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TWD: The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart

April 8, 2008

Warning: I have lots of photos this week! :)
Let’s begin with a tribute to my juicer. I love this juicer. It was given to me by my mother or grandmother (I’m sorry, I can’t even remember) but it is beautiful crystal and does an excellent job. Isn’t she pretty?
Update: It was indeed grandma who gave me the juicer.
She let me know with this comment in my about section:
hi carrie, it was your favorite grannie who gave you your juicer. im glad you like it, love grandma :)

This week’s recipe, The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart was chosen by Mary of Starting From Scratch (love that blog name!). The tart really is Extraordinary and Creamy! Oh so delicate and decadent all at the same time.
This was my first tart and I had to invest in a tart pan just for the recipe. Yay, excuse to buy something I want anyway! When I removed the finished tart from the pan I was so impressed. It truly looked lovely. The crust was golden and fluted and the cream was luscious and light. Oh My My.

The tart crust is a Sweet Tart Crust, very much like shortbread. Delicious.
Doesn’t it look just lovely? It tasted just as good as it looks!
Do you see what looks like little bumps in the cream?
No, I did not end up with chunky cream, those are air bubbles. The cream is really that light!

Now for the recipe with my comments in purple. We’ll begin with the crust.
Sweet Tart Dough
by Dorie Greenspan
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 T) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

1. Put the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in- you should have some pieces the size of oatmeal fakes and others the size of peas. As you can see from this post I do not own a food processor. Nope. This lady makes her pastry crusts with a pastry cutter passed down from grandma. :)
2. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses- about 10 seconds each- until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Since I was making my crust by hand, I had to add 2 Tbs of ice water to get my lumps and curds. Apparently my arms just don’t have the umph a food processor does! Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change- heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate and dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing. I pressed mine in a ball right in my mixing bowl and then refrigerated it while I prepared the tart pan.
3. To press the dough into the pan: butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece of dough, which you should save in the refrigerator to patch any cracks after the crust is baked. I didn’t end up needing the patch dough and not wanting to be wasteful, I just ate it. It was delicious. ;) Don’t be too heavy handed- press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferable longer, before baking. I froze my crust for an hour while I prepared the lemon cream.
4. To fully bake the crust,center a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. Butter the shiny side of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, against the crust. (since you froze it, you can bake it without weights). Although Dorie says we can bake the frozen crust w/out weights (and she certainly is correct), I would like to try it with weights to try to avoid any puffiness altogether. Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, carefully press it down with the back of a spoon. I did have a little puffing but I just gave it a few light pokes with a fork and then used the back of a spoon as Dorie says. Bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. I believe I baked mine for another 10 minutes. Transfer pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature before filling. I covered my crust with a kitchen towel and let it cool over night.

Now the Lemon Cream:
The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart
by Dorie Greenspan
1 cup sugar
Grated zest of 3 lemons
4 large eggs
¾ c fresh lemon juice (from 4-5 lemons) I almost went for the Meyer lemons but opted for the organic instead.
2 sticks plus 5 T butter (10 ½ ounces) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon size pieces, at room temperature.

1 9-inch tart shell made with sweet tart dough (see above).

1. Getting Ready:
Have a instant-read thermometer I used a candy thermometer, a strainer and a blender (1st choice) or food processor at hand. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan. I would also consider juicing the lemons and grating the zest things to do in the “Getting Ready” step.
2. Put the sugar and zest in a large heatproof bowl that can be set over the pan of simmering water. I used a stainless steel bowl and on the TWD blog, we found this kind of bowl to be the most effective for getting the cream to reach proper temperature. Off the heat, rub the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy, and very aromatic. I love rubbing the zest and sugar, it feels and smells so good! Whisk in the eggs, followed by the lemon juice.
3. Set the bowl over the pan and start stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture fees tepid to the touch. Cook the lemon cream until it reaches 180 degrees F. As you whisk- you whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling- you’ll see that the cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then, as it gets closer to 180F, 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 or checking the temperature, and have patience- depending on how much heat you’re giving the cream, getting to temp may take as long as 10 minutes It did not take quite 10 min. for my cream to reach 180°F but other TWDers reported that it either took a very long time or never reached 180°F at all. Don’t worry, as long as the cream thickens properly, it should be fine.
4. As soon as it reaches 180F, remove the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of the blender (or food processor); discard the zest. Since I do not own a strainer that small, I did not discard my zest. It was grated so small that it wasn’t a problem. Let the cream stand, stirring occasionally, until it cools to 140 degrees F, about 10 minutes.
5. Turn the blender to high (or turn on the processor) and, with the machine going, add the butter about 5 pieces at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed as you incorporate the butter. Once the butter is in, keep the machine going- to get the perfect light, airy texture of lemon-cream dreams, you must continue to bend the cream for another 3 minutes. If your machine protests, and gets a bit too hot, work in 1-minute intervals, giving the machine a little rest between beats. I honestly didn’t think my blender would be able to pull this off (it doesn’t seem to be good for anything other than margaritas) but it did it! :) Well… the bottom, where the blade is, did come loose (as it should, but only for cleaning purposes), and leek some cream, but I caught it in time and it was fine.
6. Pour the cream into a container I used a glass bowl with it’s own airtight lid, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal and refrigerate at least 4 hours, or overnight. I let my cream sit overnight. (the cream will keep in the fridge for 4 days or, tightly sealed, in the freezer for up to 2 months; thaw it overnight in the refrigerator)
7. When you are ready to assemble the tart (I assembled mine the next morning), just whisk the cream to loosen it (hence those lovely air bubbles) and spoon it into the tart shell. Serve the tart, or refrigerate until needed. I suggest refrigerating it a bit just to give the cream a chance to firm back up.

… And lastly please do not forget to stop by the other TWD blogs to check out their tarts that are most certainly sure to be Extraordinary!

Oh and by the way, if you are wondering, that is just a few caramelized lemon peels adorning the top of my tart. I love the visual contrast between the light lemon colored cream and the dark caramel of the peels.

I almost forgot! Check this out! Small world hu?
Perhaps a little Collective Consciouness? ;)

35 Comments leave one →
  1. April 8, 2008 10:07 am

    this looks so wonderful….and, yes, that juicer is fantastic. I love it when other people give me kitchen stuff because it’s so nice to think of them when I use it… that you also have a tart pan you’ll have to try the orange cream version!

  2. April 8, 2008 10:44 am

    I’m glad you identified the garnish – I was wondering what that was.

    I made two tartelettes, and I used pie weights for one crust and not the other. I prefer using the pie weights because the crust cooked more evenly. Of course it’s good either way though.

  3. April 8, 2008 11:22 am


  4. April 8, 2008 11:27 am

    Yum! And what a swanky juicer. Lucky you!

  5. April 8, 2008 1:24 pm

    Wow. Gorgeous. And I love your heirloom juicer. And your lemon zest garnish is stunning.

  6. April 8, 2008 1:26 pm

    Both the juicer and the tart are wonderful!

  7. April 8, 2008 1:52 pm

    I just love glass juicers, and yours is fabulous! Props on your lovely tart and the decoration. The peel pinwheel looks great!

  8. April 8, 2008 3:27 pm

    I have a juicer just like that from my grandmother, and it’s my favorite too. I love your tidbits of information scattered throughout the recipe. And the caramelized lemon strips add that extra pizzazz. Great job!

  9. April 8, 2008 4:47 pm

    looks gorgeous- l love the contrast of the colors!

  10. fencingchef permalink
    April 8, 2008 5:44 pm

    Wow, Carrie, your cream is so white. That’s interesting. I like the touch of lemons beside the tart – it makes it look more lemony.

    The juicer is indeed beautiful. And it also looks effective.

  11. April 8, 2008 5:48 pm

    what a pretty garnish. your tart came out so creamy looking, beautiful!

  12. April 8, 2008 6:38 pm

    How did you get your cream so white? It’s stunning!

  13. April 8, 2008 6:39 pm

    Gorgeous! And I’m insanely jealous of your juicer. It’s so pretty!

  14. April 8, 2008 7:10 pm

    I’m not sure why my cream is so light. Perhaps it is the organic lemons I used. I know many TWDers used Meyer lemons which are a bit darker than the organic ones.

  15. April 8, 2008 7:27 pm

    Your tart looks beautiful! I love the garnish. I need to get a juicer soon! I love all of your pictures.

  16. April 8, 2008 7:47 pm

    So pretty! I love that your juicer and pastry blender are passed down – my mom won’t give hers up, so I had to buy my own :-P Lovely pictures!

  17. April 8, 2008 9:29 pm

    Your juicer is so pretty. I love your pictures, and the comments with the recipe!

  18. April 9, 2008 6:47 am

    Great job!

  19. April 9, 2008 7:35 am

    Very nice! Beautiful presentation, such vibrant colors!

  20. April 9, 2008 7:42 am

    Thanks for the nomination! :)

  21. April 9, 2008 9:20 am

    It sounds like your conscience is quieted as easily as mine!

  22. April 9, 2008 9:34 am

    Annmartina~ When it comes to food, you better believe it! ;)

  23. April 9, 2008 11:27 am

    caramelized lemon peels! I thought they were peppers and thought to myself… maybe that tastes good? Tart-tastic job!
    Clara @ I♥food4thought

  24. April 9, 2008 11:27 am

    love the caramelised peels.. think those wld be a yummy addition to the already delicious tart!

  25. April 9, 2008 2:42 pm

    I thought (like CB mentioned) that the lemon peels were peppers, too. I thought – that’s an interesting twist…little hot dried peppers in contrast to the light, refreshing, creamy tart filling. hmmm. It looks beautiful!

  26. April 9, 2008 2:50 pm

    I don’t have a food processor either, good job!!

  27. April 9, 2008 6:52 pm

    Love your juicer!

  28. April 9, 2008 9:01 pm

    Hi, Carrie: Yes, they do look quite alike – I just used ordinary quite smallish supermarket lemons, not Meyer lemons or anything special so I’m not sure how we got such creamy white looking tarts. Yours is gorgeous by the way.

  29. April 10, 2008 2:01 am

    Adorable! Nice touch with the caramelized peel- what a great idea!

  30. April 10, 2008 12:22 pm

    Great pictures! Such a pretty juicer – I love using mom/grandma gifts :)

  31. April 11, 2008 8:17 am

    Looks lovely! Thanks for the garnish clue, I was wondering!

  32. April 13, 2008 6:13 pm

    I love the caramelized lemon peels on top! Beautiful touch.

  33. April 14, 2008 4:19 pm

    beautiful tart! love the garnish. wonder why there was such a wide range of consistency in the lemon cream…mine was not liquidy at all and was very spreadable/thick!

  34. April 15, 2008 1:48 am

    It turned out beautiful and the garnish was a lovely touch.


  1. This Baker’s Makin’ Somethin’ New « Carrie’s Kitchen Creations


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