One of my favorite spring and summer desserts is a lemon tart with berries and whipped cream. This is one of those pastries where everything melds into the perfect balance of flavors and textures — the lemon’s tartness nicely contrasts the sweetness of the berries and the luscious cream ties it all together. If you have Meyer lemons, so much the better as they are sweeter and have a more complex citrus flavor then the standard variety.
Lemon tart with berries is also the ideal dessert for anyone wishing to make a dish from local and seasonal ingredients. Strawberries, raspberries and blackberries are popping up in markets and backyards throughout the area. Meyer lemons are also in abundance right now. You can find them at most farmers’ markets, and maybe even closer by in a neighbor’s yard (or your own) as they grow beautifully in the Bay Area. If you don’t have your own tree, but have seen one at someone else’s house, I bet they’d share if you asked nicely and promised to bring over a nice slice of tart.
I’ve tried numerous lemon custard recipes, but my favorite is the Tarte au Citron recipe in the Bouchon cookbook by Thomas Keller. And, as luck would have it, this recipe is freely available at Epicurious.com, so you don’t have to buy the book to get it (although if you’re in the market for a gorgeous book full of amazing recipes, I recommend it). I love Mr. Keller’s lemon sabayon because the consistency lies beautifully in the tart crust, it isn’t too eggy and the lemon flavor really shines through. Also, don’t let the fact that you need to cook the custard in a bowl over a pot of simmering water dissuade you. This is not hard to make.
The Bouchon recipe calls for a pine nut crust, which I have made in the past and liked. That said, I prefer to make a regular butter crust for my tart as I think the lemon and berry flavors are interesting enough on their own and don’t necessarily need a nutty component.
This is a great dessert to prepare ahead of time and then serve chilled. Topped with some berries that have macerated in a bit of sugar and lemon juice, along with a dollop of freshly-made whipped cream, you have the perfect seasonal dessert.
from Bouchon by Thomas Keller
Makes: Enough for one tart
2 large eggs, cold
2 large egg yolks, cold
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
For preparation instructions, go to Lemon Tart recipe at Epicurious.com
Sweet Berries with Lemon and Sugar
Makes: Enough berries to garnish each tart slice
2 cups berries, washed and stemmed
¼ cup sugar
1 Tbsp lemon juice (preferably Meyer lemon)
1. Wash and hull berries. If using strawberries, cut into slices.
2. Place berries in a bowl and mix in sugar and lemon. Stir and set aside for at least ten minutes.
3. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Flaky Pie or Tart Dough
Adapted from a recipe by Kim Laidlaw
Makes: Enough for one 10-inch tart
1 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
6 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/4 cup ice water + 1 tablespoon
1. To make the crust, in the bowl of a food processor, stir together the flour, and salt. Sprinkle the butter over the top and process for a few seconds, or just until the butter is slightly broken up into the flour but still in visible pieces. Sprinkle the water over the flour mixture evenly, then process until the mixture just starts to come together.
2. Dump the mixture out of the bowl onto 2 large sheets of plastic wrap. Press the dough together into a mound and then wrap with plastic and press into a flat disk. Refrigerate the dough until chilled, about 30 minutes or up to 1 day, or freeze for up to 1 month.