What do you do with a Meyer Lemon? (Lemon Tarts)

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I sent out a mass text to my four friends yesterday asking them if they wanted to get oysters and beer from the oyster and beer fish market that Slug had found downtown.  Not a single one responded to me.  So I tried an experiment.

Many hours later, I sent out a mass text to the same people asking them if they would eat a pie if I made one.  Immediate responses.  One friend said “yes” another said “when” and Slug for some reason did not respond.  A third friend claimed he “wasn’t hungry today” which just does not make sense.

During my trek to Whole Foods last week, I had discovered some on sale meyer lemons.  Now for those that don’t know meyer lemons, I’m sorry the season is basically over for this year, but if you can, get some starting in November next year.

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Meyer lemons have a distinct flavor different from other lemons.  Some say they are a cross between a orange and a lemon but I think their flavor is more their own than anything else.  They have a sweetly intoxicating scent that permeates a room once you begin to juice or zest them.

They smell like a richer version of normal lemons but with a hint of orange and quite a few hints of je ne sais quoi.  And they are perfect for lemon tarts.

I’ve been eating and making lemon tarts for years.  The first summer I lived (basically) on my own at my dads house I spent a couple weeks living off of lemon curd…  This was not because I couldn’t buy other groceries, I just really liked lemon curd and there was no one there besides the cat to tell me to eat my vegetables after work.  I did, however, eat plenty of gourmet hot dogs and sausages at work.  So all in all a successful summer.

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I use David Lebovitz’ recipe for lemon curd and Kate Zuckerman’s recipe for the pie crust.  I have also tried Kate Zuckerman’s lemon curd recipe, and while outstanding, takes far more effort and time so I rarely make it.

I normally up the amount of lemon curd from Lebovitz’ recipe by 50% when making this, but my lemons were shockingly unjuicy, so I had to stick with the original.  Thus, instead of making one big pie with not quite enough filling, I made five little pies with lots of filling (I love lemon curd).

For the curd, if you use a nicer, fattier butter, it will have a much better flavor and texture, but it is not necessary.  I did not because I’m starting to realize how much expensive butter is draining my resources.

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Use as much sugar as you’d like- anywhere from a third of a cup to a half of a cup (above that would be way too sweet).  I like it more acidic so I tend to use less sugar.  And also I’ve been making this so long, I no longer measure it, I just pour it in until it looks right.

The pie crust recipe- well it will make the best pie crust you’ve ever had!

But it is exceedingly difficult and after 4 years of working with it, I still can’t seem to roll it out without it cracking and breaking apart on me.  (Even Zuckerman says its a tough one in the book.  And she’s a professional.)

The pie crust must have fancy butter.  It will be impossible to roll out without the higher fat content found in European butter.  It really does need 6-8 minutes of creaming to introduce air into all the little pockets of fat.  But its totally worth it.

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Difficult but Delicious Pâte Sucrée

Adapted from The Sweet Life: Desserts from Chanterelle

Makes 2 8-9 inch tarts

225 grams (16 tablespoons, 8 ounces) butter at room temperature

167 grams (1 1/3 cup) powdered sugar

Zest of 1 lemon or tangerine (although you can also flavor this with spices, like the seeds of one vanilla pod or a teaspoon of cinnamon or cardamom)

2 egg yolks, at room temperature

298 grams (or 300 grams cause thats mad specific or 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons) flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or a large mixing bowl if you have a hand held mixer.  Beat it for one minute on medium speed.  Add the powdered sugar and beat for 6 to 8 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl a couple of times.  The butter should be fluffy and almost white in color and have increased considerably in volume.  Add the egg yolks one at a time and beat until they are fully incorporated and the batter is smooth and shiny.

In a small bowl whisk together the dry ingredients and add them all at once to the butter mixture.  Fold the batter a few times with a rubber spatula.  Then beat the dough at slow speed until thoroughly combined (about 1 minute).  Scrape down the sides and beat for another 30 seconds at medium speed.

Separate the dough into two mounds and wrap each on in plastic wrap to create two one inch thick disks.  Refrigerate for at least two hours or up to four days.

Take one of the doughs out about 5-10 minutes before you plan on rolling it out.  Dust a clean, dry surface with flour and put the dough on it.  Lightly flour the top of the dough.  Using your rolling pin, give the dough a few good wacks to get it to begin to roll out.  If it starts to break apart, put it back together and let it sit for a couple more minutes.  Roll out the dough until it is 1/8 of an inch thick and has made a big enough circle to fit in a 8 or 9 inch tart pan, making sure to move the dough frequently with a spatula so it does not stick to the surface.

Get the dough into an 8 or 9 inch tart pan and freeze it for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350.  Remove the dough from the freezer and and line it with parchment paper or aluminum foil.  Fill it with pie weights, dried beans, rice, or anything that you use to weigh it down.  Bake it for 30 minutes, rotating it once.  Remove it from the oven and let it sit for 10 minutes.  Take out the liner (but save your weights for future use) and bake it for another 10 to fifteen minutes, or until it is golden brown.

Lemon Curd: Adapted from David Lebovitz

Makes enough for one tart

3/4 cup lemon juice

1/3-1/2 cup sugar depending on your sweetness preference

3 eggs

3 egg yolks

Pinch of salt

9 tablespoons of butter, cut into cubes

Place everything but the butter in a medium saucepan and whisk until well incorporated.  Put the butter in and turn the heat on low and whisk constantly until the butter melts.  Turn the heat up to medium/medium low and whisk constantly until the mixture thickens and the whisk leaves lines in the curd.  Remove from the heat and strain the curd through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl.  Let cool till room temperature and then keep in the fridge until you are ready to use it.  Will last for 5 days.

To Put It All Together:

Preheat the oven to 325.  Put the lemon curd into the blind-baked tart and smooth it out with a spatula.  Bake for 5-10 minutes or until the curd is set.  Let cool until it gets to room temperature.  Serve and enjoy.  Keeps for a few days in the fridge.

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5 comments
  1. Rico Suave said:

    Eliza makes a mighty fine lemon tart.

    • Rico Suave said:

      This post could’ve used more cats, though.

      • Eliza B said:

        Everything in moderation, Rico. Even cats.

    • Eliza B said:

      Yes the experiment had quite an easy hypothesis to test. And more friends than I texted showed up for pie. It was overwhelming. And the people have been heard! There will be more cat photos next time. Do not worry.

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