In 2 days, 3 hours, and 15 minutes I will be sitting on the beach with a margarita in one hand and a bowl of guacamole and chips in the other. I've never been to Costa Rica, and I don't even know if they eat guacamole and chips, but it seems a little sexier than imagining a big ol' bowl of rice and beans.
Last week I spent a ridiculous amount of money on two bathing suits (why do they always cost so much, when they are so little fabric???) A floral summery dress for my cousins wedding, two tank-tops, a cover-up, and a bottle of anti-frizz shampoo, not that I have frizzy hair or anything, it just seemed appropriate. In retrospect, I probably should have bought that $30 bottle of sunscreen sitting right beside that expensive bottle of shampoo, because often times, the good sunscreen is hard to find.
Have I ever told you about that time I spent 6 months in South East Asia, where I developed a sun-sensitivity from my Malaria medication? I practically spent that whole 6 months in search of a sunscreen that did not contain a skin whitening formula promising to dye my skin 2 shades lighter, which is generally the opposite effect that I am after. I'm not even sure these products had any Asian FDA-equivalent approval. So who really knows what you are purchasing when you buy a bottle of skin whitener? Is it bleach? I relied on big floppy sun hats and long sleeve shirts until I said screw-it, and went off my Malaria medication. I am looking forward to the day that sunscreen will be administered in pill form, because dang, that stuff is really messing with our environment.
This week has been full of preparations. In between checking the weather every hour, packing, unpacking, and re-packing my suitcase, I'm either nervous or excited or both, I've also planned a few posts for when I'm gone. Regardless, I am acting like a crazy person this week, and I'm hoping the comatose-like properties of the sun will mellow me out.
At the beginning of this week, I bought a big bag of lemons. I've been juicing, zesting, and baking like no-nobodies business. Aran posted some gorgeous photos of lemons this week, and a recipe for curd and cake. I felt really inspired to make a batch of curd, but seeing as we are leaving for a week, I thought some small tartlets to be more fitting. But then I remembered that time, 3 years ago, when I tried to make lemon tartlets for Brent because this was and is his favorite dessert. It proved that tart making was not my forte, and the resulting tarts ended up on the floor after I tripped and fell. It was dramatic and tragic. It was one of the first recipes that I attempted to put on the blog back in its very early days. Up until a few months ago, when I stumbled upon this recipe, lemon tart making, was merely something that I did once, in the past.
Before I had any inkling of David Lebovitz or Deb Perelman, when my recipe collection consisted of a small box of scratchy handwritten cue cards on top of the fridge - I found this pastry recipe online. It turns out that my instincts were right, and I would later learn that David, is in fact, an expert in tart pastry.
This recipe is so easy and straightforward. It's the first tart recipe that I actually executed with confidence. I have kept it in my recipe collection, and it seems to be the one that I go back to, often. If you jump down to the bottom of this post and take a look at the recipe, at first, it seems a bit peculiar, placing butter, oil, sugar, salt, and water in a bowl and then cooking it in the oven for 15 minutes. The mixture then popping and sputtering, like a deadly weapon.
The butter produces a wonderfully aromatic beurre noisette. Once the flour is added in, the dough becomes a warm soft mass, easy manipulated in the tart pans. I love this recipe for is straightforwardness, the little time it takes to prepare, and the stress-free nature of it all. It is such an approachable dough recipe, and the results are a flavorful, flaky, and buttery crust, every time.
I've spent years trying to come up with a lemon curd recipe that retains a lot of the original citrus flavors after cooking. One that holds up that perfectly gelatinous shape once set. And one that tastes the least 'eggy" once cooked. Each time I attempt it, the curd either sets perfectly, but retains only a subtle lemon flavor, or comes out too eggy. I saw this recipe on Gourmet by Rosa Jackson, and the pictures were absolutely perfect, everything that I was looking for, without having to turn to the Shirriff lemon pie filling we used when I was a kid. Although, I am actually tempted to give it a try for comparison's sake - I do remember loving those little lemon tarts as a kid.
I changed Rosa's recipe only slightly. I suggested using 4 lemons instead of 3, because no matter the size, I could not seem to get 3/4 cups of lemon juice from 3 lemons. I made the curd, filled the tarts, and then got really impatient and ate one before it set. I recommend letting it set for the full 2 hours so that the curd forms a wonderful shape in the tart. It's worth it. The tarts are the right amount of sweet and the right amount of tart. They are light and fresh. The tart crust is thin and flaky, and each crumble get lost in a sea of bright yellow curd. The addition of olive oil adds a wonderful fruity flavor. I can't recommend them highly enough. Hip hip for lemon tarts and Spring! See you in a few weeks.
LEMON TARTLETS WITH OLIVE OIL
crust recipe adapted from
makes 6 tartlets
3 ounces (6 tbsp) unsalted butter
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp water
1 tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
5 oz (1 cup) all purpose flour
4 lemons (3/4 cups juice)
1 tbsp lemon zest
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp corn starch
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2 oz (4 tbsp) unsalted butter, cubed
2 tbsp good quality (fruity) olive oil
Preheat the oven to 410ºF.
In an oven-safe bowl, add the butter, vegetable oil, water, sugar, and salt. Give it a quick stir to disperse the sugar, then place the bowl in the oven for 15 minutes. Carefully remove the bowl from the oven, noting that the mixture may pop and sputter a bit. Add the flour and stir until the mixture comes together and begins to form a solid mass.
When the dough is cool enough to handle, divide into 6 equal size portions (I like to measure for accuracy) and place into 6 - 4.75" round tart pans. Start in the center of each tart pan and press the dough flat, working your way up the sides, ensuring that the tart shell has an even thickness.
Prick the tarts a few times with a fork before placing onto a baking sheet and then in the oven. Bake for 15 min, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool before filling. Can be made the day before and kept on the counter at room temperature, covered with a towel.
To make the filling, add the zest from 1 lemon (roughly 1 tbsp), the juice from 4 lemons (3/4 cup), granulated sugar, corn starch, 2 eggs plus 2 yolks into a medium saucepan. Stir with a whisk to combine. Place on medium heat and bring to a boil stirring continuously with a whisk. Once it begins to boil, continue cooking and whisking for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter and olive oil. Pour the filling into the tart shells, 1/4 inch from the top. Chill in the fridge for 2 hours until set. May be stored in the fridge covered for 2 - 3 days.