Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie—The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart


Last week was chocolate. This week it’s lemon. A highlight of my week is fast becoming Tuesdays with Dorie! And lemon tart is a favorite in our home!

Meyer lemons versus regular lemons

Given that I live in Canada and Meyer lemons don’t grow on trees up here (at least not outside in the frigid winters we have), I thought I would forgo the 100-mile diet and try to get some Meyer lemons to test this recipe a bit. I was able to find some beautiful Meyer lemons shipped here from California, land of milk and honey, or at least Meyer lemons and other yummy fruit. I wanted to do a taste test with regular lemons and Meyer lemons to see which lemon tart we liked best.

Meyer lemons are a cross between a traditional lemon and an orange, possibly a mandarin. It was introduced to the United States by “agriculture explorer” Frank Meyer. How do you go about getting a job as an “agriculture explorer”, I wonder? Meyer lemons are smaller, rounder, and have a more orange-y, less tart flavor.


A cookie crust
For the crust, I thought I’d try the pâte sablée with walnuts from Dorie’s cookbook. The combination of the slightly bitter walnuts with the citrus of lemon and the sweetness of the tart sounded too good to pass up. I was not disappointed. The crunch of the cookie-crust held up well as finger food even. The dough was dry at first, but I added a few fingertips of water to bring it together, and it rolled out fine.

One tip I’ve gleaned from all my research is to roll the dough out onto the removable base of the tart pan. Then, replace the rim and pinch the dough up the sides. That way, you know how large the pastry needs to be for your tart or pie pan.

Garnishes
I had some fun with garnishes for this recipe. I melted some leftover couverture chocolate from last week’s Tuesdays with Dorie and made chocolate hearts.

I also made some citrus rinds steeped in syrup. First I boiled 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water until the sugar was melted. Then, I added slices of lemons, Meyer lemons, and kumquats, and a vanilla bean split open and scraped. I gently boiled this mixture for a bit, and then let it steep for 4 hours and refrigerated it until I was ready to use it. Not only do they look good, but they taste delicious.

Recipe
You can find the recipe for The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart at this blog (Starting from Scratch) or in the book Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. To see how the rest of the TWD group fared with this week's recipe, click here and then click on each blogger!

Hollandaise versus Lemon Curd
One last thing I wanted to try after making this recipe was Hollandaise sauce. The technique provided in Dorie’s cookbook as given to her by the famous pastry chef Pierre Hermé made me think of Hollandaise sauce. Both Hollandaise and Lemon curd have the same flavor profile: emulsified eggs and butter with a splash of lemon. But one has sugar and more lemon while the other has savory spices and water. So, after making the lemon tarts, I tried following the same technique to make a Hollandaise sauce using these ingredients:

2 eggs
2 tablespoons lemon juice, plus more to taste
¼ cup water
Salt
Pepper
Cayenne pepper
5¼ ounces unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces, at room temperature

First, in a stainless steel sauce pan, I whisked the eggs, lemon juice, water, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper over medium heat until it came to 180°F. At around 160°F I quickly pulled it off the heat since it looked like it was about to curdle. But I bravely put it back on the heat and whisked madly so that it wouldn’t curdle. The second it hit 180°F, I quickly poured it into the food processor (since my blender broke during the making of the lemon tarts!) and let it cool a bit. Then I added the butter in chunks, and just like that I had a beautiful, creamy, emulsified Hollandaise sauce. Easy as pie!

Tasting Notes
This tart is amazing. I preferred the sweetness and orange hint of the Meyer lemon tart, but others liked the more citrus lemon flavor of the traditional lemon tart. The Meyer lemon curd was less firm than the regular lemon curd, which had a texture similar to butter. Although it didn’t take away from the taste, I’m wondering why the Meyer lemon curd didn’t get as firm. If anyone has some ideas about why, let me know. Does it have something to do with the pectin levels in each? After spending the night in the refrigerator, the Meyer lemon curd was a firm consistency, however. This is definitely a keeper recipe, in any case.

In my reading, I found this great article about Meyer lemons called "What do you do with a Meyer lemon? Here is a list of 100 things!" I'm sure some of these things could be applied to the regular lemon as well. Enjoy!

Recipe for Next Week (April 15)

Marshmallows on pages 404-405 chosen by Judy of Judy’s Gross Eats





30 comments:

Rebecca said...

Ohhhhhhh, lovely! You have such an eye for presentation. These tarts are gorgeous.

Gretchen Noelle said...

I love that your posts always teach me so much! Lovely decoration ideas!

LyB said...

Wow, beautiful tarts! And thanks for explaining the differences between lemons, I've been wondering about them!

Marie said...

Your tarts turned out lovely! I love all the different ways you presented them. I chose to make the orange version and was pleased with it as well, even if it didn't turn out exactly as I had envisioned!

Isabelle said...

c'est super bien réussi et les photos sont extras :)

Bumblebutton said...

Very pretty, indeed. Your Meyer/Traditional lemon comparison was really interesting. Meyer lemons went into my filling, which was rather thin--but it thickened up nicely in the end. Loved the shape, too!

Bridget said...

Your tarts are really beautiful. I love that shape. Your garnishes are perfect as well.

Thanks for the great comparison of the two types of lemon. Nothing beats side by side comparisons like that.

Mary said...

beautiful pictures! thanks for the informative post...your tarts look delicious.

Hillary said...

I love meyer lemons and have been using them in a lot of my cooking lately too. This tart however is absolutely gorgeous! Nice job.

Medena said...

Great post and photos. Awesome presentation of recipe, and lemon comparison!
How yummy!

Judy said...

Your tarts are really beautiful. I used Meyer lemons as well (2 trees in the backyard) and my lemon cream was nice and thick the whole time, so I'm not sure why some fillings were thinner.

Cathie said...

These look totally divine. Absolutely beautiful job.
Especially the pastry. I tried that pastry last week and failed, but no one in my family has the right touch to make pastry!!

Melissa said...

Looks wonderful! Your pictures are truly gorgeous.

Annemarie said...

I love, love, love your pictures! Your tarts look perfect!

Lori said...

Wow, just gorgeous. I dont even know if I would want to eat it because it is so beautiful. Okay so of course I would eat it, its lemon... te he he.

Mevrouw Cupcake said...

Wonderful post, skilled execution, and some fine looking tarts, well done!

Thip said...

Hi Shari,

You've been award for E award. :)

Best,

Donna said...

Beautiful job! I love the different shapes. I didn't have a tart pan so I did mine in a springform pan. I love going outside the box!

karen said...

First of all, beautiful tarts! Your research shows. Also, I am a big fan of meyer lemons in my lemon-y desserts. Wonderful!

smellslikehome said...

what magnificant looking tarts!! beautiful job!

Kevin said...

Those lemon cream tarts look so good! Nice presentations. I haven't tried a meyer lemon yet. I will have to keep keeping an eye out for them.

Julius said...

Thanks for the nomination! :)

Your presentation is just gorgeous. Love the explanation on lemons.

Julius from Occasional Baker

Natalie said...

I love your tart forms - those are fantastic, and your presentations are stunning!

Peabody said...

OH the rectangle shape is just fabulous!

missy said...

how delicious!! my mouth is watering...lovely photos! :)

Cafe Johnsonia said...

Lovely, lovely tarts! And I love all the info, too.

Tartelette said...

I did not expect anyhting less stunning from you...they are indeed gorgeous! That lemon cream is on rotation at our house we love it so much with everything, it enhances a simple fruit salad beautifully!

CB said...

Absolutely lovely presentation. I just wanna reach into my computer screen and grab your tart (ooohhh that doesn't sound right huh? LOL)
Clara @ I♥food4thought

Anne said...

Oh wow, what beautiful presentation! Nice to see the comparison of the types of lemons. Those are gorgeous- great work!

eatme_delicious said...

Wow your tarts look amazing!! I love the shape you chose to make them in, and the photos are beautiful.