Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Flavorful French tart perfect spring dessert


Here's how

By Marilyn Harris
Enquirer contributor

Several years ago I brought back a recipe for a classic lemon tart from one of my cooking classes in France. I love lemon desserts, but I sometimes find them a bit rich and overly sweet. Adding the fresh lime along with the lemon made it tarter and gave it the flavor balance it needed.

Since that time, this converted recipe has been a featured dessert in many of my springtime cooking classes, and I've often served it as my Easter dinner dessert.

I made no changes to ingredients in the pastry recipe called "Pate Sucre," which is the classic sweet French pastry. The contrast of its flaky, crunchy texture along with the rich sweet and tart creamy filling, is what makes this delicious dessert so appealing. I did make it easier by converting it to a food processor recipe.

Even if you are not an experienced baker and shy away from making pastry from scratch, allow me to encourage you to try this easy recipe. There are just a few points of technique that should be observed: the butter should be cold and the pieces should be evenly distributed on top on the flour around the processor blade. Use the pulse button to quickly pulse on and off just until the butter is cut in and the mixture resembles coarse meal. It is important to use ice water and add it gradually through the open feed tube with the motor running until the pastry is moist enough to press together easily.

When this blending process is finished remove the dough and press into a disc about 6 inches in diameter. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for two hours. The chilling allows the pastry to rest so the gluten relaxes and the tiny butter flakes chill and set. This makes the pastry easy to roll out and the result is a lovely flaky pastry.

When it's time to put the rolled-out pastry in the pan simply roll it up on the rolling pin, place the tart pan under it and roll the pastry off of the pin right into the pan. Gently press it into the pan and fill it with parchment paper or foil, then pie weights (available at kitchen specialty stores) or a pound of dry beans. Weighting the pastry in the initial baking stage prevents it from puffing and pre-baking it before the filling is added assures a crisp pastry and one that is thoroughly baked. One last tip: bake all tarts in the bottom one-third of the oven so the bottom crust is brown and crisp.

Lemon-Lime Tart with Whipped Cream

PASTRY

11/2 cups unbleached flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 egg yolk

1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces

3 to 5 tablespoons ice water

Place flour, sugar, salt, egg yolk and butter in the food processor. Process until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add just enough water to moisten the dough. Process until mixture starts to go together into a dough. Remove and press together into a smooth disc. Place in a plastic bag and chill 2 hours.

Roll pastry out on a lightly floured surface and place in an 11-inch removable bottom tart pan. Cover with parchment paper and pie weights and bake in the bottom of a preheated 425-degree oven 10 minutes. Carefully remove the paper and weights and return to oven for 1 minute. Cool.

FILLING

2 large lemons

2 large limes

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

4 large eggs

3 tablespoons heavy cream

Garnish: Sweetened whipped cream and thinly sliced lemon and lime

Zest lemons and lime and juice them. In an electric mixer, beat together the butter, sugar and eggs until light and fluffy. Mix in the cream, zest and juices.

Pour into the prepared shell and bake in the bottom one-third of a preheated 350-degree oven 30 to 35 minutes or until puffed and golden. Cool and chill until ready to serve. Garnish with whipped cream and sliced lemon and lime. Makes 1 11-inch tart.

Contact Marilyn Harris by mail: c/o Cincinnati Enquirer, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati 45202; e-mail: marilyn@55krc.com.




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