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Sunday, March 10, 2013

"The Most Amazing French Lemon Cream Tart"

Need I say more....really. Doesn't the title give it away?! "The Most Amazing French Lemon Cream Tart" I kid you not, this is the actual name of the recipe found in Dorie Greenspan's  baking book, Baking: From My Home to Yours.

Between our lemon tree and overflow from friends trees I knew there was only one thing I wanted to make: The Most Amazing French Lemon Cream Tart. It is exactly that people! I make it a dozen times every year. I have made it in a large tart pan, in little tart pans and even in ever so small fancy mini tins that I picked up at a thrift shop. The french cream would also be great used as a filling in french macaroons or as a dip with fruit or baked pie pieces. In fact I might just make another batch of cream just to try those options :) Bottom line, it's AMAZING, its tart and its a staple in our household. One disclaimer if I may...making the cream is no small task. It is going to take some serious uninterrupted time and patience, but at first bite you will be handsomely rewarded!

The Most Amazing French Lemon Cream Tart
From Dorie Greenspan's Baking Book- Baking: From my Home to Yours

Lemon Cream-
1 9-inch tart shell, I have also used an 11-inch and it worked just fine
1 cup sugar
finely grated zest of 3 lemons
4 large eggs
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces, at room temperature

Sweet Tart Dough-
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon very cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Lemon Cream-
Have an instant-read thermometer, a strainer and a blender or food processor at hand. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.

Put the sugar and zest in a large heatproof bowl that can be set over the pan of simmering water. Off of 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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.)

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.

Sweet Tart Dough-
Put the flour, confectioners' sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in-you should have some 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.

To press the dough into the pan: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece of dough, which you should save in the refrigerator to patch any cracks after the crust is baked. Don't be too heavy handed-press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.Well wrapped the dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 months.

To bake the crust, preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil butter 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 an additional 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. Make sure to keep an eye on the crust's progress-it can go from golden to way too dark in a flash. Transfer tart pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature before filling.

When tart is cooled to room temperature you can now fill it with your lemon cream and enjoy the Most Amazing French Lemon Cream Tart that you will ever have!!

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