Monday, September 20, 2010

Easy Lemon Tart

As I continued to search for "anything lemon" as is often requested, I decided to do a lemon tart. This would normally consist of making dough for the crust, letting it chill in the fridge for a while, rolling it out, placing it in a tart pan, blind baking it, and then filling it with a delicious home made lemon curd. Not that any of that is particularly difficult, but I kind of wanted something that was a little easier. I wanted a crust that I didn't have to roll out, and didn't have to blind bake. That would certainly make things easier, right? Yes, I knew I would still have to blind bake the crust, because a lemon tart always has a baked crust, but I just didn't feel like dealing with pie weights or beans, etc.  I also wanted a simple lemon curd recipe that doesn't require a double boiler and is easy to make while the crust is baking.
 So I did some searching and decided to combine a few recipes to come up with exactly what I wanted. And here we are! This recipe is everything I just mentioned, and of course it's delicious! The crust is kind of like a shortbread cookie, instead of the usual pie crust pastry, so all you need to do is press it into the pan with your fingers. No rolling! And the lemon curd? Well, it's Miss Ina's recipe, so you know it's delish. Give it a try!

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup confectioners sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Lemon Curd
4 lemons, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 425F.

For the Crust:
Grease with butter, or spray with a nonstick vegetable cooking spray, an 8 - 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom. 
In a large bowl, sift together the flour sugar and salt. Using two knives or a pastry cutter, cut in the butter and vanilla until it resembles coarse crumbs. Scoop up a handful and squeeze it to make sure it easily clumps together. If you have a food processor, just throw everything into the bowl and pulse it until it forms a clump. Place the pastry in the prepared tart pan and, using your fingertips, evenly press the pastry onto the bottom and up the sides of the pan. (You can use the back of a spoon or the bottom of a measuring cup to smooth the surface of the pastry.) Pierce the bottom of the crust with the tines of a fork. (This will prevent the pastry crust from puffing up while it bakes.) Cover and place the pastry crust in the freezer for 15 minutes to chill. (This will help prevent the crust from shrinking while it bakes.)
When the pastry is completely chilled, place the tart pan on a larger baking pan and bake until the crust is golden brown, about 13 - 15 minutes. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool while you make the filling.

For The Lemon Curd:
Remove the zest of the lemons with a vegetable peeler or zester, being careful to avoid the white pith. Squeeze the lemons to make 1/2 cup of juice and set the juice aside. Put the zest in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the sugar and process for 2 to 3 minutes, until the zest is very finely minced. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter with the sugar and lemon zest. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and then add the lemon juice and salt. Mix until combined.
Pour the mixture into a 2-quart saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 10 minutes. The lemon curd will thicken at about 175 degrees F, or just below a simmer. Remove from the heat. Fill the tart shell with warm lemon curd and allow to set at room temperature.

I used an 11" tart pan instead of a 9". You can use either one, but you'll have a much thinner crust with the 11".
The curd recipe calls for 4 extra large eggs, but I only had large eggs. So, I just used 5 large eggs instead of 4 extra large. It's not exactly the correct amount, but it worked fine.
After letting it come to room temperature, I placed it in the fridge to chill completely which helped it to set up.
You may have extra lemon curd if you're using a 9" pan because this recipe filled my 11" pan perfectly. If you do find yourself with extra, just keep it in the fridge and use it as a fruit spread on toast, scones, English muffin, etc, just as you'd use jam or jelly.
Although this tart stands beautifully on its own, I topped mine with some fresh berries, as you can see. What's not to love?

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