It's lemon curd on a sweet pastry crust. Easy does it, right?

Actually, not really.

A perfect lemon tart is tangy--tart, not to be redundant--but sweet, creamy but not overpoweringly so. The crust should come off as the perfect vehicle for the filling, bringing a nice buttery taste to the overall flavor. In that light, a perfect lemon tart is something hard to achieve.

After making Pierre Hermé's lemon curd for my macarons (right here), I wanted to give the tarte au citron a try. Anything lemon has always been a favorite of mine: lemon in perfume, lemon in candy, and did I mention lemon poppy seed muffins? My only issue with the Pierre Hermé recipe was the insane amount of butter. For macarons, where you've only got a small amount of curd in each, a lot of butter is good. For a whole tart? Not so sure. I browsed around and found a recipe that sounded nice on Saveur, and decided to adapt it to use the foolproof Pierre Hermé technique--rubbing the sugar and zest together really ups the lemon flavor.

My next little problem was with the crust. For sweet tarts, I've really become keen on making my own. French pre-made crusts are great for quiches and the like, but I wanted my crust to have that special something. However, my inexistant counter space makes it utterly impossible to roll out a crust. Actually, I don't even have a rolling pin--that's how impossible it is for me to do things like that in my crazy little kitchen. Was it possible to find a pâte sablée recipe that I could press into my tart pan? Actually, yes! Dorie Greenspan has a great recipe, and while it does necessitate a little space in a freezer (my freezer is sized like my kitchen, so that might eventually have become a problem), it's super easy to make.

My lemon tart recipe isn't one where you bake it all together. The filling and crust are made separately, and after a couple of hours in the fridge, the final result is pretty amazing. My tarte was tangy and creamy, just the way I wanted it to be. I think lemon tarts baked all together (by that I mean crust + filling baked at the same time) have more tang and less of the creamy consistency, so I'll have to give that a try next time. One of the high points was the crust: it complemented the filling really nicely and, I quote, "tasted like a sablé from Brittany". I'd say that's pretty good, isn't it?

But for now, my creamy tarte au citron was as yummy as could be. And isn't a slice of lemon tart kind of like having a last slice of summer?

Pâte Sablée : Sweet Pastry Dough
adapted from Dorie Greenspan

1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. confectioner's sugar
1/4 TS salt
9 TB very cold butter
1 large egg yolk

Pulse flour, confectioner's sugar and salt in a food processor.

Add butter and pulse until coarsely cut in.

Add egg yolk, pulsing for 10 seconds at a time until dough forms clumps and curds. At this point, the mixture starts to make a different sound in the food processor that you'll notice.

Knead dough, and press into a buttered tart pan. Cover and freeze for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Press foil against crust, and bake for approximately 30 minutes until golden. Decrease baking time by 5 minutes if you'll be rebaking the crust afterwards.

Crème au Citron : Lemon Curd
makes 2 1/2 cups, or enough for a French-sized tart

4 egg yolks
2 whole eggs
3/4 c. sugar
2/3 c. fresh lemon juice
8g lemon zest (approx. 1 TB)
145g (10 TB) cold butter, cut into pieces

Rub zest and sugar together.

Mix lemon juice, sugar/zest, and eggs together in a heatproof bowl. Place it over a pan of simmering water.

Cook, whisking constantly, until a thermometer reads 75°C.

Remove from heat; when temperature comes back down to 60°C, incorporate butter and mix for 5 minutes.

Cover surface with plastic wrap and set aside to let cool.

Refrigerate up to 2 weeks. When ready to use, pour into baked tart shell and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.
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claudia said...

it sure looks good. I could imagine this tarte served with fresh raspberries..a perfect combination for a late summer dessert!

~~louise~~ said...

I just happened upon your blog while trying to find a copy of a vintage Van Houten recipe book for one of my visitors. I sure am glad I "bumped" into this post. My lips began to pucker just at the thought of re-creating this recipe. Thank you so much for sharing. I must be off to find the book. Thanks again...

L.E.R said...

Hi Louise, I'm glad you enjoyed the recipe! It's a breeze to make and definitely company-worthy :)