Sunday, June 29, 2008
Cell Phone Hickey, With Lemon Tart
Independence Day is upon us - and how is that, I ask? How is it already almost July? For those lovely readers who reside outside of the U.S., Independence Day (commonly known as the 4th of July) is a patriotic holiday where we celebrate our Declaration of Independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain. Sound grand? It's really not; it's actually just a day of barbecues, fireworks, parades, and family gatherings. Mostly, it's a day where folks want to hang outside, eat food, drink spirits and be merry.
But here in Phoenix, where the outdoor temperature lately is about 475 degrees - or so it feels - it's a bit uncomfortable outside. As of late, my efforts to be outside have been heroic, to me, but not successful. I look out my window and gaze upon the sunny gloriousness and I'm seduced - totally convinced that I must be out there with a trashy book or a magazine about shrinking Hollywood women or soaking up enough rays to warrant requisite later-in-life botox treatments, because who WILL I be without them? So, under this obligatory oppression - I get my lily-ass out there and try to be one with the weather...and I try for as long as I can to pretend that I'm not fecking out of my mind miserable out here in the sun.
I take a little dip in the pool, telling my scorched skin that it'll feel all refreshed in just a wet-second - and afterall we're outside and it's so lovely out here in nature isn't it? Meanwhile, my epidermis is folding inward, trying to reach my organs for a system-wide protest - or at the very least, some shade. By the time I reach my lounge chair, and get settled again - ready to read or luxuriate or internally-wax-poetic about being outside in this gloriousness - I'm ALREADY dry again.
So, I have about 3 minutes for internal-poetic-waxing before it all begins again. In the meantime, I decide to call someone from the Midwest to complain about all of this drama. So, I grab my cellphone from the nearby side-table and dial - then press the phone to my ear. Then, I let out a little SCREAM. Because the cellphone that was baking in the sun for 30 minutes now had an external temperature of 475 degrees and had just scorched my ear and my neck - so now I have a CELLPHONE HICKIE. Attractive. Enough already. I can't even make friends with the cacti.
The cellphone hickie convinced me that it was clearly time to bake something other than my skin. Baking always makes me feel better and I wanted to try a recipe that would be light and fresh for the summer, and GREAT for the upcoming holiday. So, onward...
French Lemon Cream Tart
This is just superb! Way better than my epidermis! I recently purchased Dorie Greenspan's Baking:From My Home To Yours and I ADORE this cookbook to no living end. It's not only great for straight-up food porn, but the writing is excellent, the details are spot-on, and the glossary is invaluable. And this tart? Fun to make, a treat for the senses (the zest is divine) and a learning experience that is guided by Dorie's well placed instructions. The Lemon Cream is adapted from none other than Pierre Herme himself and could be used in a million ways - pastry, toast, cakes, pies, cupcakes, tartlets - you name it. It's creamy and light - yet rich and decadent too - and balances sweetness and tartness just right, as far as I can tell. And the crust is crisp with just enough "give" - and sweet enough to be a shortbread all on its own. Delicious.
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
9 T. unsalted cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
Put flour, sugar, and salt in processor and pulse to combine. Add butter and pulse until mixture has pieces the size of peas and smaller. Break up the yolk and add a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. After the egg is added, pulse for 10 seconds at a time until the dough forms clumps. Then, turn the dough out onto a surface and very lightly knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients.
Butter a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom and press the dough evenly into the bottom and up the sides, saving a bit of leftover dough for any patching of cracks that may occur during baking (optional). Freeze the dough for at least 30 minutes before baking (can be longer). Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 375F. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and place the buttered side tightly against the dough. Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press down those areas with the back of a spoon. Bake for another 8 minutes or until crust is firm and golden brown. Transfer to cooling rack and allow to come to room temperature.
1 c. sugar
grated zest of 3 lemons
4 large eggs
3/4 c. fresh lemon juice (4-5 lemons)
2 sticks + 5 T unsalted butter, cut into T size, room temperature
Needed: blender, instant read temperature, strainer
Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan. In a large heatproof bowl (off the heat, at this point), combine sugar and zest between your fingers until grainy. Whisk in eggs, then lemon juice. Set bowl over pan and whisk once the mixture becomes tepid. Cook mixture until it becomes 180F. You must whisk continuously to prevent the eggs from scrambling. The mixture will become foamy, then thicken as it gets closer to 180F - and be warned, it takes at least 10 minutes.
When it reaches 180F, strain the cream into the blender and discard the zest. Let the cream cool, stirring occasionally, to 140F, about 10 minutes. Turn blender to high and add butter, 5 pieces at a time, scraping down sides as needed. Once all the butter is in, blend for 3 more minutes. Pour the cream into a container and place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the cream; refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Then, loosen cream with a whisk and spoon into tart shell. Serve immediately or refrigerate. ENJOY!