Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Near Disaster, But Delectable Outcome: Lemon Curd Tartlets

Well, let me FIRST say this recipe is a whole lot dreamier- tasting than it looks in my photo... The lemon curd is rich and creamy and everything I want in my mouth for a summer treat. My pecan tart shells had a rough go as tartlet shells..the dough would've made exquisite linzer cookies, but as an actual shell,
they were a bit too fragile. So, when it came time to actually spoon the curd into the shell, I was breaking sweats trying with all my gentleness to keep the tart shells in tact. Despite my efforts, many tart shells ended up being
fatalities. Able to savage but a few for a photo, I later realized that if you avoid over baking the tart shells, they should remain in tact and should be free from crumblage. During the baking process, I somehow allowed them to get a little too brown in the oven, hence, the over-doneness created a much more crumbly tart shell. The flavor of the tart shell with the pecans is really mouthwatering, but the texture does need some tweeking; next time, a Tbsp or so of whip cream should be added to hold the dough together. Clear as mud??

Moving on from the whole shell thing, this was my first attempt at making lemon curd. I don't think it was my first time eating the stuff, but I knew months ago that me and lemon curd would have a connection, a strong one. And a connection that will keep me coming back to its thick and sweet splendor.

I took the liberty of using Martha Stewart's recipe: it's an easy and non-intimidating process. You may switch the lemons out for limes, oranges, grapefruits, or raspberries. A caveat: do NOT neglect to strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve- you might end up with scrambled egg chunkies if you don't strain. Sick.

Lemon Curd

3 large egg yolks
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, (2 lemons)
6 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces

Combine yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar in a small saucepan. Whisk to combine. Set over medium heat, and stir constantly with a wooden spoon, making sure to stir sides and bottom of pan. Cook until mixture is thick enough to coat back of wooden spoon, 5 to 7 minutes.
Remove saucepan from heat. Add the butter, one piece at a time, stirring with the wooden spoon until consistency is smooth. Strain into another bowl through a fine mesh sieve.
Lay a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd to avoid a skin from forming; wrap tightly. Let cool; refrigerate until firm and chilled, at least 1 hour. Store, refrigerated in an airtight container, up to 2 days.

& The Pecan Tart Shells

1 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

Mix the butter and sugar until creamy and smooth. Add vanilla. Combine the flour and salt in a seperate bowl, and add to creamed mixture. Stir in pecans. Press into 2 1/2-inch tartlet pans (I used diamond and flower shapes). Bake at 375 until just done (about 20 minutes).

& Final Assembly

Once you've removed the tart shells from their pans (let them cool for just a few minutes in the tartlet pans), gently spoon a generous amount of chilled curd into them. Garnish with either whipped cream dollops or mereingue. Refrigerate leftovers (they last for about 2-3 days before getting funky).

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