This birthday party dessert was one of several inspired by Martha Stewart’s Entertaining. Unfortunately, after the disaster that befell my attempt at Martha’s Croquembouche, largely a result of what appeared to be an untested (or at least not-for-the-new-cook-on-the-block) recipe, I decided to use the book as a source of ideas instead of an actual cookbook.
Martha’s Lemon Curd Tartlets looked like perfect desserts, especially since I’d be serving two chocolatey/cakey desserts alongside them. I like to have a variety of tastes and textures, and these tartlets gave me fruity, tangy, pastry, and light all at once.
I hopped on the good ol’ food blog network to find a replacement for the recipe and ended up relying on two of my favorite resources for desserts: Smitten Kitchen and David Lebovitz. Smitten provided the tart crust and David, the lemon curd.
Both were intended for a single full-sized tart, so I did have to adapt slightly. The recipes are largely unchanged, though, since they are both simple and worked perfectly for me.
A few notes: I doubled both recipes and my changes to the process are in the instructions. The dough is REALLY sandy, not at all like bread or pizza or pie or anything dough–worry not. It looks like this in the bowl:
…and then like this once you take your hands to it:
As for actually molding these tiny tarts…oy vey. I was planning to pick up some adorable mini-tart pans from the greatest kitchen store ever (in Cambrige/Somerville, at least), China Fair. But I procrastinated until the day of the party, and I found out the hard way that the owners must be Jewish, since the store was closed in observation of Rosh Hashana. No wonder they weren’t answering their phones! After a bike-sprint to the dollar store, Pier One, TAGS (hardware/everything store), and Shaw’s, I came home with a few of those temporary tinfoil muffin trays instead of nice tartlet pans. So be it! We’re flexible. Just make sure you have enough trays/tins to make all of your tart shells at once, or you’re going to have to go through the whole freezing and baking process twice (you’ll see).
Last but not least, I would recommend making the lemon curd the day before, if possible, so it has time to really come together in the fridge. The leftover curd the next day was *amazing.*
OH! And I only have a few pictures because I was so frantically getting ready for the party that my camera took a backseat to having food on the table! For now, check out this awesome mountain of grated butter…
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks plus 2 Tbsp unsalted butter (18 Tbsp), frozen
2 egg yolks
1. Grate your butter. It’s the best way to make really easily incorporated pieces! But it needs to be frozen for this to work.
2. Add your flour, sugar, and salt to a food processor, then grated butter on top. Process in 3 or 4 short pulses (maybe 2 seconds each), until the butter is in oatmeal-sized pieces. Break your yolks in a separate bowl, then add to processor and pulse until the dough suddenly changes texture (you’ll see it and the processor will sound different).
3. Turn the dough onto a clean work surface. It will be VERY sandy (see picture above). Just combine it with your hands–your body heat will melt the butter enough to make it stick together–until the dry ingredients are incorporated. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 2 hours.
4. After dough has been chilled, you can try rolling it out into a nice piece if you want (I think Smitten had better luck when she used a whole egg instead of just a yolk). I just picked up pieces of the dough and gently pressed them into a tartlet shape in the bottom of my (BUTTERED) muffin tins, making sure to create a small “lip” so that the curd could sit in the tart. Don’t press so hard that they appear shiny, or they’ll burn. Freeze the muffin tins for 30 minutes.
5. Just before tins are ready to come out, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter the shiny side of enough aluminum foil to cover the tins. Remove the tins from the freezer and press the foil, butter-side-down, into the tins so that the dough is covered on both sides. Bake for about 10-12 minutes.
6. Remove the tinfoil and press down any puffed-up crust with a fork. If they aren’t golden brown yet, give them another couple of minutes. When finished, gently remove from tins (a fork is helpful here) and let cool completely before adding curd.
Adapted from David Lebovitz’s Tarte au citron
Makes enough for 30+ tartlets
1 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice
Grated zest of 2 lemons, washed first
1 cup sugar
12 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 egg yolks
Blackberries or raspberries (optional)
1. In a heavy, non-reactive saucepan, heat the lemon juice, zest, sugar, and butter.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and yolks.
3. When the butter has melted, dribble some of the warm mixture into the egg yolks, stirring constantly, until about 1/3 is incorporated. Pour everything back into the saucepan and return to low heat. Stir constantly until the mixture thickens and just barely begins to boil around the edges.
4. Pour the curd through a mesh strainer into a clean bowl. Chill for a few hours, if possible. No more than an hour or two before serving, spoon the curd into the tart shells. Decorate with a single blackberry or raspberry if desired.