Monday, September 5, 2011

Rancho Santa Fe Lemon Tart

A few months ago, I was talking with my friends Gabrielle and Gabriela about the blog--I'm sure it's because I brought some goodie or other to a party. Gabrielle told me about a poem she and her writing group in Prague had once written on the subject of food and wondered if I'd like to use it for the blog. I believe now is the perfect occasion:

Tarte au citron
 (Gabrielle Grieb, Angeliki Freckman, Helen Pletts, Romit Berger, Ariane Synovitz, Clare Wigfall, Emma Whitton, and Jackie Chicknas)

The blade approaches the golden lunar landscape and with its sharp tip penetrates the virgin surface, free falling through the yolk-yellow succulence until it hits the crisp layer of crust.

A firework of sinful flavour explodes, zesty, fresh, tangy and bright, like the bite of a clear winter’s day.

A silky, celestial smoothness slips slowly, leaving a satisfaction that only such pure intensity of taste can offer.

All that remains is an empty plate, a memory and the lingering taste of heaven on the tongue.

Who wouldn't want to eat lemon tart after that? Here's the recipe:

Rancho Santa Fe Lemon Tart

1 egg yolk
1 T. ice water
1 T. + 1 t. whipping cream
1/2 t. vanilla
1/4 t. almond extract
1-1/2 c. (6 oz.) sifted flour
1/4 t. salt
1-1/2 T. sugar
1/2 c. (4 oz.) butter, cold 

You'll want to make the pastry a few hours or even the day before. Whisk together in a measuring cup or other container with a spout the egg yolk, water, cream, vanilla, and almond extract. Refrigerate while you get your dry ingredients together. In a food processor (or in a bowl with a pastry cutter), whisk together the flour, salt, and sugar. Cut the butter into 8-10 pieces and then cut the butter into the flour, processing or cutting until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Get the liquids out of the fridge and gradually add them while processing until the mixture holds together (I needed just a bit more liquid). Gather the mixture into a ball on a piece of waxed or parchment paper and refrigerate 2-24 hours.
When you're ready to roll out the crust, get out a tart pan. (Maida wants you to have an 11-inch black metal quiche pan. I had an 8-inch glass pan and didn't feel like shopping for a new one, so I had leftover filling, which I baked in custard cups along with the tart. Yum.) Anyway, on a floured surface, roll out the pie pastry as thin as you can, carefully transfer it to the tart pan, and trim and flute to shape the edges. Prick holes in the bottom and in the sides. If you have leftover dough, you can bake it as cookies (I had "pastry dough gremlins" come eat the dough in my kitchen). Chill the crust for at least 30 minutes.
When the crust has chilled, heat the oven to 400. Line the crust with foil and weight it with pie weights or dried beans or (my favorite) loose change. Bake 20 minutes (10 were enough for me), remove the foil and weights (careful!), and bake another 5 minutes or until the crust starts to turn golden. Take out the crust and turn the oven down to 250 (that would be 120 Celsius). Now go ahead and make the filling.

1-1/2 c. (12 oz.) whipping cream
7 egg yolks (you're now about 4 egg whites shy of an angel food cake!)
1 T. cornstarch
3/4 c. (5.25 oz.) sugar
2/3-3/4 c. (5.28-6 oz.) lemon juice (I used about 5 lemons. Your mileage may vary.)

Measure the cream into a glass measuring cup or other microwave-safe container and zap until it's just ready to boil--probably around 2 minutes. In the meantime, whisk the egg yolks in a somewhat larger glass measuring cup (a 4-cup was fine for me--you want to be able to pour the filling into the crust); add the cornstarch and sugar and whisk some more just until it's incorporated. Gradually whisk in the lemon juice, and then gradually add the hot cream. Strain the mixture into the baked crust. Maida suggests pouring some of it into the crust, then putting the pie in the oven and pouring as much more as possible in at that point. That's probably a good idea. If you have extra filling, you can bake it in custard cups, as I mentioned above. Bake for 1 hour: the filling will no longer jiggle. Let stand until completely cool, and then glaze the tart:

1/2 c. (5 oz.) apricot jam
1 T. (0.5 oz.) Cognac

Heat the jam (30 seconds in the microwave is usually plenty) and strain it. Add the Cognac and brush this all over the tart. Refrigerate the tart and serve cold, with berries or not, with whipped cream or not (we did berries and no cream and it was indeed a taste of heaven). Feel satisfied.

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