Just look at all that butter. I could have opted to share a more reserved photo, like the finished tart, or all the lemons turned sideways on the counter (see below), but I wanted to cut straight to the heart of what makes this tart so incredible. It's butter, my friends, and lots of it.
One of the cookbook's that came under the tree this year was Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From my home to yours, and I can't believe it took me this long to get my hands on it. I read through it quickly, marking all the treats I wanted to make with translucent red post-it notes, but the first dessert that leaped off the page at me was this French lemon tart.
Meyer lemons are in season during the winter, and although the recipe doesn't specify a type of lemon, I used Meyer's and couldn't have been happier. To experience the best contrast in textures, Dorie suggests adding the filling to a room temperature tart shell just before serving. I did this, and can see why it would be recommended, but it's also important for me to share that I had a slice the following day, after it had been in the fridge for 24 hours, and it was still mighty delicious. Further to this point, one of Andrew's friends came over four days later and finished off the last piece for us, giving rave reviews to both the filling and crust.
THE MOST EXTRAORDINARY FRENCH LEMON CREAM TART
If the name of this tart doesn't peak your interest, consider the butter. In her cookbook, Dorie explains that while the filling shares the same ingredients with lemon curd, its preparation makes thins extra velvety yet incredibly light. In a curd, all the ingredients are cooked together, but for this special filling, butter is added in the blender and emulsifies, creating the light texture you'll soon be very smitten with.
1 cup sugar
Grated zest of 3 lemons
4 large eggs
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces, at room temperature
1 9-inch tart shell (link to recipe follows)
Special equipment: an instant-read thermometer, a strainer, and a blender
Put the sugar and zest in a large heatproof bowl that can be set over a pan of simmering water. Off the heat, rub the sugar and zest together between your fingers until fragrant. Whisk in the eggs, followed by the lemon juice.
Set the bowl over the pan and start stirring with a whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch. Cook the lemon cream until it reaches 180 degrees F. As you whisk--you must whisk consistently to keep the eggs from scrambling--you'll notice that the cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then, as it gets closer to 180 degrees F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks.
As soon as it reaches 180 degrees F, remove the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of the blender. Discard the zest. Let the cream stand, stirring occasionally, until it cools to 140 degrees, about 10 minutes.
Turn the blender on high and, with the machine running, add the butter about 5 pieces at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed as you incorporate the butter. Once the butter is in, keep the machine going. To achieve the perfect light and airy texture, you must continue to blend the cream for an additional 3 minutes.
Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create and airtight seal and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. (The cream will keep in the fridge for 4 days.)
When you are ready to assemble the tart, whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell. Serve the tart, or refrigerate until needed.
SWEET TART DOUGH
To make the Sweet Tart Dough, see Dorie's recipe on her website.