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Lemon Cream Tart

Posted by osakaben41 on July 31, 2009

Dressed Tart

I need to be more careful about calling myself a “baker”.  It gets me in trouble.  Recently one of our dog-walking friends asked me to make a wedding cake for her father.  Of course my immediate reaction is “hell yes”.  What a great project it could be, and as far as projects go, this would be hitting the big time.  Years ago I had made our own wedding cake, but that was a small intimate affair, and there was a margin of error I was allowing myself.   This however would involve logistics, storing/transporting something substantial, pricing out the raw materials, how much would my time be worth as an amateur, or just finding the time between work-kids-dog to do it right.  That said, if you’re going to call yourself a baker, you best get to baking.

So with the thought that this could be great fun, but only if expectations were reasonably modest I asked only that our friend come over to sample something just so she knew what she was in for.  Partially to dampen expectations, and partly to have a reason to cook these lemons I’ve got lying around.

Tart rings

I wanted to try out a fantastic recipe I found in Claire Clarke’s Indulge for a variation of a Lemon Meringue Pie.  She incorporated a layer of pavlova between a lemon curd layers, and tops it all with short logs of baked meringue and some candied zest.  Recently this was given a twist over at the fantastic Cannelle et Vanille in which the base is replaced with a Lemon/Almond paste sponge, and the pavlova layer with a buttermilk panna cotta.  I’m salivating just typing that, you have to go check it out.

Lemon Cream Tart

Unfortunately, after having worked late, and not getting the kids down until 9:30 last night, I just didn’t have the energy for a multi-part project, so I punted and went with the much more basic Lemon Cream Tart recipe from Tartine.  On a better week with more time I really wanted to find a way to somehow incorporate thyme into a lemon tart, or possibly some basil we have growing in the backyard, but wimped out and went with her straight recipe.  I had recently gotten some new pastry rings however and this proved a great excuse to try them out.  Her pate sablee (sweet tart dough) was reported to be easy to work with, and the filling had a few interesting wrinkles of its own that I wanted to try (incorporating a great deal of butter into a still warm lemon pastry cream).

Tart close up


I had done a pate sucree before, which calls for some baking powder, and perhaps some Crisco if you’re worried about working with straight butter.  The sablee (French for ‘sandy’) is much closer to a cookie crust, and works out much richer than the light and flaky pate sucree.  For a standard straight lemon curd I’d go with the sucree to counter the hard tartness, but this pastry cream was to be silkier and smoother, so what the hell…

Overall I’m not unhappy with how it worked out, but as with each project, there are lessons learned and room for improvment.  I would have liked some more color in the crust, but the dough was very easy to work with, despite our kitchen being eleventy-hundred degrees with the windows and door open.  Perhaps the rings insulated the dough too much in the oven, but they took on some slight color when I brushed the bottom of the shells with an egg wash (to seal it against the cream getting the shell soggy after they’re filled).

Dressed Tart 2

The pastry cream should have gotten thicker than it did, but I cooked that damn thing for almost 20 minutes and for some reason it just wouldn’t crack 170 degrees.  Trusting that adding that much butter would help stiffen it up when it chilled, I charged ahead, but I need to come back to this sometime and try it again.

Lastly, I thought about posting the recipes I used, but don’t want to run afoul of any copyright laws.  More importantly, it’s been a goal to avoid slavish devotion to recipes anyway.  I’m trying to start with an idea (even just a picture from flickr), plan out some components, run a few google or epicurious searches to see what others have done, and work from there.  The next project I’m working on is an example of that, but you’ll just have to wait to see it.

Late Update:

The ‘client’ already decided to go with somebody else for their wedding cake before we ever got to talk this through.  Probably for the best, but it was a fun flight of fancy for a moment there.


One Response to “Lemon Cream Tart”

  1. […] to the point of NASA level elasticity, and ended up dumping the whole batch.  Furthermore, my tart rings were far to shallow for this recipe, so I went instead with some mini brioche […]

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