I am running a little behind. I am all over the map, really. I make all of this great stuff and take pictures and then they languish, untouched in my photos folder and time slips away and I never share them with you. These Easter desserts, for instance. I went home to my parents’ house Easter weekend, for dinner Saturday night, and brunch Sunday morning. Extended family was going to bring the total to 11, and I said I would make desserts. I was leaning towards lemon desserts, both because they are springy, and because my dad is particularly fond of them. Blueberry goes so nicely with lemon, but I didn’t want to be too repetitive, so while I settled on lemon blueberry bundt cakes for brunch dessert, I needed something a bit more refined for dinner dessert. In a nod to my Florida family, right in the middle of strawberry season, I went with this.
The base of this tart is just a sweet press in tart dough, and the lemon cream is actually “The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream” from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours. I added the strawberries myself. The lemon was creamy, not so different from curd, except that it has whole eggs instead of just yolks, and about double the butter, so the color is muted and creamier, and the lemon flavor is big but not tart like curd. It was delicious, but I am not certain it was “The Most Extraordinary.” I may have to tackle this again at some point and see if anything changes. Perhaps without any additional fruit. Or at least not strawberries, as since they were sliced, they gave off quite a bit of moisture. It made the cream a little runny when it was cut into. It was okay, I just would have preferred it held up a bit better. But it was delicious. And it looked gorgeous, and it turned out that this baby was my birthday cake, which was just fine with me.
For brunch I decided on a lemon blueberry bundt cake I found on the Martha Stewart website. I wanted to do a bundt cake mostly because I actually wanted to do bundt cakes, plural. I have a silicone individual bundt cake pan that I got back when I was into buying cookware that looked interesting but that I had no plans to use for several years. Usually the tendency was directly related to sale prices. I have two pieces of silicone bakeware, and I think that is all I need. One is a miniature tart pan, which came in handy for these. Handy because when trying to make something that can be so delicate in such a tiny size it helps to be able to bend the pan to your will. But I am reserving judgment on the bundt pan. The first batch I steadied by putting a baking sheet under it, the second I did not. The first ended up brown just where the silicone pan was touching the cookie sheet. The second ended up a bit too brown over all I think. Observe:
I was not actually all the that pleased with either batch. Though the recipe itself was delightful. And when I served them I put the better ones on top, filled the centers with lemon curd, sprinkled with blueberries and powdered sugar and they looked very springy indeed. And everyone liked them, especially my mom. So I suppose ultimately my mission was accomplished.
The Most Extraordinary Lemon Cream Tart with Strawberries (says it serves 8, but we got at least 11 decent sized slices from this)
From Baking from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
1 cup sugar
Grated zest of 3 lemons
4 large eggs
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 4-5 lemons)
2 sticks plus 5 tbsp butter (10 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon size pieces, at room temperature.
1 9-inch tart shell made with sweet tart dough, fully baked (see below)
2 containers strawberries, rinsed and sliced
Have a instant-read thermometer, a strainer and a blender (first choice) or food processor at hand. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.
Put the sugar and zest in a large heat proof bowl that can be set over the pan of simmering water. Off the heat, rub the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy, and very aromatic. Whisk in the eggs, followed by the lemon juice.
Set the bowl over the pan and start stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture fees tepid to the touch. Cook the lemon cream until it reaches 180 degrees F. As you whisk, which you want to do constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling, you’ll see that the cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then, as it gets closer to 180 F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks. The tracks mean the cream is almost ready. Don’t stop whisking or checking the temperature, and have patience – depending on how much heat you’re giving the cream, getting to temp may take as long as 10 minutes.
As soon as it reaches 180 F, remove the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of the lender (or food processor); discard the zest. Let the cream stand, stirring occasionally, until it cools to 140 degrees F, about 10 minutes.
Turn the blender to high (or turn on the processor) and, with the machine going, 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 get the perfect light, airy texture of lemon-cream dreams, you must continue to bend the cream for another 3 minutes. If your machine protests, and gets a bit too hot, work in 1-minute intervals, giving the machine a little rest between beats.
Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal and refrigerate at least 4 hours, or overnight. (The cream will keep in the fridge for 4 days or, tightly sealed, in the freezer for up to 2 months; thaw it overnight in the refrigerator.)
When you are ready to assemble the tart, just whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell. Place the sliced strawberries on top of the cream, as artistically as you’d like. Serve the tart, or refrigerate until needed.
Sweet Tart Dough (makes enough for one 9″ tart crust)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
Put the flour, confectioner’s sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in – you should have some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses – about 10 seconds each – until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change – heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.
To Press the Dough into the Pan: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece of dough, which you should save in the refrigerator to patch any cracks after the crust is baked. Don’t be too heavy-handed – press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.
To Fully Bake the Crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, butter side down, tightly against the crust. (Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights.) Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. Transfer the tart pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature before filling.
For the Lemon-Blueberry Bundt Cake (or Cakes) recipe, see here. To make 12 individual cakes, use a scant 1/2 cup of batter for each small pan.