I love receiving packages. I love coming home to see a box sitting in front of my door waiting to be taken inside to be opened. I’d always check the tracking number of an item I’ve ordered to see if it had been delivered yet- especially if it was a new cookbook. But this time the package was not a cookbook. One day, about two weeks ago, I walked through the door and saw an open box atop the kitchen counter; the “Hungry” hubby had gotten home before me that day. I looked into the box and squealed with excitement. Meyer lemons from a dear fellow blogger!
Mary and I were exchanging emails one day and she asked me if I wanted some Meyer Lemons. I knew that she had quite the harvest this year and had been churning out one lovely sweet after another with them. She said she was picking some that weekend for the Tartelette and she would be happy to send me a bunch too.
Meyer Lemons are hard to come by in the East coast because they do not travel very well. They have a deep matte yellow exterior and the smoothest skin. They are usually described as a cross between a lemon and a tangerine and is slightly sweeter (less acidic) than a regular lemon. The most unique part of this hybrid is the zest which has a flowery tangerine-like fragrance and lends sweet and savory dishes an incredibly well-balanced lemony attribute.
I immediately reached for my favorite dessert book, The Sweet Life, by Kate Zuckerman. After I made her Almond Tea cake with Creme Brulee filling, I knew if she had a Meyer lemon dessert – it’s gonna be good! I was right.
Meyer Lemon Curd Tart
Adapted from The Sweet Life by Kate Zuckerman
One 8-inch Sweet Tart crust (recipe below)
6 egg yolks
½ cup plus 4 tbs sugar
½ cup strained Meyer Lemon juice (about 3 to 4 lemons)
Zest of 1 Meyer lemon
Pinch of salt
8 tbs. (4 ounces) butter, at room temperature
Make the lemon curd. In the bowl of a bain-marie, whisk together the egg yolks, whole egg, and sugar. Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, and salt. Whisk briskly until the mixture has thickened, doubled in volume, and holds the lines of a whisk, 5 to 10 minutes.
Remove the curd from the heat and pass through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl. Discard the zest. Place the bowl in an ice bath and let cool until warm to the touch. Thoroughly whisk in the butter. At this point you can chill or bake the lemon curd.
Bake the lemon tart. Preheat oven to 325°F. Pour the lemon curd into the prepared tart shell. Place the tart on a cookie sheet and bake until the custard sets, 10 to 15 minutes. To test if the custard is set, gently tap the tart ring; if the center does not jiggle, the custard is set. If you have made the curd ahead of time and refrigerated it, the tart will need a few extra minutes in the oven to set.
Sweet Tart shell (crust)
16 tbs. (8oz.) butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
Zest of 1 lemon or tangerine (of course I used Meyer lemon zest)
2 egg yolks, at room temperature
2 cups plus 2 tbs. flour
¼ tsp. salt
Cream the butter and incorporate the eggs. Place the butter in the bowl of the stand mixer with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Add the powdered sugar and lemon zest (if you are using it) and beat on medium-high speed until the mixture becomes fluffy and almost white in color, approximately 6 to 8 minutes, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, and continue to beat until they are fully incorporated and the batter looks smooth and glossy, 1 to 2 minutes.
Add the dry ingredients and finish the dough. In a small bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients and add them, all at once, to the butter mixture. Use a rubber spatula and fold the dry mixture into the butter mixture with a few turns before turning on the mixer. Mix the dough at slow speed until thoroughly combined, 1 to 2 minutes. Stop the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, and mix on slow speed for another 30 seconds.
Separate the dough into two mounds. Wrap each mound in plastic wrap and press down to form two 1-inch thick disks. Transfer the dough to the refrigerator and chill for 2 hours or overnight.
Roll and blind-bake the tart dough. On a cool, dry counter surface, roll the dough into a 1/8 inch-thick circle. Line the tart pan with the dough and freeze the tart shell for ½ hour.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove the shell from the freezer, line it with parchment paper, aluminum foil, or a large coffee filter, and fill it with pie weights or dried beans. Transfer the shell to the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it sit for 10 minutes; take out the liner and weights and place the shell back in the oven. (You can save the beans to use as pie weights again.) Bake until it is golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes.
The dough, well wrapped, can be refrigerated for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 1 month. The baked shell, well wrapped, will keep for 2 days.
I had seen Alice Medrich whip up a curd in a pot over direct flame. I aspire to do the same one day but I was not going to risk my precious Meyer lemons for practice. So I adhered to the recipe and whipped it up in a bain-marie. The instruction said to use a whisk but I also used a rubber spatula in between because the whisk cannot scrape the corners effectively.
I initially had a lot of misgivings about the dough because it appeared like it was going to be impossible to roll out. I switched to the smaller tart pans because the dough would break every time I tried to transfer it to the larger pan (actually, very colorful language escaped my lips during this time). I was making a double batch, so I had a lot of exercise with it. I finally figured that after I rolled it out on parchment paper, I had to refrigerate it for 20 minutes to firm it up again (it was also hot that day) before transferring it to the tart pan and then freeze it for 30 minutes before blind-baking it. Well, after the blind-bake, all my doubts of the crust dissipated. It looked magnificent, and unable to resist pinching the crust to taste it, I was extremely satisfied.
I made the Meyer lemon tarts specifically to bring to a brunch that our friends were having. And since the brunch was a bit too filling, we had to wait for another hour before having some sweets. It was such torture, I tell you, since the tartlets were just beckoning to me to “Eat me! Eat me!”
Anyway, since there were kids at the party, I told the hostess that maybe they wanted to try out half a tartlet first because it might be too sour for their young palate which was used to sweets. Actually, the “Hungry” hubby who was not fond of anything custard-like also wanted only half a tartlet. In fact everyone sampled half of a little tart.
I eagerly dug my fork into my petite creation – breaking an extremely crunchy crust – I savored the incredible balance of sweetness and tartness that convened on my tongue. I was also very pleased with the creaminess of the curd layer which was a perfect foil for its own flavor resulting in lightness with each bite. Soon everyone, including HH, wanted another half, and after that another quarter, until the hostess horded the two remaining tartlets for those who have not had a taste of it yet.
To say that I was elated could be defined as an understatement. I was in heaven! The taste reminded me of something but I couldn’t put my finger on it until a few days later – I had an epiphany- the lemon curd base could definitely be a base for this. All I had to do was add the cherries!
I had leftover Meyer lemon curd which I turned into an extremely flavorful pound cake. I do not have the recipe for it because I just winged it with an addition of an egg, some sugar and flour and a little baking soda until it reached the consistency of a pound cake batter. I was surprised with the result – it almost had the texture of a financier – except I did not use almond flour. Delicious!
Mary, Mary…please remember me next year when you pick your Meyer lemons. You cannot leave me without them after having me taste their enchanting essence!