Baking For Others: Amazingly Easy Rich Lemon Tart
EVENT: Julie’s 26th
VENUE: Julie’s Parents’ House, Amagansett
TYPE: All-Out (Yet Simple) Barbecue
MENU: Chips & Dip and Cheese & Crackers; Pomodoro Fresca Pasta Salad; Smoky BBQ Ribs & Chicken; Grilled Zucchini; Baguette; Amazingly Easy Rich Lemon Tart
This genius recipe creates one of the most luscious, complex lemon tarts I guarantee you’ll have ever tasted. But its dirty little secret is that it’s incredibly quick and amazingly easy.
“Quick and easy” can be an ugly phrase in this day of homemade pastrami and home-canned strawberry jam. During one of our first meetings with our book agent, Heather, Phoebe and I had this really amazing hate-fest about the perils of the label. None of us had anything particular against a delicious dish that came together fast, it was just that pop-culture emphasis on not spending time in the kitchen seemed to go against what we believed in, that is, spending some time in the kitchen. We railed on all the usual suspects before admitting that we did really have a soft spot for them, a soft spot that didn’t make them any less fun to hate on.
At the same time, we walk a fine line. There definitely are times when we fit into the prevailing slow trends, when we want to make everything from scratch, from flatbread to merguez sausage, but there are other times when we simply want to open up a few cans, defrost a package or two, and create an almost remedial dish, albeit one that tastes damn good.
Many lemon tarts, including this one of mine, require you to make lemon curd or lemon cream or some variation thereof. I like making lemon curd, squeezing lots of lemons, tempering eggs and whatnot. But sometimes it’s quicker and easier not to.
When I saw this recipe for Lemon Posset on Food52, I was blown away by its simplicity. According to the notes from that recipe, Lemon Posset is an old British pudding that once used wine instead of lemon as its acid, but the food science is the same: the acidic addition basically curdles the cream, but because the fat content of cream is so high you end up with a thickened cream instead of, well, ricotta. I added lemon zest into the mix to brighten the citrusy flavor and poured it into a tart crust, instead of into ramekins. The result is, according to Julie’s mom, a tart that tastes like Key Lime Pie: creamy and puckery and delicious.
I made this tart for Julie’s 26th birthday, which falls just before the 4th of July. We got together at her parents’ house when they’d gone out to dinner (as if we were still in high school!). For the meal, we combined classic BBQ dishes like ribs and grilled zucchini with a sweet birthday ending: this tart. I made it as a small surprise for Julie, and as she was washing up the myriads of dishes we’d created as we cooked dinner, Sarah, Kate, and I crept back out to the dining room, lit the candles, flicked off the lights and crept back into the kitchen, tart in hand. Julie was surprised and pleased, and though we were all pretty full, we polished it off in a “quick and easy” fashion. After Julie’s mom, an excellent cook and a food judge with high standards, got home from dinner she tried it too. When she deemed it unbelievably good, I decided it was a keeper.
From my kitchen, taking quick & easy seriously, to yours,
Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Amazingly Easy Rich Lemon Tart
Though the active time on this tart is almost negligible–maybe 10-15 minutes at most–there are two sets of chilling time, so be sure to account for those when you plan to make this.
For the crust:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
For the filling:
2 cups heavy cream
2/3 cups granulated sugar
Zest of 1 lemon (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
5 tablespoons lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients for the crust and stir to distribute evenly. It will be quite a soft dough. Press into a 9 1/2″ fluted tart pan. Make sure to distribute evenly, thickening the crust a bit up the sides. Place in the fridge for 15 minutes.
Bake for 20 minutes until firm and a deep golden brown. Cool completely.
When the tart is completely cool, make the filling: in a small saucepan, place the cream and the sugar and heat it over medium heat until boiling, stirring to make sure the sugar dissolves. Add the lemon zest and let the mixture boil for 5 minutes, watching very carefully, as the cream has a predilection for boiling over.
Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Let cool about 15 minutes.
Clear a space in the fridge where a baking sheet can sit perfectly flat. Place the cooled tart crust on a baking sheet and pour the filling in, leaving about 1/3 inch of crust above the filling (you may have a bit leftover; pour it into a small bowl and save in the fridge to indulge in later). Keeping the baking sheet even, carefully place it in the spot you cleared in the fridge. Refrigerate about 2 hours, or until set. Serve cold or warm slightly for 30 minute to an hour before serving. Cut into 10 wedges.