WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LEMONS....
Oh, and it did. I’ve taken a bit of time off to deal with some of those big, fat, sour suckers. And after getting rid of all the bad, moldy, squishy ones, maybe heaving a couple at the wall and watching them explode with a satisfying *SPLAT* just to relieve a bit of my stress, I decided that lemonade would just not do the trick! I turn those bright, sunshine-yellow babies into something sweet and tasty. Who doesn’t absolutely love that sour-sweet taste sensation that is a Lemon Tart? There are quite a number of recipes out there for good lemon pies, but I came across this one in my French cookbook Desserts published by Marabout (a translation of the original Sweet Food published in Australia) which was a birthday gift from Clem. It is oh so lemony, very creamy and so simple, without all the fuss of a meringue topping or cookie crust. And we all love it.
I use my favorite sweet pastry crust and the rest is so quick and easy to put together that I wonder why I don’t make this more often. The original recipe calls for thick fresh cream, but I use the French 0 % fat fromage frais. Fromage frais is the consistency of sour cream, though much less sour, and I use 0 % fat because it alleviates some of the guilt of eating this very rich, creamy dessert. You could substitute either quark or Greek-style yogurt for the fromage frais or thick cream, or Delia (on her blog) suggests blending equal parts cottage cheese and yogurt until smooth.
I let the tart come to room temperature before serving. In the summer, I put it in the fridge to chill it a bit, which will also firm it up somewhat. I always serve it simply with whipped fresh cream, just barely sweetened with a tad of powdered sugar, the perfect foil for the full, tangy flavor of the tart.
Wondering what dessert to serve after a hot, even spicy, filling meal? We often relegate cool, lemony treats to summertime, but I have found that this is the ideal dessert to serve all year round (don’t forget that citrus is winter fruit), especially refreshing after a hot mushroom risotto or a big bowl of spicy chili. Serve this at barbecues, too.
LEMON TART (or, if you like something a bit more exotic, LA TARTE AU CITRON)
MY SWEET PASTRY PIE CRUST
1 1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
7 Tbs (100 grams) unsalted butter, cubed *
1 egg, lightly beaten
Combine flour and sugar in a mixing bowl or on a work surface. Using only your thumbs and fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until the consistency of sand and there are no more large chunks of butter.
With a fork, vigorously stir in the lightly beaten egg until all the dry ingredients are moistened and a dough starts to form.
Gather the dough together into a ball and place on a lightly-floured surface. Using the heel of one hand, smear the dough little by little away from you in quick, hard strokes in order to make sure that all of the butter is blended in well.
Scrape up the dough together, re-flour the surface lightly and work very briefly and quickly until you have a smooth, homogenous dough. If the dough is a bit too soft or sticky for you, refrigerate it for 10 or 15 minutes until it can be easily rolled out without sticking to your rolling pin.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough and line a buttered and lightly floured 10” wide, 1 1/2” deep pie dish, a springform pan or similar. Refrigerate until ready to bake.
* most pie crust recipes call for the butter to be chilled. I have found that butter at room temperature is easier and quicker to work into the flour and to dough seems to be fluffier. If the dough is too sticky to roll out right away, several minutes in the fridge should do the trick.
1pre-cooked Sweet Pastry Pie Crust*
2 egg yolks
275 g (9.7 oz, about 1 1/2 cups + 2 tsp) sugar
190 ml (3/4 cup) fromage frais 0% fat or thick fresh cream
250 ml (1 cup, about 6 lemons) freshly squeezed lemon juice
grated zest of 3 lemons
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough and line a buttered and lightly floured 10” wide, 1 1/2” deep pie dish, a springform pan or similar. Prick all over the surface with a fork.
*Place a large piece of oven-safe parchment paper or aluminum foil into the lined pie dish, fill with uncooked beans or pastry weights and bake for 3 to 5 minutes, then remove the paper or foil with the beans and continue baking for another 5 - 8 minutes until set and just barely golden.
Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F (150°C).
Prepare the filling. Beat the eggs together with the egg yolks and the sugar with a whisk or an electric beater until slightly thickened. Continue beating as you pour in the cream, then the lemon juice and zest, just until well blended.
It’s as simple as that (I should say Easy as Pie, but I won’t).
Carefully pour the filling into the pre-baked pastry crust. It will come up to the top edge of the crust. If you want to avoid sloshing the filling over the top and onto the floor as you carry it to the oven, simply pour about half of the filling into the crust, place the pie dish/plate on the oven rack and then carefully pour the rest of the filling into the dish.
Bake the tart 35 to 40 minutes until the center is just set. Let cool before serving.
If you like a tart that is a bit firmer or you want to serve it cooler, just place it in the fridge after it has cooled down to room temperature. Serve with unsweetened or barely sweetened freshly whipped cream. All year round!
I remember when we were kids and our parents took us to the all-night family diner - you know, one of the various chain restaurants that were so popular - as a special treat. I was never able decide whether to order the Lemon Meringue or the Chocolate Cream Pie. Both so huge and creamy..... This one is the elegant, adult version.