Sunday, May 24, 2009

Lemon-Mint Tart

I never was a lemon person. Whenever I needed fresh citrus for cooking, I used limes. In fact, we could go months without ever buying a lemon. My taste buds must be changing, though, because I’ve started to appreciate the taste of lemon, particularly in sweet (but not too sweet!) incarnations.

The whipped cream tempers the tartness of the custard. The marionberry syrup, which I got at the farmers' market, gives this dessert a nice tang.

The local supermarket was having a special on lemons, 2 lb bags for $1.88. What a deal, huh? I picked up 3 bags. Mostly I’ve been making lemonade and refreshing cocktails, but Hubby suggested making a dessert. Never made a lemon tart before, so I thought I’d give that a try. I found a recipe on Food Network, courtesy of Francois Payard, that seemed pretty straightforward, but it wasn’t. I only blame myself for messing around with a recipe from a world-famous pattisier. However, everything worked out fine in the end and we all lived happily ever after, as you can tell from the picture.

Lemon-mint tart
adapted from Francois Payard’s recipe on Food Network
  • ½ cup packed mint leaves (stems okay too), roughly chopped
  • ½ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (about 3 or 4 lemons)
  • zest from lemons
  • ½ cup granulated sugar (about 4 oz)
  • 4 to 5 eggs
  • 3 tbs unsalted butter, cut into chunks

Sweet tart dough
  • 1 cup + 1 tbs confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 ¾ cup all purpose flour
  • pinch salt
  • 9 tbs unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
In a mortar, grind the mint leaves with the lemon zest and a little of the sugar. When you get a rough paste, transfer it to a plastic or glass container. Add the lemon juice and the rest of the sugar. Mix well and allow the mixture to sit overnight in the fridge. This will help extract more of the mint flavor.

This dough recipe makes enough for two tarts, but the filling is only enough for one. Don’t ask me why; I’m just the chump who tried out the recipe. I used mini-tart pans and got 9 of them using half the dough. You may freeze the other half, well wrapped, for a couple of months or use it for another tart.

The easiest way to make the crust is with a food processor. Add all the ingredients, except the egg, and pulse until they are uniform. Add the egg and pulse just until the dough comes together. Turn out the dough. It will be sticky. REALLY, VERY, TOTALLY STICKY! I wish I would have known that in advance so I could adequately flour my counter. Divide the dough in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. You definitely don’t want to skip this part. You want the dough to be chilled through when you roll it out, otherwise you will just have a terrible sticky mess. (Make sure you have plenty of flour handy when you roll out the dough because you’ll need to lightly sprinkle flour on after every couple of passes. And work fast because the dough warms up pretty quickly. It was a bit annoying since I’d never worked with such a sticky dough before, but well worth it.) Pre-bake the crust at 350F for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until the crust starts to turn golden. Don’t let it get too brown because you’ll be giving it another 10 minutes when the custard bakes.

The following day, strain the mixture into a glass or other non-reactive bowl. Don’t be alarmed if the mixture looks a bit murky. As you can see from my picture, it brightens up after adding the remaining ingredients. Add the eggs and beat well. Add the butter and set the bowl over a pot of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. According to the original instructions, we’re supposed to whisk constantly until the butter melts and the mixture is smooth, but by that point my mixture was still quite thin and wasn’t really cooked. Luckily I have some experience making custard-based desserts, so I decided to continue cooking and whisking. As the mixture started to warm up, it did start to thicken a bit, but I was still afraid it would be too thin, so I added another egg. It thickened up quite quickly, but it may have done that if I just cooked it long enough. Basically it should be able to coat the back of a spoon. Set the mixture aside (off the water) to cool for a few minutes.

Pour the slightly cooled mixture into the pre-baked shell, and bake in a 325F oven (don’t go higher or the custard may curdle) just until the center sets, about 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on a rack, then in the fridge until completely chilled. Serve with whipped cream.

I'm submitting this to Weekend Wokking (before the deadline!), where the theme ingredient this month is, you guessed it, LEMONS! The host is Wandering Chopsticks. If you have a lemon recipe to submit, please send entries to wanderingchopsticks(at)gmail(dot)com by 11:59 May 31.


Manggy said...

Stickiness notwithstanding, the crust turned out beautifully, I see :) Good job-- looks like the extra egg didn't hurt either! :)

Lars said...

love lemons, and this looks great! the house favourite here in lemon desserts is home made lemon merengue, but this looks like a worthy alternative.

Angry Asian said...

positively lovely! your crust looks great, i am still a crust novice. thanks for adding in your tidbits of advice.

Mary Bergfeld said...

I've never seen mint used in this way before. I really have to give this a try. Have a wonderful weekend.

dp said...

manggy, thank you! I was afraid the tart would taste too egg-y, but it turned out fine.

Lars, for some reason, I've never been crazy about merengue. It's usually too sweet. BUT my taste buds are changing, so maybe it's time to revisit it.

angry asian, I too am a crust novice. I have a standard one I normally use, but this one sounded interesting with the confectioners' sugar. Despite the extra effort, I will use it again.

Mary, I was surprised the mint flavor didn't have a bigger punch. It was subtle, but I didn't want to add creme de menthe. I hate that stuff. It tastes like toothpaste.

Tove said...

And you say, you can`t bake!!
It looks so good.

dp said...

tove, I couldn't bake, but I've been practicing. Your son has kindly requested I stop trying to make cookies :-)

noobcook said...

your lemon tart looks super duper good. 2 lb bags for $1.88?! Here 3 lemons cost about S$1.50 T_T

Jeff said...

I could not live without lemons and I am jealous of that deal. Yesterday I was paying about 60/cents a lemon because I really wanted to make lemonade.

Going to have to give this a shot because I have a mint plant that is growing like a weed. Good information on the dough.

Admin said...

Lemon. Mint. Buttery crust. Francois Payard. When these four come together, you can't go wrong. I've made Payard's tarte au citron (mintless version) before and thought it was one of the best I'd had. This one seems even more special.

dp said...

Leela, yes, his version is the best I've had too. Very good without being overly sweet. The mint was subtle. I think next time I will use even more.

Wandering Chopsticks said...

Fabulous tarts.

When I saw the amount of mint in the recipe, I wondered why your curd didn't look all dark and discolored. Good to know it doesn't muddle the appearance.

How could you not love lemons?

dp said...

WC, I was totally worried about the color because it was kind of greenish when I strained it, but adding the eggs and butter seemed to help with the color. My eggs were also very orange (got them from a friend) so maybe that had something to do with it.

And it's not that I don't like lemons. I just rarely use them. But we use lime all the time, so limes are my preference.

Jeff, 60cents/lemon is about the normally going rate here too. Insane. That's maybe why I only buy limes. They aren't cheap either, but I can justify the price since we use them almost daily. If you make the tarts, I would love to hear how they turned out and what you thought of the process.