Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Lemon Tart Brulee

This is another recipe from The Perfect Finish, by Bill Yosses and Melissa Clark (making the score 2/4 from this book). I've made it twice. It's easy, doesn't take a ton of time, and both times it's been delicious. It's pretty sour, but the caramelized sugar topping balances out the lemon. Instructions are verbatim from the book (but see my notes - I used a different tart shell the second time).


Almond Tart Shell

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 cup almond flour
1 tsp fine sea salt
16 tbsp (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
2 large eggs at room temperature

Lemon Filling

1 cup plus 2 tbsp granulated sugar
4 large eggs at room temperature
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Finely grated zest of 3 lemons
21 1/3 tbsp unsalted butter, cubed and softened
Pinch salt
1 10-inch almond tart shell, baked
1/2 cup Demarara or turbinado sugar, for serving, optional


Almond Tart Shell

1. Place the all-purpose flour, sugar, almond flour or ground almonds, and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add the eggs and pulse until the dough just comes together. 

2. Scrape the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and pat it into a disk. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours or overnight (or up to 3 days). 

3. When you are ready to bake the tart, position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. On a floured work surface, roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thick. Fit the dough into a 10-inch tart pan, trim it so that there is an inch of overhang all around, and fold the overhang in to build up the edge of the tart shell. Lightly prick the bottom of the tart shell with a fork to prevent bubbling. Freeze the tart shell for 1 hour. 

4. Line the tart shell with aluminum foil, fill it with pie weights or dried beans, and bake on the center rack for 25 minutes. Gently lift the weighted aluminum foil off the shell, prick the crust a few more times with a fork, and bake for 5 more minutes until lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. 

Lemon Filling

1. Have ready a clean bowl with a fine-mesh sieve set over it to strain the filling. 

2. In a bowl, beat together the sugar, eggs, lemon juice, and lemon zest until thoroughly combined. Pour into a heavy, nonreactive saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture begins to bubble. Reduce the heat to low and continue to stir and cook until the lemon curd is as thick around the sides as mayonnaise, 12 minutes (about 196 degrees F on a candy thermometer). 

3. Pour the curd into the sieve and push through with a rubber spatula into the bowl. Let cool until it feels just warm to the touch, about 5 minutes. 

4. Add the softened butter cubes and salt, and whisk until thoroughly combined. (Use an immersion blender to smoothly incorporate the butter.) 

5. Spread the curd evenly in the baked tart shell and refrigerate uncovered until firm, at least 3 hours and up to 1 day. 

6. If you have a blowtorch or creme caramel torch, you can brulee the top of the tart before serving by sprinkling an even layer of the Demarara or turbinado sugar over the top and browning it evenly. Or run it under the broiler, watching very carefully - depending on how far the pan is from the heat it can take anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes, and you may need to move the tart around to caramelize the top evenly.

My notes

I have 9.5-inch and 11-inch tart pans. In the 11-inch pan the filling doesn't come to the top of the tart shell. In the 9.5-inch pan it's flush with the shell. 

The first time I made this I used the almond tart recipe (I made the almond flour/meal with blanched almond slivers in my food processor), but it made quite a bit more dough than I needed and I couldn't really taste the almond (maybe I could have added almond extract?). The second time I made this I used the tart recipe I linked to in the chocolate caramel tart post. That one doesn't make as much dough and it uses less butter. 

I use rice instead of pie weights (and I use it for that "unshrinkable" tart shell recipe, too). I've reused the same rice for probably a year and it still works/is fine.

Both times I've made this, the curd has gotten to 196 degrees F pretty quickly, but it has taken at least twice as long as indicated to get to what I would call as thick as mayonnaise (even around the sides). I cooked it a little less the second time and it was softer but still set after refrigerating. The first time I cooked it for quite awhile (25-30 min?), and I really liked the finished texture. There were a couple of egg chunkies in it (I might not have been as vigilant about stirring as I could have been), but those strained out and the curd didn't taste eggy. 

I don't know what Demarara or turbinado sugar is (I use granulated sugar that I've put through the food processor), and I don't know if my saucepan is nonreactive. Maybe it's reactive and that's why it takes so dang long for the curd to thicken? 

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