Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Queen of Hearts, She Made Some Tarts

Well, I am not exactly the Queen of Hearts, but I did make a tart. A Meyer lemon tart, to be precise. I wasn’t kidding before about how much I love Meyer lemons. I LOVE them. 

You see, for Christmas I got Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food, which I read cover to cover. In it, Alice makes lemon curd. I love Meyer lemons (in case you hadn’t caught that yet) and curd seemed the perfect application for them. Making the curd itself was incredibly easy – some eggs, some lemon juice and zest, some sugar, some salt. Cook until it thickens and refrigerate. Here are some pics of the process.

Ingredients all set to be heated gently.

Lemon curd is starting to thicken.

So pretty in that glass jar.

One of the unintended benefits of making lemon curd is that your whole home smells faintly of lemon. Which was just plain nice until Meredith came over and asked me if I had just cleaned. No! It was the lemon scent. Brilliant. So now I have a new pre-party trick when I run out of time because making lemon curd sure is faster and more fun than cleaning.

Once I had the lemon curd on hand, I had to figure out what to do with it. Because as you can see from the above photo, I had a good two cups of lemon curd. Rather more than I'd need for, say, a piece of toast. Conveniently, Alice suggests pairing it with a pate sucree crust (which is kind of like a sugar cookie crust) in tart form. I had a birthday party brunch coming up for my friend Katie, and this seemed like it would be a lovely thing to bring.

Spreading the lemon curd in the tart crust with my new-ish offset spatula.

It was at this stage in the process where I totally and utterly screwed up. You are supposed to blind bake the tart crust (i.e. bake it with no filling) first, then fill it, and bake it again until the filling sets. I forgot to blind bake it. So I put the filling in the raw crust. I realized my mistake once the tart was in the oven and it was too late to recover. I am happy to announce that the tart still came out edible, although the crust was not anything approximating crisp on the bottom and rather had to be scraped off the tart pan bottom. Boo. Luckily, my friends are forgiving upon being presented with homemade food. Thanks friends!

At least the part of the crust you can see looks like it's supposed to!

Alice’s lemon curd recipe is actually quite tart – no pun intended, I swear! – and could probably benefit from a touch more sugar. To solve this in the tart (and, let's be honest, also to help mask the crust error), I decorated the top with some mascarpone I had on hand, whipped with whipping cream and a bit of powdered sugar. A tart seems the perfect vehicle for a little fancy star tip frosting, I think. I ended up doing a lattice pattern to try to maximize the amount of mascarpone cream on top, without completely obscuring the pretty yellow curd. Surely “pretty,” “yellow,” and “curd” are not words often seen together. But it was.


Happy 30th Birthday Brunch Party, Katie!

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