I found myself in the oriental food emporium on abbey street over my lunch hour today where I found lemons for only 30 cent ... a bargain considering they are at least twice the price everywhere else. They looked so bright and summery among all the ginseng, ginger and many other things without an English translation. So they travelled home in the basket of my bike with some noodles, basil, curry leaves and a large concoction of spices which are a fraction of the price of the supermarkets. It is worth a visit, even just for a look.
So the lemons became a lemon tart this evening.
I will detail out how to make the sweet shortcrust pastry base. For those competent but impatient, scroll down a bit.
For a sweet short crust pastry base, you will need:
200g plain flour, sieved
110 g unsalted butter, straight from the fridge and diced
1 tblsp icing sugar
0.5-1 egg. beaten
For the lemon filling, you will need:
Grated rind of 2 unwaxed lemons
150ml squeezed lemon juice
100g caster sugar
4 eggs, 3 egg yolks
60 mls of double cream or creme fraiche
icing sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees centigrade. I used a 10" non-stick flan tin with a removable base.In a large bowl, sieve the flour and the icing sugar. Add in the butter cubes and rub between your thumb and forefingers until you have a loose breadcrumb-like mix, like so...
First add half the beaten egg and combine together into a dough like mix. If you feel that the mixture is too dry and is unable to combine, then add the remaining half egg. The trick with shortcrust is to keep it as dry as possible.
Wrap the pastry in cling film and place it in the fridge for between 30 minutes-2 hours.
When the pastry has rested, place cling film on your clean work surface. Place the pastry on top and add another layer of cling film. This will help to keep the pastry together as you roll it out and eases the transfer to the baking tin.
Roll out the pastry until it is larger than your tin to allow for the distance up the sides - mine is 10" in diameter so i rolled it out in a circle approximately 11" diameter.
Carefully lift the pastry and slide the cling film out from the bottom side and ease it into the pastry tin. Leave the top cling on as this will help you to press it all into place.
Press the sides out over the edge of the tin but leave the frill around the edge. The pastry may shrink and this will ensure that you have a high edge. Keep any remaining pastry as you may need to patch a small crevasse or crack. Then line the base of the tin with tin foil and fill with baking beans. This will keep the base weighted down. I do not have baking beans but used dried kidney beans to the same effect - any weighty drien bean can be used.
Bake the base for 10 minutes in the oven. Take it out and carefully remove the foil and weighting. Check for any openings or cracks. If you locate any, patch it with the remaining pastry and place the base back into the oven for a further 5 minutes. Remove.
While you are waiting for the base to cook, prepare the lemon filling.
In a bowl, add the lemon rind, the sugar and the lemon juice and beat until combined and gradually add the cream, beating until it is all well blended. Add the eggs, one at a time and then add the egg yolks at the end, beating until well mixed. Add the filling to the base. Now a lot of recipes state that you should add the filling to a cold base. This evening mine was warm and I do not see how this had a negative effect. Experiment as you like.
Place in the oven for about 15-20 minutes. You will know it is ready if you wiggle it. It should be wobbly, yet firm and set.
Leave it to cool before extracting it carefully from the tin. When completely cold, dust with icing sugar and serve with a little whipped cream.
This evening, my lemon tart seemed to go very brown on top. This is not how you see the little glinting yellow slices in any french patisserie. I think that this is down to the fact that I used whipping cream and not double cream. Whipping cream is lighter and seems to rise to the surface of the lemony mixture and this browns a little. I actually like the toasted look of this. Next time I make this I will try it with double cream or, perhaps, creme fraiche - these are heavier and should make a slightly thicker mix.In all this is really easy, tastes refreshing and tangy and better still, reminds me of my childhood, standing in my shorts outside une patisserie in the middle of France, eating sunshine!