Monday, March 19, 2012

Spring and All

Lemon Tart
 William Carlos Williams' poem depends a great deal upon the contrast between winter and the coming of spring. He writes, "but now the stark dignity of/ entrance-Still, the profound change/ has come upon them: rooted they/grip down and begin to awaken." While the coming of this spring on Tuesday will not offer a break from a bitter winter, since we never really had a winter, its entrance is still marked.
My steps are lighter as I walk west on Houston after school and I can sit with the windows open when I get home. The countless pages of Locke are not as dreary to read and the tedious lines of the Vulgate are easier to translate. I can already smell the season as it dawns on the city, a smell which I have yet to properly describe. It immediately transports me to evenings eating dinner on the stoop, reading on the bench and all in all being a little kid again.
Spring usually brings midterms with it and countless exams as my teachers attempt to give us a grade for our progress reports, but this spring I feel liberated. Perhaps it has something to do with my delicious lemon tart, but more likely it has something to do with the fact that I have time to make one. As summer (and college) grow near, I can feel the excitement growing within me.
I decided to inaugurate spring with a lemon tart from the Rose Bakery cookbook "Breakfast Lunch and Tea", from which I have also made Eccles cakes and the polenta cake. This book marries English and French cooking and has delicious breakfast, dinner and dessert recipes.
To begin, set your oven to 350 F/180 C and start to make the crust. This recipe makes two full pie plates, so you can scale it down depending on your tins/audience. Mix 3 1/3 cups of flour with 2/3 cup of sugar, a pinch of salt and 1 1/2 cups of unsalted butter. Mix this together with your hands until it is all incorporated. Now add 1 egg, 2 egg yolks and 1 tsp vanilla extract and use a fork to incorporate all the bits together.
Finally, mix the dough until it is a homogenous mass and roll it out. You might want to split the dough in half before you roll because it might take over your counter. Put the rolled dough into your tart tins and leave in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. In the meantime, you should begin the lemon curd since it takes a while to make. Note, this recipe calls for two separate lemon bases that will be layered within the tart (the curd on top).
I used "Tea and Sympathy's" lemon curd recipe, which you can find in my Lemon Danish post. This takes approximately 45 minutes plus refrigeration. Once that is cooking, you can begin the second (lower level) lemon filling. Whisk 1 cup of lemon juice with 3/4 cup sugar and then add 8 eggs and 2 egg yolks and continue to whisk. Whisk in 1/3 cup light cream and 1 tbs flour until everything is incorporated.
After thirty minutes has passed you should remove your tart shells from the fridge and glaze them with beaten eggs so they become golden. You are now ready to pre-bake them, also called blind baking. Line the shells with parchment paper and fill them to the brim with dry barley or rice (or pie weights if you're really fancy). Make sure the grains are pressed against all the sides. This is to prevent the crust from rising making it very difficult to add your filling. Bake them for 20 minutes at 350 F.
If there is a large window of time between your pre-baking and the addition of your lemon filling, you should bake the crusts for 5 minutes more before you add the filling. Now, remove the shells from the oven and strain in the lemon mixture. Put them in the oven for around 20-30 minutes (until the filling is set, but not puffy or bubbly). That means you've made quiche instead.
This is a picture of what it should look like after you add the lemon curd on top. Let it cool and then spread your curd onto the surface (about 1/4 inch thick) and smooth it out with a spatula. If you want cool tarts, refrigerate them for a half hour or so, but we ate ours hot and it was delicious.
Of course, you can make these is small tart tins, rather than glass pie plates, but both make for some scrumptious tarts. My great-grandmother, Allessandrina's, birthday would have been tomorrow, so Happy Birthday Nonny, I can taste your cooking. Williams observes that "dazed spring approaches", signified by wind and grass and "wildcarrot leaf." For me, it was my nonny's yellow pansies, perhaps the reason I love all things yellow.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my, this was quite the Spring treat! If you love all things lemony yellow you will love this tart!