07 December 2010

Lemon cream tart

I'm a little bit frightened to share this post with you.  I may never have a better post than this one.  This tart is the most fabulous dessert ever attempted here at Indirect Heat.  And it's a unique creation, shared by a family of physicians living in the heart of Pigtown in Baltimore.  It is the bastard child of Dorie Greenspan's lemon cream (from Baking: From My Home to Yours) and Thomas Keller's pine nut crust (from The French Laundry Cookbook).

This tart is perfection.


Start with the filling, adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours:
2 cups sugar
grated zest of 6 lemons
8 large eggs
1 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
5 sticks plus 2 tbsp (21 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Chop the butter into 1 tbsp chunks.  Set aside.

Zest the lemons into the top part of a double-boiler.

lemon zest

Mix with the sugar.  Squeeze the zest with your fingers to liberate lemon-zest-oils into the sugar, until the sugar becomes slightly damp to the touch.

lemon zest sugar

Beat the eggs until light and foamy.  Whisk them into the sugar mixture.  Whisk in the lemon juice slowly.  Place the double-boiler over top of a pot of gently boiling water.  Put a thermometer into the mix.

Whisk the mixture constantly.  If you stop for even a minute, you'll end up with lemon-scrambled eggs.  Not quite what we're going for.

When the mixture hits 170°F, take the pot off the heat.  It will have thickened considerably, much like a custard.  Pass the lemon goo through a sieve, to take out the lemon zest.

Lemon cream

Add to a blender.  Let the goo cool to around 140°F (I found that after sieving into the blender, it was already below 140°F).  I have a small blender, and had to do this in two batches.

While the goo is blending, add the butter, 3-4 tbsp at a time (in 1 tbsp chunks).  Keep the blender going, you're making an emulsion of lemon-egg and butter.  The cream will thicken and lighten into an airy, lemony cream.  The texture at this stage is already pure heaven. Put plastic wrap over the surface of the cream so it doesn't develop a 'skin'.

Place in the fridge, and chill for 3-4 hours.

Now, make the crust (adapted from The French Laundry Cookbook):
2 cups pine nuts
1/3 cup sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
16 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Pine nuts

Grind the pine nuts in a food processor.

Ground pine nuts

Pulse in the sugar.  And then the flour.

Pine nut mix

Add the butter, egg and vanilla.

Pine nut pastry

Mix together with your hands into a homogenous mess, then chill in the fridge at least an hour.

Coat butter on the inside of your tart tins.  Be generous.  Then dust some flour on top of the butter, and shake out the excess.  Form the pastry into your tart tins.  I managed to get 14 medium-sized tarts from this recipe.

Pine nut crust

Pre-heat your oven to 350°F.  Bake the tart shells for 10-15 minutes until until golden brown.

Baked pine nut crust

When the filling has chilled completely, gently remove the tart shells from the tart pans. Scoop generous dollops of lemon cream into the tarts. Serve immediately.

Lemon cream tart

The lemon cream melts as it hits your mouth.  The crust explodes when you touch it with your fork.  The flavour is perfect.  The texture is amazing.

Next time, I'll make it with yuzu instead of lemon.  Yum.


Mary said...

I really love lemon desserts. This looks really really good! That lemon cream almost looks like butter.

Bbq Dude said...


With that much butter in there, it's not surprising. It really changes colour and texture a lot with the addition of the butter. You owe it to yourself to make this recipe. I am also a fan of lemon desserts, but this is my hands-down favourite.

* said...

more lemon tarts! also, butterscotch things with toasted meringue on top...

Bbq Dude said...


Yeah, gonna take me a while to get the right butterscotch filling. Gonna work on that...

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