I spent most of last week trying to figure out what to bring to my in-laws’ for Easter dinner – and after days of deliberation concluded what better dessert than a lemony, buttery pastry topped with fresh berries to welcome spring! Baking a tart always seemed very intimidating, but was always something I kept wanting to try! Enter David Lebowitz, whose collection of pastry recipes look fabulous and yet quite possible – I figured this was the perfect scenario for giving his Tarte au Citron a try! The prospect of making homemade lemon curd seemed like a tall order, but these days I’ve been up to the challenge! Frankly making pastry crust was really much more intimidating - but the method Lebowitz uses was wonderful! So much easier than working cold bits of butter into flour, and the crust came out light and flaky, just as it should! I happened to have strawberries and blackberries on hand, so I used those as a garnish.
For the crust:
6 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
Preheat the oven to 410 degrees F. Combine the butter, oil, water, sugar and salt in a Pyrex (or other ovenproof) bowl. Place the bowl into the oven for 15 minutes – when the butter starts to brown at the edges. Remove the bowl from the oven and carefully add the flour (it may splatter a bit!) to the bowl, mixing quickly until the dough forms a bowl and pulls away from the side. Place the warm dough into the tart pan of your choice, and spread it slightly. When the dough is cool enough to touch, press it into the pan and slightly up the sides. Keep one small ball aside – about 1cm in diameter – for patching cracks. I made a rectangular tart, 7 x 11 inches, and had just enough dough. Pierce the tart with a fork, and then put the tart shell back in the oven for 15 minutes when it will be golden brown. Remove from the oven. To patch the cracks, take the reserved ball of dough and break it into small pieces; roll between your fingers to make a thin strip, and then press this into the cracks in the dough. No need to bake further. Cool completely before filling.
For the lemon curd:
1/2 cup (125 ml) freshly-squeezed lemon juice
grated zest of one lemon, preferably unsprayed
1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
6 tablespoons (85 g) butter, salted or unsalted, cut into bits
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
Prebaked tart shell
Heat the lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar and butter in a sauce pan. In a small bowl, beat together the eggs and yolks. Take a small amount of the hot lemon juice mixture, and add to the egg yolks stirring constantly to warm them (but not scramble them!). Add the egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan, stirring constantly over low heat until the mixture thickens and becomes slightly opaque. Remove from heat, and force the liquid through a seive directly into the tart shell. (This will remove all of the lemon zest and make it smooth.) Place back in the oven for 5 minutes to set. Let cool completely. Garnish with fresh berries.