Monday, April 4, 2011

Caramelized Lemon Tart

It never fails.
You're in a rush and something will happen that jolts you to a complete halt.

Yesterday was such a nice day (I even got a bit of a sunburn, but I'm not saying that's nice).
I drove with the windows and sunroof open to get a bit of a warm breeze.
Well, I left the sunroof open and it rained last night. I left the sunroof all the way open.
A mini-deluge hit the interior of my car.
The mats were soaked. The seats (which happen to be leather) were also soaked.

Whatever papers, directions, and receipts I had (along with CDs and cases) in the console were completely soaked. The cup holder was a little lake.
Once all the papers are obliterated, it's interesting how quickly you're able to decide you didn't need them anyway... I'd been meaning to go through them...

And so, while I spent a little time doing a quick cleanup, I'll have to spend a bit more time to finish the job.

Too bad it's cooler and overcast today. More rain.
It would have been nice to just open the car up so it could dry!
I'm not looking forward to what could potentially happen if the car stays closed and doesn't dry appropriately.

No, flooding the inside of your car isn't the worst possible thing that could happen, but it certainly is a disappointing discovery.
And sometimes when you've had a bad day, if someone does something nice and unexpected for you it can be a wonderful surprise.

Perhaps it'll even make you forget whatever the problem was.
Dessert can do that sometimes, and even if it's not a bad day a lemon tart is still a good thing.
I think this one is just pretty- a little rustic looking.
AND it has a nice, thick layer of cool and zesty lemony goodness. Of course it tastes good, too.
It's important that the filling is solid enough to stand up and be cut, but still creamy, and the final couple baking steps help insure that this will happen.

Caramelized Lemon Tart
serves 8-10
slightly adapted from the Gourmet, October 2008 issue, the recipe is originally from Jean Banchet's Le Francais (a restaurant in Chicago that no longer exists)

pastry dough
1 1/4 c flour
3/4 stick (6 T) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 T cold vegetable shortening
1/4 t salt
1 T sugar
3-4 T ice water

3 whole large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1 c plus 2 T sugar
1/4 t salt
2 T grated lemon zest
1/2 c fresh lemon juice
1 stick (8 T) unsalted butter, cut into eight pieces

10-inch round tart pan with a removable bottom.

Pastry dough:
Blend together flour, butter, shortening, salt, and sugar in a bowl with fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) just until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Drizzle 3 T water evenly over the mixture and gently stir with a fork (or pulse) until incorporated. Squeeze a small amount in your hand- if it doesn't hold together, add more ice water, 1/2 T at a time, and stir until incorporated. Be careful not to overwork or the pastry will be tough. Turn out onto a work surface and divide into four portions. With the heel of your hand, smear each portion once or twice in a forward motion to distribute fat. Gather all the dough together, with a pastry scraper if you have one, and form into a disc. If the dough is sticky, dust lightly with flour. Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 1 hour.

Lemon Curd:
While the dough chills, whisk together whole eggs, egg yolks, sugar, salt, zest, and lemon juice in a medium bowl set over a medium-sized saucepan with a couple inches of simmering water. Cook, whisking frequently, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in the butter, one piece at a time, making sure to let each piece melt before adding the next. Transfer the lemon curd to a bowl, directly cover the surface with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.

Roll out the dough out on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin until about 13 inches in diameter. Fit the dough into the tart pan (being careful to ease it into place, not stretch it) and trim, leaving 1/2 inch overhang. Fold the overhang inward, press dough against the sides of the pan, and push the dough 1/4 inch above the rim of the pan. Lightly prick the crust all over with the tines of a fork. Freeze the dough in the pan 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with a rack set in the middle.
Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and b
ake 30-45 minutes, until the tart shell is set and the edge is pale golden.
Pour the cooled lemon curd into the baked shell. Place the pan back in the oven and bake about 10 minutes to help the filling set. Remove the pan from the oven, move the rack about 6 inches away from the top element, and preheat the oven to broil. Place the pan back in the oven under the broiler, and leave oven door slightly ajar. Let the top of the tart brown in patches- watch carefully, this should only take a few minutes! Rotate the pan if necessary so the tart caramelizes evenly. (Tip: if the oven doesn't cooperate in browning evenly, I remove the partially-caramelized tart and brown it by hand the rest of the way using a torch. It's better than a burnt tart.)
Remove the tart from the oven, let cool at room temperature, and place in the refrigerator to chill about 1 hour before serving.


  1. It WAS time for something lemon again ---let's just alternate lemons,chocolate and mushrooms and I will be very happy!

  2. Sorry to hear about your car! That tart looks amazing.