- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Come spring, and lemon tarts catch my fancy. I’m seduced by thick, luscious cream the color of daffodils. The tingly, tart and sweet taste of lemon juice wakes up my sluggish taste buds, and I’m dazzled.

Although I never tire of a lemon tart, I have to confess I rarely make the dessert twice the same way. I’m always tinkering with the basic formula, looking for new ways to enhance the combination of sugar, eggs and lemon juice. Much to my delight, I always find a marvelous new variation.

When making a lemon tart, you can choose from a few basic formulas. One popular choice for a lemon filling uses cornstarch and egg yolks. You will see this in most recipes for lemon meringue pie. The result is a very firm filling with a smooth, although not clean, lemon taste.

Another option is a combination of butter, sugar, egg yolks and lemon juice cooked to a slightly thickened custard, then baked in a flour crust. The lemon filling is rich and very smooth.

Or you can make a tart using lemon curd, an old-fashioned spread made of lemon, egg yolks, sugar and an obscene amount of butter. Cooking the combination results in a filling you can use as a cookie or cake filling or simply lick off a spoon, if you prefer. Lemon curd is the most intensely lemon flavored of the fillings, but it is a little too firm for a tart.

Taking parts from various recipes, I offer this season’s version of lemon tart: lemon curd cream tart. The dessert is lemon curd, lightened with sweetened whipped cream and spooned into a gingersnap crust.

This is a lovely dessert, easy to do and impossible to resist. The tart would also be excellent with a chocolate graham cracker crust — but maybe I’ll save that one for next year.

Lemon curd cream tart

Gingersnap crust (recipe follows)

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

1 cup sugar, divided

cup lemon juice

6 tablespoons butter, cut into small chunks

3/4 cup whipping cream

3 large strawberries

Prepare gingersnap crust. Set aside.

To make filling, beat eggs and egg yolks together in heavy-bottomed pan. Add 3/4 cup sugar and beat.

Add lemon juice and butter. Cook lemon mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly for 5 to 10 minutes or until thickened to the consistency of pudding.

Remove the curd from heat. If it’s lumpy, strain through a wire strainer. Place curd in a bowl and completely chill.

When curd is cold, combine remaining cup sugar with the whipping cream in a bowl and beat until stiff. Fold lemon curd into the whipped cream.

Gently spoon lemon mixture into the prepared tart crust. Chill 1 to 2 hours. Just before serving, wash strawberries and pat dry. Remove stems. Thinly slice berries lengthwise and arrange over the tart.

Makes 4 servings.

GINGERSNAP CRUST:

3/4 cup gingersnap crumbs, about 14 gingersnaps

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 tablespoon sugar

Combine gingersnap crumbs, butter and sugar in a bowl. Stir with a fork to dampen the crumbs. Pat crumbs on bottom and up sides of 7-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.

Place crust in 325-degree oven and bake for 10 minutes or until firm and slightly browned. Remove and completely cool.

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