Friday, September 14, 2007

Lemon Cream Tart

Lemon Tart
My fellow Daring Baker, Mary, said "If the Daring Bakers were a Girl Scout/Boy Scout troop, then our manual with badges would be Dorie Greenspan's "Baking from My Home to Yours". Mary, I agree with you completely! Before I started food blogging, I am so embarrassed to admit that I was oblivious to this life changing book and didn't even know who Dorie Greenspan was. *blush blush* But after reading post after post from other DBs, I quickly did my research and set myself straight. As a baking newbie, there are only 2 baking cookbooks on my bookshelf and Dorie's book recently joined them. This book was everything I thought it would be and more - it's simply amazing! In the last few weeks I've owned this book, I've made more recipes from it than my 2 other books combined.

Dorie writes that she learned this lemon cream recipe from none other than the king of pastry, Pierre Herme. I know I'm bad to fiddle with a recipe like this one. Why mess with a good thing you know? But hear me out! Since my tart pan is 8 inches, I had to scale down the recipe which was originally for a 9 in tart pan. So 4 eggs became 3, and the 3/4 cup of lemon juice became a 1/2 cup. After appropriately scaling down the sugar, I also decreased it a bit because I tend to use less sugar in my recipes and prefer my curds more tangy and tart, so 1 cup of sugar scaled down to 3/4 cup but I only used a 1/2 cup. Finally, (here comes the biggest departure) the original recipe called for roughly 2 and a half sticks of butter which scaled down to 2 sticks. As much as I love butter, I just couldn't bring myself to add the full 2 sticks. Butter is the key ingredient that transforms an ordinary lemon curd to "the most extraordinary French lemon cream" because instead of melting like in ordinary curds, it emulsifies into something light and dreamy. But I just couldn't do it! In the end, I only added 1 stick of butter. I can't call this an extraordinary lemon cream, only an ordinary lemon cream, but boy was it the best lemon curd/cream I have ever tasted! I can only imagine how astronomical it would been if I had added the rest of the butter.

- The recipe can generously fill an 8 in tart but can also be stretched to fill a 9 in tart.
- To stay true to the original recipe, use 2 sticks of butter.

Lemon Cream
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan

1/2 C sugar
Zest of 3 lemons
3 eggs
1/2 C lemon juice (roughly 3 lemons)
1 stick of butter, cut into one tablespoon pieces
1 premade tart shell

You'll need an instant-read thermometer, a fine mesh sieve, blender or food processor. I didn't have a thermometer so I guesstimated.

Bring some water to a simmer in a saucepan. Meanwhile, in a heatproof bowl big enough that you can set over the saucepan, rub the zest with the sugar, off heat. Then whisk in the eggs and then the lemon juice.

Turn the heat down so that the water is barely simmering, and set the bowl over the saucepan. Whisk and cook the cream until it reaches 180 degrees F.

As soon as it reaches 180 degrees F, strain the curd into your blender or food processor. You can discard the zest that's left behind in the sieve. Let the curd cool until it is 140 degrees F, stirring occasionally. This will take about 10 minutes.

Put the cap on the blender and turn the blender on high. Add the butter 4 tablespoons at a time. Keep blending for another 3 minutes. If the machine gets too hot, you can do it at 1 minute intervals, resting the machine in between.

I was expecting the curd to whip up in the blender, but instead the thick curd was as thin as soup after blending! *panic panic!!*

Pour the cream into a bowl or container and press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight (I would recommend the latter). After a night in the fridge, the completely soupy cream magically thickened into the best lemon curd/cream I have ever tasted! I didn't need to panic, I should have known that a Dorie recipe wouldn't fail me.

Assemble the tart just before serving. Spoon the cold cream into the tart shell and serve immediately.

P.S. Who says you need a tart shell. It's delicious on toast in the morning or *ahem* with a spoon. ;D

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