In our house, Kyle is the cook (lucky me) and I am the baker (though I can cook- I swear).
Baking grounds me.
Like photography, I like how baking is a blend of equal parts science and art, with a generous pinch of good genetics and a splash of good luck. You must be methodical, yet imaginative, a follower and a leader. The process forces me to focus, something my 12-tabs-open-in-Firefox-while-carrying-on-two-text-message
-conversations-on-my-iPhone-while-eating-lunch-which-I-am-actually-still-in-the-process-of-making fast moving mind often needs. There is nothing that slows me down like coming to this sentence in my favorite chocolate torte recipe in the Joy of Cooking: "Use a rubber spatula to fold one-quarter of the eggs whites into the chocolate mixture, along with the nut mixture." Hold up? What is this nut mixture you speak of?
Some Sudoku for sharpness, I create cakes and cookies, tortes and tarts.
Following our trip to the Caribbean for Luke and Tracy's Grand Cayman wedding, I aproned up and settled into the kitchen as a way of reconnecting with myself and my space. Nothing gives you more of an urge to cook for yourself and your family than 10 days away of eating all meals out. And there is one simple recipe I can't get enough of this spring, found on a foodie blog referred to me by my good friend Amy, a fellow baking buff and Maine wedding photographer. Developed by pastry chef turned Parisian cookbook author (titles include Room for Dessert, The Perfect Scoop and The Sweet Life in Paris), David Lebovitz's Tart au Citron is a dessert like none other. As I see it, fruit tarts are the sushi or salad of the dessert world. Because the sourness balances out the sweetness, you feel refreshed and healthy after indulging on them, instead of heavy.
Recently, I'd made this trio of tarts seen above- two to go into a birthday basket for Amy and one to enjoy at our house when our ski team buddy and New Hampshire wedding videographer Meg Simone came for a sleepover, and both friends were so impressed that I thought I'd share the recipe in all its simplicity and easy-to-find ingredient list glory. The start of my wedding season in late May also marks the kickoff to BBQ season, and bringing a dessert is always in good taste (plus, as the last thing people eat, it's what they'll remember most). Enjoy!
Lemon Tart (makes one nine-inch tart) - Adapted (with a few modifications) from David Leobovitz's Tarte au Citron Recipe
Please note: I actually double the recipe as I like my tarts a tiny bit thicker, and I can use any extra lemon curd in a side mini tart given as a gift or kept for ourselves if the main dish is going to a party. You can also substitute limes for lemons. And finally, David Leobovitz uses a pastry tart shell, but I make a simple graham cracker crust instead because pastry dough is always such a hassle. You can also use as filling for dessert crepes, on toast, etc.
For lemon curd
1/2 cup (125 ml) freshly-squeezed lemon juice
grated zest of one lemon, preferably unsprayed
1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
6 tablespoons (85 g) butter, salted or unsalted, cut into bits
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 package of Graham crackers & half stick of melted butter
Preheat the oven to 350F
1. Pulverize graham crackers in food processor until crumbs. Add melted butter for a few pulses and press into tart pan (I also use a springform).
2. In a medium-sized saucepan (I use our Le Crueset cast iron), heat the lemon juice, zest, sugar and butter. Have a mesh strainer nearby.
3. In a small bowl, beat together the eggs and the yolks. (We give the extra whites to the dogs with their breakfast the next morning or you could make an omelet.)
4. When the butter in the lemon mixture becomes melted, whisk some of the warm mixture into the eggs, stirring constantly, to warm them. Scrape the warmed eggs back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly so the eggs don't cook, until the mixture thickens and almost begins to bubble around the edges.
5. Pour the lemon curd though a strainer (I've never done this myself but it would help get rid of any cooked egg) directly into the tart shell or crush, scraping with a rubber spatula to press it through.
6. Pop tart into the oven for five minutes, just to set the curd. It will not rise so its height when it goes in will also be the same when it comes out.
7. Remove from the oven and let cool before slicing and serving. I garnish with a basil leaf and blackberries or slice lemon as you can see above. (I'm currently experimenting with making a lemon basil tart, and was told by a professional chef at a cooking class I recently attended in Vermont to melt the butter for the lemon mixture with basil leaves in it and then add when called for and wait to warm before proceeding with the egg steps.)
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