22 February, 2007

Tarte au citron

A classic French dessert, and this version is absolutely divine. The method for the pastry is unusual, to say the least, but it produces a nice crisp, biscuity pastry which is ideal for this type of tart, as well as for fruit tarts. The quantity given will make three tart shells, but you can keep it in the fridge for a few days, or freeze it. See the recipe for prune and Armagnac tart for another excellent way of using it.

The filling is based on a Delia Smith recipe. I wasn’t sure about the cream, but it creates a lovely balance between creaminess and the sharpness of the lemon. Well worth repeating.


Pastry:
250g butter
175g icing sugar
2 small eggs, beaten
500g flour

Filling:
Zest of 4 lemons and 180 ml of juice
4 large eggs
120g caster sugar
120 ml whipping cream
icing sugar and lemon wedges to decorate

For the pastry, cream together the butter and sugar till fluffy. Lightly mix in the eggs, then cut in the flour with a spatula. Knead gently for a few seconds to make a smooth dough, then wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least half an hour. You’ll need to take it out of the fridge well before you want to use it as it is a bit tricky to handle.

Preheat the oven to 150C/300F. Roll out the dough to about 5 mm thick, and use it to line a 22 cm tin (I used a square one). You can make the sides of the tart double thickness by cutting the pastry an inch bigger all round and folding it down. Make the edges nice and neat though. Prick with a fork, line with greaseprooof paper and weight it down with baking beans. Chill for 20 minutes, then bake blind for 25 minutes on a pre-heated baking tray. Remove paper and beans and return to the oven for 5 minutes. The pastry should be crisp and lightly coloured. Set aside and turn the oven up to 170C/350F.

To make the filling, finely grate the zest from the lemons and squeeze enough juice to give the required quantity. Break the eggs into a bowl, add the sugar and whisk lightly to combine — not until it’s frothy. Then, still beating, add the lemon zest and juice and the cream. Put this mixture in a jug.

Put the pastry case on the baking tray and slide it out of the oven far enough to be able to pour the filling in, carefully. You want it to come virtually to the top of the pastry. Slide the tray back in, and bake for about 30 minutes until the filling is set and just firm in the centre.

Remove from the oven, allow to cool, and decorate by sifting icing sugar over it and adding some crystallised or raw lemon slices cut into dainty wedges. Serve at room temperature — you don’t need anything with it.

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