Friday, April 16, 2010

When Life Gives You Lemons...

Instead of lemonade, I prefer to make lemon desserts.  There is something about lemon desserts at this time of year that is so appealing. After the cold of winter in the northeast and months of comfort food, the taste of lemon is light and fresh and gives me hope that spring and warmth are on the way.  I made this lemon tart for a colleague’s book group. The lemon cream filling can be eaten by itself, right out of the bowl.  In fact, I have to control myself so there is enough left to fill the tart.  Having bought more than enough lemons, I decided to make lemon bars as well , just an excuse to eat more lemon curd filling.

French Lemon Cream Tart from Baking by Dorie Greenspan

You will need a candy or instant read thermometer to make the lemon cream. It takes a little time and requires close attention, but the result is worth it.

1 cup sugar
grated zest of 3 lemons
¾ cup of fresh lemon juice (from 4-5 lemons)
21 tablespoons (10 ½ ounces) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon size pieces, at room temperature
1 9-inch tart shell
Bring a few inches of water in saucepan to simmer. Put the sugar and and zest in a heatproof bowl that can be placed over a pan of simmering water.  Off the heat, rub the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and aromatic.  Whisk in eggs and then fresh lemon juice.

Set the bowl over the pan. As soon as mix feels tepid to touch, start whisking constantly until it reaches 180 degrees. It will get thicker as it gets closer to 180 degrees, but this could take 10 minutes.  You must whisk constantly so the eggs don’t scramble.

As soon as it reaches 180 degrees, remove from heat and strain into the container of a food processor or blender. Discard the zest. Let cool about ten minutes to 140 degrees.

 Turn the processor or blender on high and add the butter, about 5 pieces at a time, until incorporated. After all the butter is added and incorporated, continue to blend for 3 minutes.  It will be thick and creamy.  Pour the cream into a container. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. It will keep in the refrigerator for 4 days (or can be frozen for up to 2 months and thawed overnight in the refrigerator).  When ready to assemble the tart, whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell. Refrigerate until you serve it.  Once you fill it, it is best to serve it that same day.

I used this sweet tart dough for the tart shell but you can also use a tart shell made with ground nuts if you choose.

Sweet Tart Dough
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
9 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg yolk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place flour, confectioner’s sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse several times to combine. Scatter butter over the flour mix and pulse until the butter is cut in, approximately the size of peas. Stir the yolk and add gradually, pulsing after each addition. When completely added, pulse several times in long 10 second pulses until the dough forms clumps and curds. Turn the dough out on a work surface and knead lightly to incorporate any dry ingredients.

Butter (or better yet, spray with cooking spray) a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom.  Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up sides of the pan.  Freeze crust at least 30 minutes before baking.

Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust.  Put the pan on a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes.  Carefully remove foil. If puffed, press gently down with the back of a spoon.  Bake about 8 minutes longer until golden brown and firm. Cool before filling.

And then, if you are like me and want to continue using your lemons…

The Ultimate Lemon Butter Bar from Rose’s Christmas Cookies by Rose Levy Beranbaum
Shortbread Base
10 tablespoons (5 ounces) very cold unsalted butter cut into cubes
2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons superfine sugar
1 ¼ cups (6.25 ounces) all purpose flour

Line an 8x8 inch square pan with aluminum foil. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix together the two sugars in a small bowl. In a mixer, cream the butter with the sugars until light and fluffy. Using the mixer, add the flour in two additions until incorporated. You can also mix in the flour with your hands.  Pat the dough into the pan.  With a fork, prick all over.  Bake 30-40 minutes until edges are lightly browned and top is pale golden.  While the shortbread is baking, make the lemon curd topping.

You will need a candy thermometer for the lemon curd (also delicious right out of the bowl).

Lemon Curd
4 large egg yolks
¾ cup sugar
3 ounces fresh lemon juice (about 2 ½ large lemons)
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar for dusting

In a heavy saucepan, beat the egg yolks and sugar with wooden spoon until well blended.  Stir in lemon juice, butter and salt.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for about 6 minutes until thickened (196 degrees on a candy thermometer).  Do not let it boil or it will curdle. If it starts steaming before it is thick enough, remove from heat briefly and continue to stir.  When the curd has thickened, pour it immediately into a strainer.  Press with back of a spoon. Discard any coarse residue.  Stir in the lemon zest.

After the shortbread is baked, turn the oven down to 300 degrees.  Pour the lemon curd on top of the shortbread and bake an additional 10 minutes.  Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Refrigerate the pan for 30 minutes before cutting into bars. Use the foil to lift the shortbread onto a cutting surface. Cut the shortbread first in thirds, then in half the other way and then each half into thirds.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

This can be stored at room temperature, but I think they keep best if stored in the refrigerator.

((post by susan))

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