I’ve just been watching actor Richard E. Grant, trawl through several villages in Provence, France, scouring tables at flea markets and antiques shops for little treasures. The show is called Dirty Weekenders in France and throughout he highlights the rustic simplicity of France and how even the most mundane, everyday objects are created with care and attention to aesthetics. Perhaps this is why I am such a Francophile. You travel to an area where rustic, peasant dishes are de rigeur, and find giant white plates on which they are served. A laundry pail is a thing of beauty. And don’t even get me started on the cubbyhole metal postman’s desks with the little stool that swings out on an arm – oh, what I would do for one of those.
Add to this perfection in objects (I lean towards their gorgeous copper kitchenware), the perfection of their “simple” food. To me a lovely tarte tatin or poulet roti or steak tartare, made with fresh ingredients and lots of love and care, is heaven. A classic tarte citron, or lemon tart, is the top of my dessert list and last week, when I was hired to cater a birthday dinner party, I thought lovely little individual tarts with just a hint of lime and a raspberry sauce would be very special indeed. I do believe a trip across the Channel is in order – too much daydreaming about all things French going on here these days!
I can think of no other dessert that would be lovelier sitting on your table this Easter Sunday. To me it screams Springtime! Granted, this recipe is a little bit of work – in and out of the fridge, the oven, and on and on. However, no one step is terribly difficult and you can break the tasks up into different days or parts of days if you like – walk away and revisit later. For example, I have leftover tart dough and raspberry coulis in my fridge. Today, I’m going to scrounge around in my cupboard, retrieve some different sized tart pans and see which one my leftover pastry might fit in and just make the lemon lime curd and I’ve got another tart (yes, I’m greedy). And while I made several 4 inch tarts, this recipe will make a single 9 inch tart.
You might want to double to coulis recipe as it’s delicious with just about everything, and if you have an abundance of lemon lime curd, it’s yummy slathered on crumpets or toast. Be patient with yourself and enjoy the process of creating something that’s both beautiful and delicious, a la Francaise.
Lemon Lime French Tart
For the Raspberry Coulis
4 oz fresh raspberries
1 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon cornstarch
In a food processor blend together the sugar and raspberries and puree until smooth. Place the mixture in a fine sieve over a heavy-bottomed saucepan and smash the berries through to remove the seeds. Bring the mixture to a simmer and add the cornstarch, whisking to make sure all of the lumps are worked out, and it’s starting to thicken, about one minute. Allow to cool and then place in a plastic squeeze bottle.
For the Lemon Lime Curd
3 eggs plus one egg yolk (keep white for tart shell baking below)
2/3 cup sugar
2 lemons, juiced, plus zest of one
3 limes, juiced, plus zest of one (you want to have about 2/3 cup of juice all together)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, yolk, and sugar until pale and frothy. Add the zests and juices and whisk some more. Transfer this mixture to a large saucepan and add the butter chunks, over medium low heat cook until the butter melts, stirring constantly. Just make certain your mixture doesn’t come to a boil, but continue to stir until thick and you can draw a line through the curd on your spoon and the line stays clean.
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
2 tablespoons chilled Crisco (vegetable shortening)
1/4 cup ice water
1 egg white (kept from curd above)
Combine the flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, and salt in your food processor. Add the butter and Crisco and pulse the machine until the mixture looks like pebbles. Now add the ice water and pulse until the dough comes together. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and form into a disc which you’ll wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Roll out your chilled dough on a lightly floured surface and place it in your tart pan, prick the bottom all over with a fork and chill again for 30 more minutes. Some tips for rolling out your pastry: flour your surfaces well and keep turning your disc of dough a quarter turn after a couple of rolls with your rolling pin. This ensures that it doesn’t stick to the counter and keeps it a nice round shape. Once at the desired thickness (not too thin, please!) and size, wrap the dough loosely around your rolling pin and then carefully unroll the dough over your tart pan, pressing it into place. Don’t stretch the dough at this point or it will shrink too much during the baking process! Once the dough is pressed into the shell, roll your rolling pin over the top of the tart pan to remove any excess dough and give you a nice clean edge.
Now place a piece of parchment paper over the dough and pie weights (I use dry beans) and cook for 15 minutes. Remove it from the oven, remove the parchment and weights and brush the bottom of the crust with an egg white. Bake again for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
Pour the lemon lime curd into the tart shell and using your squeeze bottle filled with raspberry coulis, dot coulis around the edge of the tart. Then drag a toothpick or skewer through the coulis dots in a circle, delicately, to get the little heart-shaped decoration running around the edge of the tart. Place the tart in the oven again and bake for 15 minutes more. Allow it to cool completely before serving. I like to garnish with fresh raspberries and a sprig of mint.