You might remember a couple of months ago I wrote about little pots of lemon cream, rather seductive little puddings made from mascarpone (the extremely nice triple cream cheese from Italy), eggs, sugar and lemon. The ones that taste somewhere in-between the soft quivering center of a classic tarte au citron and a very good, very creamy, baked lemon cheesecake.
I’m extremely fond of these little pots just as they are, but I have to admit that for years now I’ve fancied this luscious lemon cream in a tart, a thick, fat layer of it on thin base of delicate and buttery pastry.
Just one problem! Tarts, as we all know, involve pastry and I don’t, if at all possible, involve myself or get involved with pastry (the making of it that is, eating it is another matter entirely and one in which I’m very involved.) I suffer from pastry making anxiety you see, the conseqence of various pastry traumas; dry, cracked, shruken, heavy and leaden, heartburn inducing ones; wet, damp, soggy, cloggy indigestion inducing ones . Despite lots of wonderful advice, I still practice heavy avoidance techniques where pastry is concerned. The mere sight of the words… pate…brisee…sucrèe…rich or shortcrust will still see me hastily turning the page.
Well they did, it did, I did, until 3 weeks ago, when I decided enough was enough. I gathered together the ingredients for the lemon cream and called upon my clever friend for moral support, a sweet pastry recipe and triple advice. Then rather like a certain afternoon about 25 years ago, after months of trepidation, hovering, perched on the edge and the inevitable sheepish, shivering retreats back down the ladder, I scrambled up to the second highest diving board, marched to the end and flung myself with abandon into the deep end of St Alban’s swimming pool.
The recipe my friend suggested turned out to be from a book I had on my shelf, Made in Italy, a book I like very much but whose entire dessert chapter I’d dismissed as too restauranty and fussy. A recipe chapter which includes, of all things -my clever clever friend – a rather delicious sounding lemon and mascarpone tart, the filling of which was pretty much identical to my (oops, Nigella’s) lemon cream.
A little bit of recipe serendipity.
So, first the pastry, which Giorgio reassures us is ‘a very good, very easy sweet pastry that isn’t difficult to work with and won’t break if you roll it‘. He is right you know, even in my doomed pastry hands, I’d say it’s a bloody marvelous pastry. I was anxious to start, knowing another failure could nudge my pastry anxiety into pastry phobia, but once I got going; beating the butter and sugar adding the eggs and flour; bringing everything into a ball with cold hands and it feeling as reassuring as play dough, not too sticky not too dry; rolling it out without the dreaded cracks; lifting it into the tin without a shaggy tear, baking it blind and watching it turn golden brown, it was as nearly as exciting as flinging myself into the deep end! Ok, not quite as exhilarating but certainly as satisfying in a ‘what on earth have I been waiting for, just look what I did’ kind of way.
Making the filling, mixing the mascarpone, cream, milk, sugar, lemon and then whisking in the eggs yolks felt familiar and comfortable after all my lemon cream practice. Pouring this disconcertingly liquid mixture into the tart case is a little nerve-wracking as is the instruction ‘cook till the center is set but still the slightest bit wobbly’ suggesting a crucial moment you need to catch, rather like a ball. I needn’t have worried about either, my pouring hand was surprisingly steady and the tart was set but still wobbly (a nudge of the tin ascertained this) after the suggested 30 minutes.
So, the tart, which I have made three times now – I thought I should before I started enthusing and prothlesizing about it here – is as lovely as I hoped it would be. The pastry is delicate and buttery, the pale yellow filling soft and creamy, sharpened and lifted by a lip puckering tartness of the lemon. I like the intense satiny lemoniness of it all, the way it trembles and wobbles ever so slightly as you cut a slice
I’m sorry I didn’t get a picture of the whole tart, but in the rush and tumble of an afternoons cooking and a messy rabble of friends for supper photo’s were forgotten. It was pretty – a little bit wonky but most things I make are a little bit wonky – and it was a good end to a supper of spinach and ricotta lasagna followed by thin slices of rare roast beef with potatoes.
The pictures here are the morning after the night before, Sunday at about midday when we had a sweet second breakfast of the last three slices with more coffee. I know the tart looks rumpled (rather like us, we’d all had a big night) the icing sugar has dissolved away, cracks have appeared like they do, but you get the idea I hope. I think it was actually more delicious the morning after.
Last things, these instructions look quite complicated and long-winded, they’re not really, just heavy on the pastry and blind baking advice which I for one really appreciated. Once you have made and blind baked the pastry it’s all very straightforward, probably a breeze for you seasoned tart makers.
Lemon and mascarpone tart
From Giorgio Locatelli’s Made in Italy
For the pastry.
This will make a double quantity, enough for 2 tarts but apparently a larger volume mixes better and you can freeze the other half.
- 220g grams butter
- 150g icing sugar
- 2 medium-sized eggs
- 450g plain flour (Italian 00 is perfect but not necessary any plain flour will do)
- another 2 egg yolks to glaze tart
For the filling
- 300g mascarpone cheese
- 50ml whipping cream
- 50ml whole milk
- zest of two large unwaxed lemons
- 100ml lemon juice
- 100g caster sugar
- 120g egg yolks
- icing sugar, to finish
You need a 28″ non stick tart tin, loose based is really best.
First make the pastry;
Food prosessor method; Put the butter in the food mixer with a paddle and whiz until soft. Add the sugar and keep mixing until the mixture is pale and very creamy. Add the eggs and then whiz again until they are incorporated. then add the flour. Continue to mix until the flour is incorporated and you have a neat ball of dough. Divide into 2 balls and put one in the fridge or freezer for another day
By hand method; Leave the butter out of the fridge for a few hours so it is nice and soft. Beat the soft butter with a wooden spoon in a large bowl until it is creamy and then add the sugar. Keep beating and stirring with the wooden spoon until you have a soft fluffy, mixture. Add the eggs and beat until they are incorporated. Gradually add the flour and first using the spoon and then your (cold) hands bring the mixture into a ball. Divide into 2 balls and put one in the fridge or freezer for another day.
Preheat the oven to 170°Roll out one of the balls of the pastry into a large circle on a well floured surface – use the tart tin in as rough template, the circle should be large enough that the pastry will hang over the edges of the tin by about 1 cm and can be easily lifted out
If it is non stick, butter and flour the inside of the tin. Carefully lower the pastry into the ring, press it down gently, making sure it fits into the corners. Line the pastry case with circle of greaseproof paper and weight it down with dried or baking beans.
Bake the case for 5 minutes then take it out of the oven, remove the beans and the paper and put it back in the oven for 10-12 minutes until golden.
Take the tart out of the oven and while it is still hot brush it with the beaten egg yolk. Put the case back the oven for another 2 minutes. This forms a skin so even if there are tiny holes the filling won’t seep through and burn.
Allow the tart to cool a little then very gently cut off the overhang with a serrated knife. Set the tart case aside, lower the oven to 150°C while you…
Make the filling
Mix together the mascarpone, cream, milk, lemon juice and sugar in a bowl. Whisk the egg yolks separately then add to the mascarpone mixture and incorporate quickly with a hand blender.
Very carefully pour the mixture into the tart case and then carefully slide it onto the middle shelf of the oven for 30 minutes until the center is set but still the slightest bit wobbly. Leave to cool by which time the topping will have firmed up.
Dust with icing sugar
A day after posting this Wonderful Jordan noticed that I had omitted the rather key word Flour from the ingredients list and I then realised I had also written the wrong measure of flour – unforgivable really. I’ve now amended the recipe so it is proper and correct, 450g plain flour (Italian 00 is perfect but not necessary.) I do hope nobody tried this with the old measurements beacause I will have given you serious pastry trauma. Sorry, I will be more attentive in future.