At this time of year we start to have a problem, its still too hot for all the glorious wintertime comfort desserts and yet we are at the end of the summer berry harvest. Thankfully we have citrus to carry us through.
This recipe is an absolute classic and to be honest is one of those dishes that chefs judge each other on. Not because it is so hard to do because it isn’t, but because it is so simple. Any idiot can do complicated but it takes skill to keep it simple.
I know that sounds like a contradiction but it really isn’t. Keeping it simple means that everything has to be spot on, the lemons straight from the tree. Then comes the cooking, don’t cook it until it is set or it will crack on the surface but until it looks like it is almost set when you gently wobble the tray. Now rather than take it out of the oven just leave the door open and turn it off, allowing the tart to cool where it is. The perfect time to eat classic lemon tart is when it has just reached room temperature and can barely hold its shape.
Sweet Pastry (Pâté Sucrée)
(enough for 2 x 23cm tins)
350g plain flour *
80g icing sugar
150g softened unsalted butter
2 egg yolks
2 – 4 tbsp water or milk
Seeds of one vanilla pod and grated zest of a lemon
* For chocolate pastry, replace 100g flour with 100g cocoa powder
Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until it forms a firm dough. Then turn out and knead lightly before placing in a polythene bag and leaving in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.
Preheat oven to 200˚C and place a solid baking sheet inside as well to preheat. Roll out pastry as thinly as possible and carefully line the flan tin. Prick the base with a fork (or use baking beans) and brush all over with beaten egg white. Bake on the baking sheet on the middle shelf for 20 minutes. Once cooled, the pastry case can be brushed with melted chocolate to stop it going soggy from the filling.
Lemon or Orange Tart
Serves 8 – 10
1 Sweet Pastry case (see above)
175g caster sugar
Zest of 6 unwaxed lemons or 3 oranges
275ml lemon or orange juice
Grate the zest of six lemons (or oranges) and squeeze enough juice to give 275ml. Now break the eggs into a bowl, add the sugar and whisk to combine, but don’t overdo it or the eggs will thicken. Next pour in the lemon juice and zest, followed by the cream and whisk lightly. Pour into the cooled blind baked pastry case and bake at 180˚C for about 30 minutes or until the tart is just set and feels springy in the centre.
Dessert wines are always a bit tricky; why not try a late harvest Sauvignon Blanc. I had one from Allan Scott in Marlborough recently and loved it.