I have been dreaming about lemons for a few weeks now. Lemon Meringue Pie, Lemon Squares, pretty much anything lemon. The only problem is that lemon is not one of Rocker Dude’s favorite flavors and he tends to shy away from lemon desserts.
This week I didn’t care. If lemon is so much on my mind it must be a sign from heaven that I am supposed to be baking with lemon. I decided to make the lemon cream tart from Dorie Greenspan’s book Baking: From my Home to Yours. I have made it before when I first started blogging and for some reason it never made it onto the site. This time I meticulously photographed so that I could write a proper post.
Before you ask, lemon cream is different from lemon curd. Both have a strong tart flavor, but lemon cream is silkier than lemon curd and the flavor is slightly more mellow (very slightly). Dorie says that she learned this recipe from pastry god Pierre Hermé. And anything that comes from him must be good.
The process of making lemon cream is very similar to that of lemon curd, but instead of just waiting for the mixture to thicken, you have to get it to 180 degrees F and then when it cools to 140 degrees F, mix it in a blender while slowly adding butter or margarine, emulsifying the mixture to silky creaminess.
The first time I made this, I don’t think that I got the mixture to the right temperature, as the thermometer that I was using was not a candy thermometer and did not quite reach 180 degrees F. Also, the Little Rocker had been fascinated by it and dropped it on the floor quite a few times before I put a lock on the drawer.
So I used my new thermometer, that also has a clip to attach it to the side of the pot so I didn’t have to stop mixing to check the temperature, and we did this “scientifically” (in the words of my mother, the pharmaceutical chemist).
The crust is the regular tart crust that I posted here. I made it the night before so that it would be fully cooled when I put the filling inside.
Then in the morning, I got the lemons ready, grating the zest and juicing the lemons.
Then I mixed everything up in my version of a double boiler (a pot on top of another pot) and stirred and stirred and stirred and stirred (you can see where this is going) until finally the mixture hit 180 degrees F.
Then I poured the whole mixture into the food processor to cool off, and when it cooled to 140 degrees F, I started mixing the cream with the metal blade and added chunks of margarine to be mixed in. I followed the instructions to the letter, and the cream came out beautifully. It was so good. I put the cream into a container to cool in the refrigerator and then proceeded to lick the bowl of the food processor and the spatula. I had to physically stop myself from stealing spoonfuls of cream from the bowl in the refrigerator.
When the cream had cooled, I spread it in the crust and chilled it some more. FYI, and this is something I learned the hard way, you can’t transport this in the stroller once it has been assembled. The cream doesn’t set firm, so if the pan is not straight…
We had a number of guests on Friday night and J. and M. were coming for dessert after dinner. I knew that J. would appreciate what I was making, he fancies himself an appreciator of good food (aren’t we all though?).
When it came time for dessert, by the time I had finished passing out the tart, J. had already finished his. If that’s not appreciation I don’t know what is. And surprise surprise, Rocker Dude loved the tart. He said that it was because this time, the crust was really good, but I know better. I think his taste buds are finally getting used to new flavors (I hope!).
The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart (from Baking: From My Home to Yours):
1 cup sugar
Grated zest of 3 lemons
4 large eggs
¾ cup fresh lemon juice (from 4-5 lemons)
2 sticks plus 5 tbsp. (10 1/2 oz.) unsalted butter or margarine
1 9 inch tart shell, fully baked (see the recipe here)
Have an instant read thermometer ready.
Bring a few inches of water to a boil in a saucepan. Place a heatproof bowl over the pot (or another pot) and make sure that the bowl does not touch the surface of the water.
Rub the sugar and zest together until the sugar is moist and very aromatic. Whisk in the eggs followed by the lemon juice.
Place all the ingredients into the bowl over the pot and start stirring with a whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid. Cook the lemon cream until it reaches 180 degrees F. You must whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling. As you whisk, the mixture will get thicker and the whisk will start to leave tracks – this means that you are getting close. Don’t stop whisking and checking the temperature. Have patience.
As soon as the cream reaches 180 degrees F, remove the bowl from the heat and pour the cream through a strainer into a blender or food processor. Let it cool to 140 degrees F.
Turn the food processor on high, and with the machine going, add the butter or margarine a few tablespoons at a time. Once the butter is incorporated, keep the machine going for another 3 minutes, you want the mixture to be light and airy.
Pour the cream into a container and cover with a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.
When you are ready to assemble the tart, just whisk the cream a little to loosen it and spread it into the tart shell. Serve immediately or chill until needed.