Another first for me this week – my first tart! Even though I’ve had an 11 inch fluted tart pan staring me in the face every time I opened the cabinet where it lived for the past year and a half, I hadn’t had the courage to test it out. Well, that 11 inch tart pan remains unused this week because this week’s TWD recipe called for a 9 inch tart pan. Oh well. I had fun at Williams-Sonoma picking it out and picked up a set of mini tart pans as well that will hopefully make an appearance here in the near future.

In all honesty, I’m not sure what to say about the French Lemon Cream Tart. It was good. I liked it. Kyle liked it. Kyle’s mother liked it. But I don’t think any of us loved it. And I’m slightly disappointed because of it. I didn’t feel like the lemon cream was as “dreamy” as Dorie described it to be. In fact, I feel like it was quite butter-laden…might I say that I felt like I was eating lemon flavored butter? And honestly, I felt bad about it. I’m never one to complain about the butter in any recipe but the butter in the cream in the this recipe was just too much for me. The flavor of the lemon cream itself was very nice indeed though. I didn’t strain out the zest (I tried but the cream was too thick to pass through a strainer) so the cream was definitely very lemony…pucker-your-lips-lemony, in fact.

As far as issues with this recipe go, I had a couple. I neglected (again) to read the Problems & Questions post on the TWD blog and found out the hard way that it takes 45-50 minutes of whisking the cream in a glass bowl to bring it to 180 degrees. I WISH I would have known to use a metal bowl!! Dorie, if you’re reading this……My only other issue had to do with how hard the tart crust turned out. As pretty as the crust was after exiting the oven (I was so happy it was intact and didn’t shrink!!), it took a good amount of muscle and a sharp fork to break through the almost-shortbread-like crust…and in my opinion, the tart crust could have been a little sweeter to better balance the tartness (no pun intended) of the lemon cream.

Overall, we all liked it, but I’m not sure it would be on the top of my list of desserts to make again. Thanks to Mary of Starting from Scratch for choosing this week’s recipe! To see how the other TWDers did this week with the French Lemon Cream Tart, check out the blogroll.

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Last week’s TWD recipe: Gooey Chocolate Cakes

Next weeks’ TWD recipe: Marshmallows

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The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart

source: Dorie Greenspan, Baking: From My Home to Yours

  • 1 cup sugar
  • Finely grated zest of 3 lemons
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from 4-5 lemons)
  • 2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons (10-1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces, at room temperature
  • 1 9-inch tart shell made with Sweet Tart Dough (see below), fully baked and cooled

Getting Ready:

  1. Have an instant-read thermometer, a strainer and a blender (first choice) or food processor at hand. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.
  2. Put the sugar and zest in a large heatproof bowl that can be set over the pan of simmering water. Off the heat, rub the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic. 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 feels tepid to the touch. Cook the lemon cream until it reaches 180 degrees F. As you whisk-you must 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 180 degrees F, 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 can take as long as 10 minutes.
  4. As soon as it reaches 180 degrees F, remove the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of the blender (or food processor); discard the zest. 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 blend 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.
  6. Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. (The cream will keep in the fridge for 4 days and, 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, just whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell. Serve the tart, or refrigerate until needed. While you can make the lemon cream ahead, once the tart is constructed, it’s best to eat it the day it is made.

Sweet Tart Dough
source: Dorie Greenspan, Baking: From My Home to Yours

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons; 4 1/2 ounces) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large egg yolk lightly beaten

Directions:

  1. Put the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in-you should have pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. 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. 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 any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.
  2. To roll or press the dough into the pan: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom.
  3. If you want to roll the dough, chill it for about 2 hours before rolling (unless you’ve used frozen butter and the dough comes out of the processor firm and cold, in which case you can roll it immediately). I find it easiest to roll this dough out between two sheets of plastic film – make sure to peel away the film frequently, so it doesn’t get rolled into the dough.
  4. If you want to use the press-in method, you can work with the dough as soon as it’s processed. Just press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Don’t be too heavy-handed – press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but don’t press so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture
  5. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

To fully bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F.

Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. (Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights.) Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Bake the crust for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown, brown being the important word: a pale crust doesn’t have a lot of flavor. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature. This makes enough for one 9-inch crust.

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  • April 8, 2008 at 9:53 PM

    I agree … none of us loved the tart, either. At least you got some cute pans out of the deal. Williams-Sonoma really is the mothership. I can hear it calling me now … 😉

  • April 8, 2008 at 10:25 PM

    Your close-ups are drop-dead gorgeous! Great job!
    My tart is all gone and yours makes me want another one! Got any left?

  • April 8, 2008 at 11:29 PM

    Sorry you didn’t like it, but it looks beautiful 🙂
    -Natalie

  • April 9, 2008 at 12:34 AM

    Turned out great.

  • April 9, 2008 at 1:27 AM

    I still have a 9-inch tart pan staring at me – I’m hooked on adorably small things currently! Yours looks awesome, and it’s always good to have a reason to go to Williams-Sonoma! As far as the butter, I more than halved it with no problems, so I’d suggest that if you were to make it again.

  • smellslikehome
    April 9, 2008 at 5:40 AM

    Rebecca – I think you should follow that little voice that’s calling you. 🙂
    Donna – thanks!!
    Caitlin – thanks for the suggestion on cutting the butter – I think it might help considerably, especially since I loved the lemon flavor so much.

  • April 9, 2008 at 5:43 AM

    I have a useless 11-inch tart pan too, that I bought before I realized that almost every recipe I have for tarts calls for a 9-inch pan. And I’ve had problems finding a 9-inch tart pan. Weird.

  • April 9, 2008 at 6:28 AM

    We do have twin pictures! Great job!!

  • April 9, 2008 at 7:08 AM

    wait, what?? did you complain about butter? didn’t we just talk about this?

    ok…of course I’m kidding you…your tart looks FANTASTIC, though…great job! Sorry you didn’t like it as much as me, but I’m happy to take your leftovers! 😉

  • April 9, 2008 at 8:38 AM

    sorry that you didn’t like it that much. 🙁 Well, I used a metal bowl and it still took me half an hour to thickened the cream… 😛

  • April 9, 2008 at 9:02 AM

    I had the same issue with the crust – practically had to get out a hammer and chisel to break through it. Your tart is beautiful.

  • April 9, 2008 at 12:38 PM

    Although I enjoyed the tart immensely, I definitely don’t think you are the only TWDer that felt like they were eating lemon flavored butter.
    Perhaps next week’s recipe will be more to your liking! 🙂

  • April 9, 2008 at 2:57 PM

    Sometimes the best part of a new recipe is shopping for the cooking tools to make it!!!!

  • April 9, 2008 at 6:12 PM

    Lovely tart. I can understand that maybe it wasn’t loved but just liked. The cream was a bit too buttery for me as well.

  • April 9, 2008 at 8:05 PM

    I am almost never one to complain about too much butter (it’s the southern girl in me I guess :)) but I thought that this cream tasted too buttery. I liked the cream much better before the butter was added. But yours looks lovely- I love your crust- it came out perfect!

  • gizmar
    April 9, 2008 at 8:30 PM

    I just don’t get why we’re all so intimidated by tart shells. I have the same tart shell phobia and have this glistening never been used shell that’s just screaming to be used. I’ve read several blogs saying they didn’t really love this tart but I must say – for your first ever tart – it sure looks good enough to eat and I promise not to complain – even though I’m also not too crazy about too much butter.

  • April 9, 2008 at 9:59 PM

    Your crust looks perfect! Great job!
    Clara @ I♥food4thought

  • April 10, 2008 at 9:03 AM

    Your tart looks beautiful! It’s a shame you didn’t love it though. I did, totally, totally, loved it!

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