Today's TWD recipe was chosen by Babette of Babette Feasts. Last week was crazy around here (thank you for your nice comments on my last post, BTW), and we were lucky enough to have some amazing family and friends who helped us through the craziness by watching our kids, chauffeuring our kids, and completely stocking our fridge with food. Thanks to their kindness and generosity, I have not cooked or baked a thing in over a week, except for anadama bread (which I know sounds weird unless you are a baker, then it sounds perfectly normal.) It will probably be another week before I am back in full cooking/baking/blogging mode (but boy, there is no slowing me down on Twitter!), but I made this lemon tart before things got really nuts, so I figure I might as well post it.
Sometimes I feel like I get good end results with things, but my process is really, really painful to watch. For example, back in law school my friend Cara and I returned to school in late August one year and decided on a whim to sign up for the Richmond Marathon in mid-October. We were both casual, 3 miles-four-or-five times a week kind of runners at the time. But we started adding mileage during the week and doing a long run on weekends. On a typical Friday during training we might run 18 miles, come back, order a meat lover's pizza with a side of cheesy bread, pour some wine, and then clean up to go out and live unhealthily for the next 6 hours. We finished the marathon, which I completely attribute to the power of youth -- if I tried such a thing now I would suffer the same fate as Pheidippides, but well before the 26.2 mile mark. But at the time, my then-boyfriend, now-husband David kind of shook his head and said that after watching our training regimen he could no longer feel the same kind of reverence that he once did for the accomplishment of completing a marathon. I know that I would have done my fellow marathon completers a favor by just surprising David at the finish line without making him watch such an ugly 6-week training process.
Well, now that I am baking, I can't even tell you how many times I've wished that David did not have to see what went on in the kitchen en route to (mostly) great end results. Sometimes it would be nice to just be able to pull a fine dessert out of thin air for my sweet hubs to enjoy without him having to witness the spills and explosions, the profanity, the injuries, the verbalized self-doubt, and the equipment malfunction that invariably accompany my baking.
This lemon tart is a prime example. The tart calls for Dorie's sweet tart dough with nuts. That came together fine, but then I had to prebake it, which seemed easy enough in theory. But it seemed completely raw on the bottom after the prebake time elapsed. I tried to talk it out: "this looks raw. Is this supposed to look like this? David, does this look VERY underdone to you? Well, I guess the edges are kind of baked. Didn't I do this before? I don't remember it looking this underbaked last time. Or was that the pie crust? Should I just stick it back in the oven?"
I finally decided to just prepare the filling, proceed with the recipe, and hope that the crust would bake up properly in the end. The filling was fun and easy to prepare - it contains whole lemons! I understand that there was a lot of concern on the P&Q about the piths making the tart bitter, but for me the ease of throwing a couple of lemons in the food processor without peeling, zesting, or squeezing was just too irresistible, and I never considered doing anything else.
Once the lemon filling was done, I filled the tart and stuck it in the oven, where it was in grave danger of overflowing. Then it baked, and baked, and baked, but the filling didn't seem like it was setting up properly. More chatter to poor David: "This is so not setting. But it is really getting brown on top. Ugh! Do you think our oven temperature is off? I really don't think this oven has been heating right ever since David Beckham* (*our handyman, not real Becks, unfortch) broke that center glass panel when he came to take it apart after the shrimp incident. We really need to get him over here to get that replacement panel put in. Gosh, that is jiggly. I did call him, but you know it will be hell to get him out here if all we have for him to do is the glass panel. Don't we have something else that is broken around here? Do you think this will set up more in the fridge? I don't want it to get burned on top! Wow, it really smells good. Okay stand back - I'm taking it out."
Well, sure enough, after all that angst, the tart did set up nicely once I took it out of the oven. We had some friends over to watch the Kentucky Derby, and I served the tart then. Everyone really seemed to enjoy it. I did not find it bitter at all, did not get any complaints about bitterness from my guests, and didn't sense that anyone was holding out on me. I thought it was very rich, tart and lemony. Extremely lemony -- in my opinion whipped cream is imperative to neutralize all that lemony goodness; I would not consider whipped cream to be optional here. The next day David's mom came into town; she really loved the tart as well.
David himself was a big fan of this tart. Would he have been an even bigger fan if I did not psychologically exhaust him while making it? Possibly. One of these days I will effortlessly churn out these desserts, I just know it! Until then, we'll consider the turmoil of the process a small price to pay for the ultimate prize of such a fine lemon tart.
Thanks for the great pick, Babette!