Valentine's week …
… and what could be more romantic than something French? What could be more French than Tarte au Citron (besides chocolat!)? What could more authentic than a Tarte au Citron created by Pierre Hermé? Nothing, I tell you, nothing.
(Well, maybe those hearts there, created by Roben-Marie Designs!)
I've been entranced for the past few months by Dorie Greenspan's Baking from My Home to Yours. The photos in her book and the descriptions of the recipes she shares are superbly fabulous. If her cookbook were a menu, I'd order everything all at one time. There. I've confessed to wanting to order every dessert on a menu! It might be the first time that I've confessed it, but it is certainly NOT the first time I've wished it. I think one of the most difficult things is to order only one dessert! I don't often order dessert when we eat out, but when I do, I would love if I had a choice of ordering EVERYTHING! Wouldn't it be totally befitting if a restaurant offered a small square or 'dollop' of each dessert it offers all served up on some fabulous square sheet of glass, or porcelain, or random shape of real marble?! You'd probably end up eating less than if you ordered a whole dessert! And you'd be so satisfied knowing you'd tasted everything, but didn't overeat!
Tarte Au Citron is a quintessential French dessert. You can buy it readily at any patisserie or order it at any café or restaurant. It's right up there with Mousse au Chocolat as far as being 'tout a fait Français'. And I'm not sure why because I could've sworn the best lemons are in California two exits down the interstate from my brother's house. Perhaps, however, there is ample delicious citrus produce coming from the South of France that has fed this fascination with Tarte Au Citron.
I was thinking of making this Tarte to show you an alternative to the expected "chocolat" that is consumed on Valentine's Day, and lo and behold (they say that down South), Dorie showed up in my Feeds Box with her recipe. I guess it was meant to be. You can find this recipe HERE, or you can follow it from my own blog …
You can either make your own, or follow the title link to purchase one for 12 people from Pierre himself … it will set you back 57€! Do the math … then get into the kitchen!
Adapted from Baking from My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan
- 1 cup sugar
- Finely grated zest of 3 lemons
- 4 large eggs
- ¾ cup freshly sqeezed lemon juice (from 4-5 lemons—or the case of my super-juicy lemons, only three!)
- 2 sticks plus 5 Tablespoons (21 Tablespoons; 10 ½ ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into tablespoon-sized pieces—LOTS of butter!)
- 1 fully baked 9-inch tart shell
Have a thermometer, preferably an instant-read (great excuse to go to Starbucks! They have them in there … you can get a latte at the same time!), a strainer, and a blender at the ready. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.
Put the sugar and zest in a large metal bowl that can be fitted into the pan of simmering water. Off heat, work the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy, and very aromatic.
Whisk in the eggs followed by the lemon juice.
Fit the bowl into the pan (make certain the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl) and cook, stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch. You want to cook the cream until it reaches 180˚F. As you whisk the cream over heat—and you must whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling—you'lol see that the cream will start out light and foamy, the e bubbles will get bigger, and then, as the cream is getting closer to 180˚F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks. Heads up at this point—the tracks mean the cream is almost ready. Don't stop whisking and don't stop checking the temperature. And have patience – depending on how much heat you're giving the cream, getting to 180 could take as long as 10 minutes. Consider it your upper-arm workout for the day! ;)
As soon as you reach 180˚F, pull the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of the blender. (You'll have to use a spoon or spatula to stir it around and work it through the strainer.) Discard the zest. Let the cream rest at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until it cools to 140˚F, about 10 minutes.
Turn the blender to high and with the machine going, add about 5 pieces of butter at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed while you're incorporating the butter. Once the butter is in, keep the machine going—to get the light airy texture of lemon-cream dreams, you must beat for another three minutes. If your machine overheats, let it rest, and work in 1 minute intervals.
Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an air-tight seal and chill the cream for at least 4 hours or overnight.
When you are ready to make the tart, whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell. I don't have a 9-inch tart pan so I used a pie plate.
A trio of raspberries or strawberries and mint leaf garnish would've been nice, but after all the "Oh my goodness … that smells wonderful!" and the "What? It has to chill four hours?!", I decided to forego garnishing and just serve this baby up! I made people happy by making that move!
The Cream can be made as much as four days ahead, kept in the fridge and two months ahead, kept in the freezer. When ready to serve, spoon into the tart shell and enjoy immensely. You won't be able to keep yourself from enjoying it immensely!
(It's best served immediately after spooning into the tart shell, but if you have leftovers, I can vouch for the continued yumminess!)