Recently, I was browsing through the cookbook section of my local library and found Desserts by Pierre Herme tucked into an obscure corner. Now, I’m a huge fan of Mr. Herme. When I went to visit one of his shops in Paris, everything looked ah-mazing and way too pretty to eat (just kidding, I ate it without hesitation). So, you can imagine my delight when I happened upon this gem.
The first recipe that really caught my eye was the Lemon Tart. I’d seen lemon tarts in his store and had marveled at the sight. The recipe was straightforward: fill a pre-baked tart shell (pate sucre) with a lemon cream, glaze, and serve. The fact that this recipe is so easy is really quite a danger to waistlines around the world. You’ll see what I mean once you try it.
The book claims that this lemon cream is “sublime” and “stunning” and the results were no less than described. The cream itself is absolutely phenomenal. It’s silky smooth, while still giving a lemon punch. I could probably just eat spoons of it by itself, but when I think about the amount of butter that went into it, I set the spoon right back down. So, in an effort to eliminate some of that guilt that accompanies each bite, I decreased the butter. By almost half. In my opinion, the taste did not suffer whatsoever. My guilt, however, did subside dramatically so I indulged. A lot.
Sweet Tart Dough (Pate Sucree)
Adapted from Desserts by Pierre Herme
2 1/2 sticks (10 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 cup lightly packed ground almonds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean pulp
2 large eggs, room temperate, lightly beaten
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Makes three 10 1/4 inch tarts or four 8 3/4 inch tarts.
1. If using a mixer, place butter in the bowl and beat on low until creamy with the paddle attachment. Add sugar, almonds, salt, vanilla, and eggs and continue mixing on low to blend. Scrape down the sides if needed. Don’t worry if the dough looks curdled, just don’t overwork it to ensure a crumbly texture when finished.
2. Add the flour in three or four additions just until a soft, moist dough is formed – a few seconds. Don’t overdo this step and I actually didn’t add in all my flour, as I thought it already reached the desired consistency so make adjustments accordingly. Divide ball into three or four pieces. Shape into a disk and wrap in plastic. Leave the dough in the fridge for at least four hours before using (and up to two days). The dough can also be frozen at this stage for up to a month.
3. When rolling it out, lightly flour a surface and continue making sure surface and dough are amply floured throughout the process. Once the dough is large enough to cover the tart pan, roll the dough onto the rolling pin and unroll it on top of the tart pan to transfer it over. Fit the dough on the sides and bottom. Run the rolling pin across the top to cut off the extras. If the dough cracks or splits, use the extra dough to patch it up. Don’t stretch the dough to fit the pan because it will just shrink back when it’s baking. Prick the dough using a fork (unless it will be filled with a runny filling) and chill for 30 minutes in fridge or freezer.
4. Preheat oven to 350 F. Fit parchment paper or aluminum foil on top and fill with dried beans or rice to prevent bubbling. Bake for 18-20 minutes for a partially baked crust. Remove the foil/beans and bake for another 5-7 minutes until golden.
Also adapted from Desserts by Pierre Herme
1 cup sugar
Zest of three lemons (finely chopped)
4 large eggs
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (4-5 lemons)
2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons (10 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces, softened (I probably only added 1 1/2 sticks)
1. Rub the sugar and the lemon zest together in a large bowl so that the sugar is moist and aromatic. Whisk in the eggs, and then the lemon juice.
2. Fit the bowl onto a double broiler. Cook, stirring with a whisk, until the cream thickens and reaches 180 F. Once the whisk starts to leave tracks in the cream, it should be close to being done. This process can take up to 10 minutes.
3. Strain the cream into a blender and let it cool until 140 F, about 10 minutes.
4. Set the blender on high and beat the cream while adding the butter, 5 pieces at a time. Once all the butter has been incorporated, continue beating the cream for a couple more minutes, just to make sure the creamy will turn out extra fluffy and light.
Once both the tart shell and the lemon cream has cooled completely, fill the shell with the lemon cream (around 1 1/2 cups). Use an offset spatula to smooth the top. Heat jelly until it liquefies and pour the glaze evenly on the tart. Serve immediately. I did not have any jelly on hand so I omitted this last step.