Friday, February 8, 2013
Meyer Lemon Honey Tart with Salted Shortbread Crust
When life hands a girl lemons, you know she is going to make lemon tart. This girl, anyway. And boy, have I had lemons handed to me. But that's okay. I like a good lemon tart. It brightens the eyes and puckers the lips and revitalizes a weary soul. I don't know about you but I could use a little revitalization. Good thing it's citrus season to the rescue. Meyer lemons are a tasty reminder to enjoy the precious present, as their season is all too short and one to be savoured. I need that every once in a while; a gentle reminder to be in the moment. Not lingering in the past or jumping ahead of myself to the future. But here, now, in this beautiful mess of a life.
There aren't many good things about the dead of winter, but the crop of citrus always brings a little sunshine my way. Right now I've got blood oranges, ruby red grapefruit and Meyer lemons all fighting for space in the fruit bowl. It's a good fight; one worth having. Meyer lemons are new to me - I've never seen them around here much - so I was quite pleased to find them in my local grocery store. I might have given a little "whoop!" when I saw them, thereby getting some odd looks from nearby shoppers. Crazy lady in the citrus section. But these aren't like regular lemons: they are sweeter, more refined. They aren't as tart and biting, like some lemons can be. They're rather thinned skinned, much like me lately, and I knew we'd get along just fine.
I love food mags. I love them even more when they arrive in my mailbox. Bon Appétit had a recipe for Meyer lemon tart in its January issue, so when I came home from the store with my bag of lemons I knew exactly what was going to go down. It's a pretty good recipe. Lots of steps you can do ahead. I like that. The crust is buttery and salty, lending a welcome complexity to the tart, and easy peasy to prepare: you just press it into your springform pan. It's the perfect foil for the sweet lemon filling. The recipe says to thinly slice a Meyer lemon with a mandoline and have it marinate in sugar and honey. Here's the thing: mandolines freak the hell out of me. All I see when I see one of them is a blood bath, with my fingers on the floor. So, no dice. I used my super duper knife skills and sliced the lemon as thin as possible. Not mandoline paper thin, but no blood was shed either. Hooray!
The filling is eggs, egg yolks and fresh lemon juice and the marinated sugary lemon concoction. Pour it into the par-baked hot crust and in just 30 minutes you have your own lemon tart in your hands. The hardest part is letting it chill for a couple of hours before you can tuck into it. (Perfect time to go see a movie - have you seen Argo yet? I saw it today and the mine was blown. Holy cow that's a good movie. I was literally on the edge of my seat and I almost jumped out when the action was at super high intensity. Good thing the theatre was practically empty. I'm gonna say Best Picture Oscar right there...oh I'll save the rest for my Annual Oscar Appetizer Post. Stay tuned!)
Honesty is always the best policy, so here's the deal. I loved this tart - the filling was creamy and mellow and tart but not too tart, and perfectly balanced with sweet. The crust baked up nicely and was perfectly delicious. I've gone out to fancy places and had the lemon tart and it's sometimes been so sour it's inedible. This isn't the case. This tart is highly edible. But here's the thing I need to warn you about...
It's those lemon slices baked right in the filling. Didn't dig it. Maybe because my scaredy cat mandoline issues made me unable to get my slices paper thin enough. Or maybe it's because I dislike marmalade, and those slices remind me of marmalade. Truth is I could have done without them because the filling on it's own is just so perfectly and utterly dreamy. I could eat that filling every day of my life. I've never baked lemon slices right into a tart before so I thought I'd give it a go, because sometimes you just don't know how things are going to turn out unless you try. And now I know. Next time I will leave the slices out and just up the lemon juice by 2 tbsp. However, if you are a lover of the marmalade, you could very well like lemon slices baked into your tart. Maybe you are braver than I and the mandoline is your friend. Please, be my guest and bake the slices right in. It's up to you. Whatever you do, do try and get your hands on Meyer lemons. Their appearance is casual and fleeting - like many a good thing, you need to hang onto it while you can.
Meyer Lemon Honey Tart with Salted Shortbread Crust
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup butter plus 1 tbsp, cut into 1 inch cubes
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1 Meyer lemon or thinly sliced regular lemon (if you dislike lemon slices in your tart, omit this)
1 cup sugar (I used organic cane sugar)
3 tbsp honey
1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup flour
2 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice, preferably Meyer lemon (if omitting slices, increase juice by 2 tbsp)
Lightly grease a 9" springform pan with oil. Whisk together the flour, cornstarch and salt in a bowl and set aside. Place butter and powdered sugar in a food processor and pulse until the mixture is smooth. Add the dry ingredients and pulse until mixture looks like medium-size pebbles and the dough doesn't come together completely. Dump the dough into your prepared pan and press it evenly onto the bottom and 1 1/2 " up the sides of the pan. It's important to get the crust up high enough otherwise the filling will spill out and you'll have a messy oven. Your can prepare the crust a day ahead, just cover and chill.
Filling: Use a mandoline or your super duper knife skills and thinly slice one Meyer lemon into paper thin rounds. Remove the seeds. Mix the sugar, honey and lemon zest together in a medium bowl. Add the lemon slices and toss to coat. Let sit until lemon is softened and sugar is dissolved, 30-45 minutes. This mixture can be made a day ahead. Cover and chill.
Whisk the eggs and egg yolks in a medium bowl to blend. In a separate small bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch and salt. Add flour mixture to the egg mixture and whisk to combine, so there are no lumps. Whisk in the lemon juice and gently stir in the lemon slice mixture. Note: if not using the slices, in a medium bowl, stir together the sugar, honey, lemon zest and 2/3 cup plus 2 tbsp lemon juice. Let stand 30 minutes or until sugar is dissolved. Proceed with rest of the recipe - adding it to the egg and flour mixture and whisking until smooth.
Preheat oven to 300*F and arrange rack in upper third of oven. Bake crust until edges are JUST starting to turn brown, about 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and pour filling into hot crust. Bake for another 25-30 minutes, until filling is set (not jiggly). Transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Chill for at least 2 hours before unmolding ring. Serve cold. Serves 8. Recipe from Bon Appétit, January 2013.