Some of my fondest childhood memories are of my grandmother baking pies and cinnamon rolls. In fact, for my birthday she would always bake the favourite pie of my childhood ~ yummy cherry! I, myself, enjoy baking pies, muffins and fruit crisps. Occasionally, I’ve made cinnamon rolls and honey whole wheat bread.
It’s been on my mind for some time now to try my hand at making a tart and since I had a few lemons lying about this week I made the leap with a lemon tart. The recipe was from America’s Test Kitchen and, in the end, it wasn’t as difficult as I’d dreaded. Not that it came out perfectly. The crust was fine in some places, but a bit too crunchy in others. I feel confident that next time there will be better results. I was too nervous, as I always am when working with a new recipe, and crust always knows when it has the upper …. crust, as it were.
Many a pie crust in my early years of baking had me backed into a corner wielding a rolling pin whimpering, “Please, please just keep it together,” as I anxiously pieced together fragmented pieces of dough.
In fact, I was so nervous about making a tart crust that I decided to make mini-tarts rather than one large tart. It just felt easier to work with several mini-crusts rather than a large one for my first attempt.
In the end, it was actually quite fun working with a tart crust. A decidedly different texture from pie crust. More refined ~ in a tart-like way. And despite the relatively minor flaws, the filling was yummy and it looked good. The little bit of issue with the crust certainly didn’t keep the Big Dog or me from enjoying the “fruits” of my labours.
Here’s the recipe from America’s Test Kitchen. If you decide to try it, be sure to read my notes at the end.
1 large egg
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup (6 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup (2 2/3 ounces) confectioners’ sugar,
— plus extra for dusting
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter,
— cut into 1/4-inch pieces and chilled
2 large eggs plus 7 large yolks
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
1/4 cup grated lemon zest plus 2/3 cup juice,
— approximately 4 lemons
4 tablespoons unsalted butter,
— cut into 4 pieces
3 tablespoons heavy cream
FOR THE TART DOUGH:
1. Whisk egg yolk, cream, and vanilla together in bowl. Process flour, sugar, and salt in food processor until combined, about 5 seconds. Scatter butter over flour mixture; pulse until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, about 15 pulses. With processor running, slowly add egg yolk mixture and process until dough just comes together, about 12 seconds.
2. Turn dough onto sheet of plastic wrap. Form dough into 6-inch disk, wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour. Let chilled dough sit on counter to soften slightly, about 10 minutes, before rolling.
3. Roll dough into 11-inch circle on lightly floured counter. (If dough becomes too soft and sticky to work with, slip it onto baking sheet and refrigerate until workable.) Place dough round on baking sheet, cover with plastic, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
4. Remove dough from refrigerator, but keep dough on sheet. Loosely roll dough around rolling pin and gently unroll it onto 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom, letting excess dough hang over edge. Ease dough into pan by gently lifting edge of dough with your hand while pressing into corners with your other hand.
5. Press dough into fluted sides of pan, forming distinct seam around pan’s circumference. (Finished edge should be 1/4 inch thick. If some sections of edge are too thin, reinforce them by folding excess dough back on itself.) Run rolling pin over top of tart pan to remove any excess dough. Wrap dough-lined pan loosely in plastic, place on large plate, and freeze until dough is firm, about 30 minutes, before using.
6. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Set dough-lined pan on rimmed baking sheet. Spray 1 side of double layer of aluminum foil with vegetable oil spray. Press foil, sprayed side down, into pan, covering edges to prevent burning; fill with pie weights. Bake until tart shell is golden brown and set, about 30 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. Transfer sheet to wire rack and carefully remove foil and weights. (Shell must still be warm when filling is added.) Do not turn off oven.
FOR THE LEMON CURD:
Whisk eggs and yolks together in medium saucepan. Whisk in sugar until combined, then whisk in lemon zest and juice and salt. Add butter and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens slightly and registers 170 degrees, about 5 minutes. Immediately pour mixture through fine-mesh strainer set over bowl and stir in cream.
Pour warm lemon curd into warm tart shell. Bake tart on baking sheet until filling is shiny and opaque and center jiggles slightly when shaken, 10-15 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. Transfer sheet to wire rack and let tart cool completely, about 2 hours. (Cooked tart can be wrapped tightly in plastic and refrigerated for up to 24 hours.)
Remove outer metal ring of tart pan, slide thin metal spatula between tart and pan bottom, and carefully slide tart onto serving platter. Dust with extra confectioners’ sugar before serving.
NOTE: since I used mini-tart shells (five of them) I baked them (Step 6) for 20 minutes, rather than 30 minutes, and I baked them with the filling (Step 8) for 10 minutes rather than 15 minutes.
I also used whipping cream as I had no heavy cream on hand. Such a radical am I!
Also, if you’re like me and tend to “jump ahead” to get things ready, don’t do it with the filling. You will have plenty of time after Step 6 to put it together, and the filling needs to be warm when poured into the warm shell.
AND: don’t be intimidated by Step 7 which directs you to stir until slightly thickened and 170 degrees. Yes, a thermometer would be nice, but if you don’t have one just use your baker’s intuition. I used my thermometer (newly bought!) and stopped at about 160 degrees because the mixture was obviously “slightly thickened,” if not a bit more.
Lastly — truly, now stop yawning and pay attention to this last important word, please! — I put the tarts in the fridge for a couple of hours so they were nice and chilled before partaking of their creamy yellow, flaky crust lusciousness ~ yummmm…….