Sunday, May 29, 2011

Shaker Lemon Tart

shaker lemon tart

What the heck is a Shaker Lemon tart?

Apart from a recipe I’ve had on my “to bake” list for quite some time, it’s an ingenious culinary creation by the Shakers. Essentially, the raw ingredients for lemon curd are placed into a pie shell, leaving the oven to do the work! Yes, that’s right, the thrifty bunch use whole lemons in this pie, not even wanting to waste the skin.

I had two gorgeous Meyer lemons from my tree Sparky and I wanted to do something special with them. Meyer lemons have thinner skin and are slightly sweeter than regular lemons. And since I knew they were organically grown and unsprayed, I thought they would be perfect in this tart that used the whole fruit. The recipe itself differs from more traditional ones, as it’s an open tart and not a proper pie, but I was quite taken by the beautiful photo with the lovely lemon slices on top.

Putting the tart together was really easy – just slice the lemons (which is easier if the lemons have been refrigerated prior) and place them into a large bowl with the sugar and vanilla. Make sure you don’t use an aluminium bowl as it will give the filling a metallic taste. The lemons macerate in the sugar overnight, and then the next day it’s simply a matter of separating the slices from the filling, mixing in a few eggs and pouring it into a prepared tart tin and baking!

I have to say, it’s kind of an acquired taste. As a lemon lover, I enjoyed the sweet-tart nature of it. The lemon slices give the filling a marmalade-y kind of texture. If you use regular lemons (rather than the Meyer lemons I used) you might want to add an additional ¼ cup of sugar to the mixture. Happy Baking!

shaker lemon tart

Shaker Lemon Tart
Serves 6
Adapted from Delicious

Note: Start this recipe a day ahead

• 2 large lemons (I used Meyer lemons)
• 2 cups caster sugar
• 1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
• 4 eggs, beaten
• Icing sugar, to dust

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry
• 2 cups plain flour
• 3 tablespoons caster sugar
• 150g cold butter, chopped
• 2-3 tablespoons iced water

Cut the lemons into wafer-thin slices (a mandoline is ideal, it’s easier to cut them if they have been refrigerated prior), then carefully remove any seeds. Place the lemon slices in a glass bowl with the sugar and vanilla pod and seeds. Toss gently to coat the lemon in the sugar, then cover with plastic wrap and stand at room temperature overnight.

The next day, gently stir to dissolve as much of the sugar as possible without breaking up the lemons.

In the meantime, for the pastry, process flour, sugar and butter in a food processor until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. While the motor is running, add enough iced water to form a smooth dough and process until just combined. Knead the dough lightly, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface or between sheets of non-stick baking paper until 2-3mm thick and line a tart tin. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) and place a piece of non-stick baking paper over the pastry. Fill with baking weights or uncooked rice. Bake for 10 minutes, remove the weights and bake for a further 10 minutes or until the pastry is golden. Allow to cool.

Meanwhile, strain the lemon mixture into a bowl, reserving the slices. Discard the vanilla pod. Beat eggs into the mixture until just combined, taking care not to overbeat. Pour into the prepared pastry case and arrange the lemon slices on top in a decorative pattern, then bake for 15 minutes. Bake for 20 minutes, reduce oven to 160°C (320°F) and cook for a further 15 minutes until filling is set and the lemon starts to caramelise. Cool slightly in the pans, then remove, dust with icing sugar and serve warm with crème fraiche.

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