Splattered with clay and walking into the damp evening, I was cradling in my bucket something much more precious than sloppy clay. Lemons. It seems so unlikely that in the depths of the cold such plump fruits appear, the bounty of the long forgotten summer that really (despite the recent weather) is actually just around the corner.
I dream of having a fruiting lemon tree of my own – I did have one before I killed it – but for the past few years I’ve been lucky enough to be given Meyer lemons. These lemons have thin, bright yellow skins with oily zest that’s particularly good for baking. They are also particularly sweet, perfect for a lemon tart that’s not too tart.
This recipe is inspired by a Matthew Evan’s cover recipe from Feast’s September 2012 edition. The original recipe had a burnt sugar coating but I like it just as it is. It’s deceptively simple to put together. The pastry is a quick dough of icing sugar, butter and flour that’s blind baked. The filling: a liquid of lemons, cream and a scary amount of sugar that sets to a gentle, zen-like wobble.
It does take its own sweet time to cook, but that quivering slice served with a dollop of cream, is just the thing for a windy day. Bring on summer.
Inspired by Matthew Evans’ Lemon Brulee Tart published in Feast Sept 2012
Note that the following recipe is for a 24cm tart pan. The tin I used was larger so I scaled up the filling and rolled our the pastry thinner. Matthew Evans’ instructions on blind baking were really helpful and I’ve reflected the staggered temperatures below.
180 gm butter, chopped and softened
110 gm icing sugar
300 gm plain flour
2 tbsp iced water
3 medium lemons
300 gm caster sugar
250 ml thickened cream
In a medium bowl, combine the butter and icing sugar until smooth. Add the flour and start to cut the butter mixture into the flour. Once it starts clumping together, dribble in a tablespoon of iced water and start kneading and pressing together into a smooth dough. If it stays lumpy, add the remaining iced water and knead together.
Shape the dough into a disc and wrap in cling film. Refrigerate for an hour to relax the gluten.
Flour your workspace and roll the pastry out wide enough to fit into your tin. As carefully as you can (I found this pastry to be quite delicate), roll the pastry onto the rolling pin and roll out onto the tin. Press the pastry gently into the tin and up the edges, taking care to not stretch the pastry when pressing into the corners. Trim the edges. Refrigerate or freeze until very firm and cold.
In the meanwhile, get started on the filling. Zest the three lemons and whisk into the eggs and sugar. Juice the lemons into the egg mixture and add the cream. Whisk together and allow to rest for an hour. Once rested, skim off any froth from the surface (this step is important for a smooth surface on the baked custard) and strain into a jug, discarding solids.
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Blind bake the pastry case for 12 minutes or until the edges peeking out start to turn golden. Remove the weights and paper.
Turn the oven down to 160°C. Bake the pastry case for a further 5 minutes, or until the base is cooked.
Reduce the oven to 120°C.
With the pastry case in the oven, carefully pour in the custard mixture until the tart is just about full. Bake until the centre is just set. Depending on the oven this can be anywhere from 30 minutes to 45 minutes. To check, give the tin a little shake – if the sides are still and the centre has a slight wobble (If you put your finger on the surface, no liquid should come off) it’s done. Let cool completely before removing from the tin.
I reckon it’s better after an overnight rest and with a huge dollop of dreamy double cream.
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