Saturday, February 23, 2008

Springing: Lemon Tart

It’s almost too much to hope that spring is here. We got conflicting reports from groundhogs, and which one was to be believed? But sitting in my living room yesterday afternoon with the French doors wide open, the gentle breeze wafting around the room, and the setting sun tiptoeing across the floor as I sipped a glass of Chardonnay that could have been its sister, I was inclined to believe the “four more weeks of winter” prediction. It’s been sunny and tragically beautiful (tragic in a “How can they insist we work in a stuffy office on a day like this?” kind of way) since last weekend.

Perhaps as a way of wishing spring had really arrived, or perhaps as a sort of magic charm to bring it on, we made a lemon tart last weekend. Citrus is one of those ingredients that straddles the seasons, much like squashes, potatoes, mushrooms and onions do between fall and winter. When few other fruits are particularly nice, lemons and limes are little splashes of warmth and cheer. They’re so accomodating and flexible too, lending a hand in sweet dishes with as much enthusiasm as they do in savory ones.

This particular recipe is from Donna Hay magazine. Donna Hay is less well known in this country, although she certainly has her followers. Because she’s Australian, and antipodean seasons are exactly opposite of ours, I always look longingly at the (incredibly beautiful, amazingly styled) pictures of warm, homey roasts in July, and summery berry concoctions offered as dessert options for Christmas dinner.

But because I subscribe to the magazine (at exorbitant rates, but an addict must pay the price) I can just reach back two issues and find the right season and be browsing through crisp salads and picnic fare. For those who would prefer to support their local magazine retailer, the issue on the newsstand is usually the correct one for the North American season (I checked my local bookstore last weekend, and indeed, issue 35 Spring, Oct/Nov 07 is the one currently available). The downside to not subscribing is that most stores only get a few issues, so you do run the risk of missing out if you don’t show up pretty promptly when the shipment comes in. It was the disappointment of missing out that urged me to subscribe. I also bought all the back issues all the way to issue 1.

This lemon tart comes from a column called Inspired, in which the recipes are generally centered around a concept, rather than an ingredient. “Folded,” for instance, or “paper thin.” Folded consisted of recipes for things like crepes, and paper thin featured home made potato chips, and things made with phyllo. In issue 35, the theme is Citrus. How timely and convenient, since decent citrus is available pretty much all year. This lemon tart seemed like an excellent way to usher in (or beg for the arrival of?) spring.

Like almost every recipe I’ve ever made from Donna Hay, this one was outstanding. The only change we ever have to make is in the cooking times. I’m not sure why, but our cooking times always seem to be about twice as long as hers, regardless of the cooking method. The tart said to cook it for 20 minutes, but in the end it was in the oven for closer to 40 minutes. No matter, it was terrific, a well balanced sweet-acidic filling with a lovely biscuity crust. The filling was smooth and creamy and tart and wonderful. This is not a fast recipe, but well worth the time spent, and an excellent reminder that, no matter what the groundhogs say, it can be spring inside, even if it’s not quite spring outside.

Lemon Tart
from Donna Hay magazine, issue 35
serves 8, or 2 people really anxious for spring to arrive

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 ½ oz cold unsalted butter, chopped
1 tablespoon caster (superfine) sugar*
1 egg, lightly beaten
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
Lemon filling
1 cup (single or pouring) cream**
2 eggs
3 egg yolks
½ cup caster (superfine) sugar
½ cup lemon juice

Place the flour, butter and sugar in a food processor and process until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg and vanilla and process in short bursts until the pastry just comes together. Turn out and bring together to form a ball. Flatten the pastry, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 360 degrees F. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface until 1/8” thick. Line an 8 2/3” (we used a 9”) round pastry ring (we used a tart pan with a removable bottom) with the pastry, trim, and prick the base with a form. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Line the pastry with non-stick baking paper, fill with baking weights and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the weights and paper and bake for a further 2-3 minutes or until golden. Set aside.

Reduce the oven to 285 degrees F. To make the lemon filling, place the cream, eggs, egg yolks, sugar and lemon juice in a bowl and whisk to combine. Pour the mixture into the tart shell and use the back of a metal spoon to skim the surface to remove any bubbles. Bake for 20 minutes or until just set. Allow to cool and refrigerate until completely set.

* caster or superfine sugar is available at some grocery stores, but you can make your own by whizzing regular granulated sugar in a food processor until fine. The benefit of superfine sugar over regular granulated sugar is that it dissolves more quickly.

** we used heavy cream; Donna Hay gives fat content comparisons in several of her books, but the problem I find is that most of the milk sold in this country doesn’t include information about percentages of fat on the labels. Australia, like England, has products like double cream that we can only dream of here (or pay huge sums for at specialty stores). Our heavy cream is approximately equivalent to their single cream.


Anonymous said...

Just to clarify, the Modern Apron's husband baked this tart. :)

TD said...

Yes, well, *ahem* I might point out that the pronoun "we" is employed in the discussion of the actual preparation: "we needed to change the cooking time" etc. While the actual mixing was not necessarily done by yours truly, the MONITORING of the tart in the oven (which turned out to be key) was the work of moi. Most great meals are the work of a team; no man is an island.

bakingbarb said...

I was searching for a recipe to make a lemon tart to send me into Spring and I found your blog. Your lovely picture inspired me. Thank you for sharing.

bakingbarb said...

I was searching for a recipe to make a lemon tart to send me into Spring and I found your blog. Your lovely picture inspired me. Thank you for sharing.

TD said...


So glad you found it! This tart is a delight. Not fast or simple, but well worth the time!


Anonymous said...

I found this site using [url=][/url] And i want to thank you for your work. You have done really very good site. Great work, great site! Thank you!

Sorry for offtopic