Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Lemon Tart and the Darkest Day of the Year

December 21 is Solstice.  I never thought about this date until I moved to Alaska.
Winter solstice is the shortest day of the year.  If you check the very bottom of each post, it tells you that day's daylight, a big deal when you have about 3 hours of it and most of that time the sun is coming up or going down, so not really bright.  We all look forward to December 23 when we actually start gaining daylight, about 1 minute to begin with, but it is a gain.
Because it is so dark and cold, we have to do something to keep our spirits up.  I decided what better way than to make (and eat) a tart, a sunny lemon curd tart.  It is full of vitamin C, is a beautiful sunny color and even though he lives in California now it will help us celebrate our son Tom's birthday.
Happy Birthday Tom.

Lemon Tart
Adapted from Ina Garten, Barefoot in Paris

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
6 tbsp. cold unsalted butter
2 tbsp. cold crisco
1/4 cup ice water
2 tbsp. vodka

Combine flour, sugar and salt in a bowl and place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.  Put the flour mixture in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Add the butter and Crisco and pulse about 10 times until the butter is in small bits.  Add the vodka to the ice water, add to the flour mixture and process until the dough comes together.  Dump on a well-floured board and form into a disc.  Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375º F.

Roll out the dough and fit into a 9 inch tart pan with removable sides. Don't stretch the dough when placing in the pan or it will shrink during baking.  Cut off the excess by rolling the pin across the top of the pan.  Line the tart shell with a piece of aluminum foil, and fill it with dried beans or rice.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Remove the beans and the foil and prick the bottom of the shell all over with a fork to allow steam to escape.  Bake for another 15-20 minutes, until lightly browned.  Set aside to cool.

Lemon Curd
1/2 cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
4 extra large eggs
4 large lemons
1/8 tsp. salt

Wash and zest lemons (I use a microplane but if you are careful to not get the white pith you can use a vegetable peeler), juice lemons, you need 1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice.
Cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer for 1 minute.  On low, add eggs one at a time, add salt, lemon zest and lemon juice.  It will look curdled.
Pour mixture into a small saucepan and cook over medium low heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until thick, stirring constantly with a spoon.  Whisk briskly when it starts to thicken and cook over low heat for a minute or two.  Don't allow to boil.  It will be 175º F on an instant read thermometer.  Pour into a bowl to cool.

When cooled, pour into cooled shell.  Refrigerate.

To serve top with sweetened whipped cream and garnish with lemon zest.  Think of the sun.

December 21, 2011       Daylight  3 hours,   41 minutes,  34 seconds       Current Temp   6º F

1 comment:

  1. When Adam was a boy his family lived in Denmark and he remembers the winter days that never got brighter than a soft twilight. Of course the flip side was getting the endless summer days when it never really got dark, and he considered that a fair trade. Seems to us that lemon curd tart with it's bright flavors and summery tartness is perfect fort the darkest day of the year!


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