Wednesday, July 10, 2013

French Lemon Tart from John Barricelli's "The Seasonal Baker"

John Barricelli’s cookbooks are among the most reliable you can keep in your kitchen.  Time after time, the pastry chef’s recipes turn out pies and pastries, cakes and cookies that are the essence of great baking.  We’ve now featured 5 of Chef Barricelli’s recipes –everything from his “Coconuttiest Cake of all time” to his superb Raspberry Pistachio Cheesecake . But I must say that Andrew’s most recent take on Barricelli’s arsenal of unbeatable sweets was simply the best lemon dessert we’ve had in a long time…if ever.  You have to be a lemon lover for this one—and who isn’t this time of year?  The tang of lemons makes every summer evening feel cooler.  And the superb crust is as buttery as any we’ve ever tasted.  The secret is a silken lemon custard with just a hint of almond extract.  The result is a tart that’s a lemon lover’s dream. 

As someone who leaves the baking to Andrew, I am forever astonished when someone describes anything baked as ‘easy to make’.  But that’s what John Barricelli writes of this particular recipe.  I’ll take his word for it.  The pastry is a Pate Sucree, also from “The Seasonal Baker”, the Chef’s 2012 cookbook from Clarkson Potter.  Its taste is similar to a butter cookie and, in fact, the Chef even recommends rolling any leftover bits and cutting them into cookie shapes.  The recipe is for a double crust or two single crusts.  The latter was just perfect as Andrew was making two tarts to take to a dinner party.  You have to build two hours refrigeration time into the recipe to make sure the dough is refrigerated that long so that it’s firm.  Rolled out, the crust is then partially baked using pie weights until it’s just starting to turn golden.  The pie weights are removed. It bakes a little longer and then the filling is added and the  baking process is completed and the whole tart is cooled to room temperature.  At this point you can refrigerate the tarts and serve them just as they are.  Or you can go an extra mile and top the tart with a ring of lemon slices candied in sugar syrup.  Chef Barricelli lets the home chef leave out this final touch.  But need I tell you, not in this house you don’t.  A dollop of crème fraiche and you’re done.   Here’s the recipe:

Recipe for French Lemon Tart from “The Seasonal Baker” (Clarkson Potter 2012) by John Barricelli
Makes one 9 inch tart to serve 8 people.

First Make the Pate Sucree:
Makes enough for one double-crust or two single crust 9 inch pies.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk

1. In a bowl, whisk the flour to aerate it.

2. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, and salt on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl halfway through. Add the egg and yolk and mix to combine. Add the flour and beat until it has been absorbed.

3. Scoop about half of the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap, shape into a flattened disk, and wrap tightly. Repeat with the remaining dough. Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours. This makes enough for 1 double-crust or 2 single-crust 9-inch pies.

For the Filling:
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
6 Tbsp melted butter
3 Tbsp crème fraiche or sour cream
1/4 cup (60 ml) heavy cream
Zest of 3 lemons, grated on a box grater
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 3-4 lemons)
3/4 Tsp  kosher salt
1/2 Tsp almond extract

For the Candied lemon slices:
2 cups (400 g) sugar
2 lemons, sliced uniformly but not less than 1/8 inch thick
(use a sharp knife or mandolin for this job)
1/3 cup Apricot Jam
1 Tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1 lemon)

Crème Fraiche for serving. 

1.   On a floured surface roll out the half of the dough and press into a 9 –inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Chill 15-20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 365 F. Put the tart pan on a cookie sheet and place it all together into the lower part of the oven. Bake until edges just start to darken (about 15 minutes). Remove from the oven and cool completely.
2.   To make the filling in a medium bowl whisk together eggs, sugar, melted butter, crème fraiche, citrus zest, lemon/orange juice, salt and almond extract. Let stand for 5 minutes.

3.  Place the tart shell on a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet into the oven. Carefully pour the filling mixture into the tart shell. Bake until filling is completely set and no longer jiggles in the center (about 30 minutes). The filling will remain bright yellow.

4.   Transfer baked tart to a wire rack and let cool. Chill completely in the refrigerator.

5.   To make the candied citrus slices place the sugar and water in a medium sauce pan and bring it to boil. Reduce to a simmer. Add the lemon slices and poach at very low simmer until the rinds are translucent (about 40 minutes). Let cool completely in the syrup. Drain the slices and pat dry with paper towels.

6.   Set the cooled tart on a top a large can and allow sides of the pan to fall. Place the tart on a serving plate. Arrange candied lemon slices on the top of the tart. In a small saucepan, stir together jam, lemon juice and water. Bring to boil. Set a fine strainer over a small bowl. Strain the glaze into the bowl. With a pastry brush, brush the glaze over the candied fruit slices and crust. Serve with Crème Fraiche.


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