Monday, 20 September 2010

Lemony heaven

Nothing wakes up a jaded palate like the refreshing and zingy flavours in a lemon tart; the generous amount of juice works here to counterpoint the richness of the cream and egg yolks. I made this with a very short pastry, full of butter and ground almonds - almost like an almond shortbread crust.

The lemon slices are time consuming but not difficult to make and have a lovely jammy consistency. But if you're pressed for time, omit the slices and sieve over a light dusting of icing sugar when the tart has completely cooled.

Makes one 25cm tart

~for the pastry
125g cold butter, cut into small cubes
200g plain flour
50g ground almonds
100g golden caster sugar
1 egg

for the filling~
350g white caster sugar
130ml lemon juice
12 egg yolks
300ml double cream

~for the lemon slices
4 unwaxed lemons, sliced very thinly
250g white caster sugar
500ml water

1) To make the lemon slices: heat the sugar and water in a pan and bring to the boil for 5 minutes. Add the lemon slices, turn the heat down to the lowest setting and simmer for about 60-80 minutes, until the white pith has turned translucent. Take off the heat and leave to cool.

2) For the pastry, place the flour, sugar, ground almonds and butter together in a large bowl and rub together using your fingertips until they resemble fine breadcrumbs. Then add the egg and stir until it comes together, then shape into a ball and chill, wrapped in cling film, for 45 minutes. Grease and flour the tart tin, then roll out the pastry to 3mm on a  floured surface and use to line the tin. It's quite a tender pastry so you may need to patch areas.  Don't trim the edges - they're tidied up after baking.  Line the pastry with a piece of greaseproof paper and fill the paper with baking beans (or rice/dried peas) and bake for 15 minutes at 375f/190c/gas mark 5, then remove the beans and bake for a further 5 minutes.

3) Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and cream together and stir in the lemon juice then pour into the pastry case.  Bake for 55-65 minutes at 275f/140c/gas mark 1, or until it no longer wobbles when gently shaken. Leave to cool in the oven, then trim the edges of the pastry and decorate with the drained lemon slices.

Delicious with a generous dollop of chantilly cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

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