Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tarte au Citron

Mr. Bear is not a big dessert person. The one and only dessert that he really likes, other than ice-cream, is lemon tart. He has repeatedly requested me to make one for him, but sadly his requests are usually ignored gracefully declined because I myself is not a citrus lover. However, today is a special day and he deserves a good piece of lemon tart, simply because... today is Mr. Bear's birthday. =)

I got both the Lemon Tart and French Tart Shell recipes from David Lebovitz.  This was my first time following his recipes, but I've heard from other bloggers many wonderful things about him as a pastry chef, about his blog and his recipes, and that they are very well written and incredibly easy to follow.  Lebovitz started off his career working with Alice Water at Chez Panisse (coincidentally one of Mr. Bear's favourite places in the Bay Area as well) for 13 years before he moved to Paris and became a full time writer. I love his blog being both casual and informative at the same time. Just follow his recipe step by step and you can't go wrong.

Let's first take a look at the tart shell recipe.  One of the reasons why I don't particularly like making tarts is because of the couple of times that I tried, they turned out to be an EPIC fail, but Lebovitz's recipe changed my entire tart/pie making experience. It's basically as easy as throwing a few things together, popping them into the oven, bring it out and mix it with flour, and viola! Here's your tart dough!!!

Lebovitz uses the method of blind-baking, which means the tart and the filling are baked separately.  This is a method commonly used when the filling needs less time to cook than the pastry. This creates a stronger crust that can hold moist filling without getting soggy. The last time I made a pie I forgot to put pie weight before baking so the pie rose and created a big air bubble. I wonder why Lebovitz didn't mention about using pie weights but to avoid making the same mistake twice I applied this trick I learned from Heston Blumenthal. Take a sheet of parchment paper and scrunch it up about 5-6 times to eliminate any sharp edges that will damage the pastry. Place the baking paper on top and add enough coins (instead of baking beans) to fill the casing a quarter of the way up. Blumenenthal claims that the coins conduct the heat better and it's a brilliant way of putting the spare change lying around in the house to good use!

French Tart Shell
Adapted from David Lebovitz recipe

One 9 (23 cm) tart shell

90 g (3 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I used canola)
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
150 g (5oz, or 1 slightly-rounded cup) flour

1. Preheat the oven to 410º F (210º C)
2. In a medium-sized ovenproof bowl, such as a Pyrex bowl, combine the butter, oil, water, sugar, and salt. (I almost threw out the Pyrex bowls to make room for some new stuff I bought last weekend.  I'm so glad I didn't!!!) Place the bowl in the oven for 15 minutes, until the butter is bubbling and starts to brown just around the edges.
3. When done, remove the bowl from oven (CAUTION: the bowl will be hot and the mixture might sputter a bit), dump in the flour and stir it in quickly, until it comes together and forms a ball which pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
4. Transfer the dough to the tart mold with a removable bottom and spread it a bit with a spatula.
5. Once the dough is cool enough to handle, pat it into the shell with the heel of your and, and use your fingers to press it up the sides of the tart mold. Reserve a small piece of dough, about the size of a raspberry, for patching any cracks.
6. Poke the dough all over with a fork, place the parchment paper over it and add coins (as mentioned above) then bake the tart shell in the oven for 15 minutes.
7. Remove from the oven and remove the coins. If there are any sizable cracks, use the bits of reserved dough to fill in and patch them.
8. Return to oven and bake for another 5 minutes until the pie turns golden brown.
9. Let the shell cool before filling.

Now onto the lemon curd. You can double up the recipe and the filling you don't use can be spread on toasts or scones. The outcome is a very luscious lemon tart and one of the best I've ever had. From now on I think I can consider making it more often for Mr. Bear.

Tarte au Citron
Adapted from David Lebovitz recipe

One 9-inch (23 cm) tart

1/2 cup (125 ml) freshly-squeezed lemon juice - I used the juice from 3 small and 2 large lemons
Grated zest of one lemon, preferably unsprayed
1/2 cup (100 g) sugar - this is the original recipe, I found it a little too tangy so I added an extra 1/2 a teaspoon of sugar
6 tablespoons (85 g) butter, salted or unsalted, cut into bits
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks

1. Preheat the oven to 350F (180C.) Make sure your tart shell is already cool before you start the following steps.
2. In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the lemon juice, zest, sugar, and butter. Have a mesh strainer nearby.
3. In the meantime, in a small bowl, beat together the eggs and the yolks.
4. When the butter is melted, whisk some of the warm lemon mixture into the eggs, stirring constantly, to warm them. Scrape the warmed eggs back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and almost begins to bubble around the edges. Pay attention and make sure you don't overcook it.
5. Pour the lemon curd though a strainer directly into the pre-baked tart shell, scraping with a rubber spatula to press it through.
6. Smooth the top of the tart and pop it in the oven for five minutes, just to set the curd.
7. Remove from the oven and let cool before slicing and serving.


  1. Replies
    1. You're welcome. I liked this tart very much too even though I'm not a big citrus lover. Hope you enjoy it too. :)



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