tarte au citron

Remember when I went to David Lebovitz’s Book Signing in Chicago past winter? Remember how I told him that I was a big fan but had never (ever) baked any of his recipes? He was still kind and allowed me talk to him for another five minutes. But inside I felt like a poser and I was so embarrassed that I felt like going home and weeping in a fetal position and shouting apologies to his blog. (I am sometimes a little hard on myself).

It only took me another few months to redeem myself. I present tarte au citron. This little delight used two of his recipes: one for the lemon curd, and the other for the crust. I swear I slept so much better last night.

If you are afraid of making crusts, this recipe for French tart will change your life. Instead of the traditional cutting chilled butter into flour and then worriedly mixing the stuff without over mixing it, this is a simple dump-heat-dump method. You dump the butter, sugar, oil, salt together and let it heat in the oven till it boils and becomes slightly brown. Then dump flour and mix. Done. Really. Once the dough is cool enough to handle spread it in the tart pan and bake. The tart can then be used right away (after cooling it) or frozen for future use.

I filled my tart with lemon curd which is sold in most grocery stores in the jelly/jam isle. I chose to make mine using David’s recipe. The hardest thing was to make sure I didn’t curdle the eggs (and this wasn’t even that hard). The second hardest thing was to keep myself from shoving the stuff in my mouth by the spoon full once it was done (this was truly hard).

A perfect summer dessert. A crowd pleasure for sure.

Recipe adapted from David Lebovitz

For the Crust
Heat oven to 400F. Makes one 9-inch tart
90g unsalted butter
3 tablespoons water.
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 rounded cup of all purpose flour

Combine the first 5 ingredients in an oven safe bowl. Let the mixture come to a slow boil in a pre heated oven; takes about 8 to 10 minutes. Add flour and mix with a wooden spoon. Spread the dough in a tart pan using your fingers or the wooden spoon if too hot to handle. Bake for another 13-15 minutes at the same temperature until crust is brown. Let the crust cool before filling or freezing. 

For the Lemon Curd filling
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
zest of one lemon (make sure to buy organic lemons or scrub them really well with soap and water before zesting)
6 tablespoons butter
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks.

Combine the first 4 ingredients in a non reactive pot. Heat on stove top on low heat. Gently stir till the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. In a separate bowl mix the eggs and egg yolks with a wisk or fork. Temper the eggs by adding one teaspoon at a time of the hot lemon mixture and stirring constantly. Continue till all of the lemon mixture is combined with the eggs. Put it back in the pot over the stove and constantly stir till the mixture thickens and cooks on low heat.
Strain and pour in your tart. I chose not to strain because I didn’t find it necessary.
The curd can also be stored in an air tight jar in the refrigerator to be eaten with scones and breads.

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Chika Gujarathi is a freelance writer based in Raleigh, NC. She writes about everything from travel, food, books, and family. Her current project includes a series of children's books to teach Hindi. She is a native Tar Heel who has also lived in Washington DC and Chicago.

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