16 April, 2010

Tarte Au Citron et Aux Amandes (Lemon Almond Tart)

Naturalists argue that there is no choice; we all make decisions based on previous experiences culminated with the stimuli present at any given time. The human brain is essentially a function, input of stimulus goes through the function of previous experience and the output is action, which can be predetermined and is inescapable. One could suggest this is why most of the decisions we make on a daily basis pass without any notice at all; there really was no choice to begin with. Therefor I would suggest it is a rare moment when we are fully aware whilst making a decision of it's pros and cons and how the results will in turn be effected; today I had one of those moments.
I had planned to make a dessert from Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking"; after consulting Alin, I had a plan to make the Tarte Au Citron et Aux Amandes. Now here is where the big choice comes in; to buy or not to buy the tart shell? Well.. I've made pie crust before and it's awful; I still haven't gotten around to buying/stealing a rolling pin and they always end up so ugly. So as I strolled the aisles of Market Street, I pictured the pre-made tart shells, I even knew exactly where they were, and yet I resisted. Am I mouse or am I woman? What is a this foodblog if not to be a place where I highlight my ugly yet homemade tart shells? I made a choice, authenticity over aesthetics.
So I present you with What You SHOULD Know's Lemon Almond Tart:

This recipe is broken into 3 parts:

1. Tart Shell

2. Candied Lemon Peel/Glaze

3. Tart Filling

Part 1: Sugar Crust Tart Shell
This part of the recipe takes awhile, and needs to chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours.
  • 1 1/3 cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons shortening
  • 1 beaten egg (with teaspoon of water)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • wax paper
Mix the flour, sugar, and fats together in a large bowl. Break the butter down amongst the dry ingredients into small crumbles. Add in egg (whisked with water) and vanilla extract and blend quickly, kneading the dough into a ball. Divide the ball into four pieces, and on a board covered in wax paper place 1/4 of the dough and push forward with the palm of your hand, making a 6" smear. Gather the smeared dough and repeat 4 times. Repeat with each fourth of dough before recombining them to one ball, wrapping in wax paper and leaving in the refrigerator to chill. This practice of smearing is to best combine the fats at flour.

After waiting at least two hours roll out chilled pie crust quickly (or it'll warm up), and place in a buttered false bottomed pan and roll edges down.
You can also use just a plain buttered pie plate, but removal would be harder, but if you're fine with keeping it in the pie plate, who cares?
Poke bottom of tart crust with a fork 7-10 times, so that it doesn't puff in the oven. Bake tart at 325F until baked but not brown.

Part 2: Candied Lemon Peel/ Glaze
  • 2 lemons
  • a julianne peeler or sharp knife
Peel the lemons and cut the peel into strips of 1/8th inch or smaller.
Leave the white of the lemon peel intact as it's bitter and will be crucial in maintaining enough structure to later squeeze the lemons.
In a small saucepan boil the lemon peels for 12 minutes. Afterwards drain thoroughly.
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp lavender
  • boiled lemon peel
Mix sugar, water, lavender, and drained lemon peel in a small saucepan and boil. Continue to boil sugar mixture until it reaches 230F or drips off the spoon in a constant stream like honey. Add vanilla extract and remove from heat, let sit for 30 minutes

Part 3: Tart Filling
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup almond meal
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • lemon zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 3 lemons
Whisk eggs and sugar together for 5 minutes until slightly thickened. Slowly mix in almond meal, almond extract, lemon zest, and lemon juice.
Cover the edges of tart crust in foil so as not to burn the edges...like I did.
Bake in a preheated oven at 325F for approximately 25 minutes until the center is set and lightly browned. My tart didn't brown but it will set up in the middle, trust me, you can tell.

Separate lemon peels from sugar glaze and place around top of tart. Continue to boil remaining sugar glaze until it has thickened to a thick honey consistency.
Do NOT let it boil furiously as the sugar will re-crystalize and become gritty. Bubbles are not your friend.
Spoon glaze on top of tart focusing in the middle. Let cool.

Also great as mini-tarts!


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