Oh, the pleasures of cooking at home (i.e. my parents’ home), where I not only have more space and light, but also the following: a food processor (though I have that in New York now, too, but squirreled away in an upper cabinet that discourages use), a double boiler, an electric beater, and a fluted 9-inch tart pan. All of which meaning I could make this beautiful lemon tart (or, properly, tarte au citron) – a dish not totally inconceivable in my New York apartment, but perhaps not the most practical.
I had a lemon tart in mind when I went searching for this recipe (for dessert after these braised lamb shanks): I wanted a crumbly, butter crust with an oozy filling (as opposed to the lemon-bar-type lemon tart filling). This one, from Bouchon Bakery, fit the bill nicely, plus the added touches of a pine nut crust and a broiling the pie at the last minute to caramelize it.
Be patient and careful when making the filling – you don’t want scrambled eggs, nor do you want a gloppy mess. I am often skeptical when recipes say to add ingredients in parts (like this one does with the lemon juice), but it’s important in this case so the eggs don’t curdle and so you have time to make the mixture thick again before adding more lemon juice.
Also, this crust recipe makes enough for 3 crusts, even though you only need one for the lemon tart. The Bouchon Bakery cookbook explains that you can’t cut the recipe because it only uses one egg; a few reviews on Epicurious said they only did one third of all the other ingredients but used a whole egg, with fine results. I made the whole thing (it helped that my mom was paying for the pine nuts), and froze the remaining crust, which my mom made into two strawberry tarts.
Lastly, the recipe says to process the pine nuts into powder, but I left them chopped pretty roughly. What’s the point of spending all that money on pine nuts if you can’t at least see them a little? Plus, I think it added some nice texture.
Lemon Tart (Tarte au Citron)
Adapted from the Bouchon Bakery Cookbook, via Epicurious
Makes one 9-inch tart (approximately 8 slices)
For the crust:
– Butter and flour for the tart pan
– 1/3 recipe Pine Nut Crust (recipe follows)
– 2 large eggs, cold
– 2 large egg yolks, cold
– 3/4 cup sugar
– 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
– 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
Honey Mascarpone Cream (recipe follows)
For the crust:
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously butter and flour a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom and refrigerate it while the oven preheats.
2. Remove the tart pan from the refrigerator. Use your fingertips to press the chilled pine nut dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan (I found this a little tricky, but it doesn’t have to be perfectly even, just so there are no holes in the crust). Trim off any excess dough.
3. Bake the crust for 10 to 15 minutes, then rotate it and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until it is golden brown. Remove the crust from the oven and let it cool while you make the filling. (There may be some cracks in the crust; they will not affect the finished tart.)
For the sabayon:
1. Bring about 1 1/2 inches of water to a boil in a double boiler (or in a pot that is slightly smaller than the diameter of the bowl you will be using for the sabayon). Meanwhile, in a large metal bowl, whisk the eggs, yolks, and sugar for about 1 minute, or until the mixture is smooth.
2. Set the bowl over the pot and, using a large whisk, whip the mixture while you turn the bowl (for even heating). After about 2 minutes, when the eggs are foamy and have thickened, add one-third of the lemon juice. Continue to whisk vigorously and, when the mixture thickens again, add another one-third of the lemon juice. Whisk until the mixture thickens again, then add the remaining lemon juice. Continue whisking vigorously, still turning the bowl, until the mixture is thickened and light in color and the whisk leaves a trail in the bottom of the bowl. The total cooking time should be 10 to 15 minutes, but go by how light and thick the sabayon has gotten, not the time. (All the reviews on epi said that various cooks had problems with the sabayon not getting thick enough, so I was careful to just pay attention and be patient with the thickening. See pictures below for some idea of how the sabayon should progress.)
3. Turn off the heat and leave the bowl over the water. Whisk in the butter a piece at a time. The sabayon may loosen slightly, but it will thicken and set as it cools. Pour the warm sabayon into the tart crust and place the pan on a baking sheet.
4. Preheat the broiler. While the sabayon is still warm, place the tart under the broiler. Leaving the door open, brown the top of the sabayon, rotating the tart if necessary for even color; this will take only a few seconds, so do not leave the oven. Remove the tart from the broiler and let it sit for at least 1 hour before serving. Serve at room temperature or cold. (It’s important both to broil the tart and to let it sit for a little while, both of which help the filling solidify.) Top slices with honey mascarpone cream, if desired.
Pine Nut Crust
Makes three crusts worth of dough
Adapted from Bouchon Bakery Cookbook, via Epicurious
– 10 ounces (2 cups) pine nuts
– 1/3 cup sugar
– 1 pound (3 cups) all-purpose flour
– 8 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
– 1 large egg
– 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. Place the pine nuts in a food processor and pulse a few times. Add the sugar and flour and continue to pulse until the nuts are ground to your desired consistency (the recipe says finely ground, but I kept mine pretty chunky, because I wanted the pine nuts to be obvious). Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
2. Add the butter, egg, and vanilla extract and mix to incorporate all the ingredients (the dough can be mixed by hand or in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment). Divide the dough into three equal parts. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes before using. (The extra dough can be frozen, wrapped well, for up to 1 month, says the recipe.)
Honey Mascarpone Cream
– 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
– 3 Tbsp. mascarpone
– 2-4 Tbsp. honey
1. Whip cream until frothy. Add mascarpone and honey (to taste, depending on how sweet you want the cream). Continue beating until thick.