I've never made hollandaise before since I am not a big butter sauce person. I wonder if I am the first culinary instructors who doesn't know how to make hollandaise with her eyes closed? With Julia Child's instructions, it was a piece of cake. To lighten it up a bit, I stirred in a bit of whipped cream and extra meyer lemon juice. As I found out, that would be called Sauce Maltaise if I used orange juice. Was it yummy? Well, how can this much butter not be yummy? But to tell you the truth it wasn't any yummier than my regular fish reduction with a touch of cream, which is about 75% less fat than hollandaise.
The lemon tart is where I really got stuck. I remember seeing a recipe for a lemon tart with a torched top, but for the life of me couldn't remember where. I looked through the recent issues of Gourmet and Saveur with no luck. It must have been someone's blog. Oh yikes -- our internet connection was still dead, and verizon people were impossible to reach on a weekend. I started looking through my cookbooks to see what I could find. Julia's book had a lemon soufflé tart, but I was looking for more or a custard tart. The only one I found was in Jamie Oliver's book, and he and I are not the best of pals. Well, actually, I am sure Jamie is a great guy, but whoever writes and tests his recipes drives me nuts. I remember making this tart years ago and not being happy with it.
You'd think it would be wise to wait till I could find a good recipe. But when one needs a lemon tart, one needs a lemon tart. I even had a perfect little piece of pâte brisée (tart dough) left over from my French Bistro class. I collected the edges of the dough after trimming a tart tatin, and put them back in the fridge. It was just enough for one tartlet for Jason and me to share after dinner and the meyer lemons sitting on my counter made waiting simply impossible. So I decided to fearlessly plunge into this baking adventure with or without a proper recipe.
When I tried to remember what went wrong with Jamie's tart, I figured it was nothing that couldn't be fixed.
- The dough sucked, but I had that already taken care of.
- The lime zest looked cool in the picture, but it distracted from the creaminess of the custard. I decided to infuse the cream with the zest, but strain it out before using.
- The custard cracked -- that might have been my fault. Maybe I baked it too long, or maybe my oven is hotter than I think it is. To be on the safe side, I decided to lower the temperature from recommended 350F to 325F.
It was a truly spectacular tart. The custard packed a good lemony punch. The dough was perfectly flaky and delicate. And how can you not love that sugar crust?
Meyer Lemon Tartlets
pâte brisée for 1 large tart divided into 6 parts, rolled out and baked.
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp lemon zest (preferably meyer lemons)
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (preferably meyer lemons)
4 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
- Since the tart dough doesn't cook at all once the custard is added, cook it completely before proceeding to step 2. Follow instructions for rolling our and baking the dough, but add an extra 5-10 minutes to the baking time to make sure the dough is golden brown all over.
- Set the oven to 325F.
- Combine cream and zest in a small saucepan and warm up over low heat just until the mixture is hot. Don't let it boil. The easiest way to do this is in a pyrex measuring cup in the microwave. Take off heat and let stand 5 minutes. Strain out the zest and discard.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and the sugar. Slowly beat in the cream, lemon juice and vanilla.
- Put the tartlet shells on a cookie sheet and set them in the middle of the oven. Pull out the oven rack, fill them with custard, and very carefully move the rack back in the oven. Cook just until all but the center of the custard is set, 30-40 minutes.
- Cool on a rack for 1 hour. Do not eat right out of the oven -- the custard will be too runny. If you have a torch, you can sprinkle the top with sugar and torch it.