While I already normally look forward to every Tuesday with Dorie, the recipe this week, The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart, was even more special for me. Why? Because the centerpiece of this recipe, the exquisitely smooth and delicious lemon cream, originates from the Picasso of pastry - Pierre Hermé.
For those of you who don't know him, Pierre Hermé is a pastry chef extraordinaire. He is responsible for creations such as the Isaphan, a rose flavoured macaron with litchis and raspberries), and Plasir Sucré. For me, no visit to Paris is complete without a mandatory stop at his boutique on Rue Bonaparte. If you're going there for the first time, there's no missing it. Its the little store with the line of people snaking out its door.
Knowing what I know about Pierre Hermé, I was sure that this recipe would indeed live up to its name. Sure enough, I was not disappointed. Although the lemon cream is marginally more of a hassle to make than regular lemon curd, if you have a blender or a food processor handy, it really is a snap. I did find the crust a little more difficult to handle - its not one that you can roll easily (which Dorie did warn about) - but by pressing it into the pan as Dorie suggests, the crust turned out beautifully.
I served this for tea on Sunday and again for dinner. M, who is usually a chocolate fanatic, raved about it as well. I think this recipe is definitely a keeper!
The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart
From Baking: From My Home to Yours
1 cup sugar
Grated zest of 3 lemons
4 large eggs
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 4-5 lemons)
2 sticks plus 5 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces, at room temperature
1 9-inch tart shell
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 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 the 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 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.
Makes 8 servings