Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Don't read this if you are scared of butter.

Remember how last week I told you I was super duper busy and stressed out? 

Well, I forgot to tell you that I sometimes watch the Cooking Network to help me relax.

 You know what really calms me down? Like, it puts me into an almost-comatose trance?

Watching butter and sugar cream in a Kitchenaid mixer.

(I know, is weird and a little bit embarrassing, but there it is.)

So, one day I was watching the Barefoot Contessa make a lemon curd tart, and I was like, 
yeah, I'm going to need one of those.

You see, I'd been wondering what to do with that entire tree full of ripe, juicy lemons I have in my yard, and now it all became clear: whip them with butter! 

Duh, right?

So I went to Fresh and Easy in my yoga pants (not just for yoga anymore) and bought three pounds of unsalted butter (only needed one plus a little more, but figured better safe than sorry), then left them out on the kitchen island, per Ina's strict instructions. She said it needed to be ROOM TEMPERATURE, and not just DEFROSTED. I mean, who am I, to question a Countess?

But my kids kept finding the warm butter, and sticking it back in the fridge. 

I'll bet La Contessa sin(o?) zapatos doesn't have this problem. I'll bet her grinny, giggly husband with the curly gray hair, and all her friends at the flower shop and the organic butcher, and her herb gardener who gets paid only in Mac and Cheese, and even the friends of friends for which she is always cooking pasta salad or paninis for lunches on the beach or on the sailboat, understand the value of soft butter.

It was very frustrating; but in the meantime, I was able to procure a nice tart dish at Ikea.

Finally I was ready. So I googled the recipe. But what did I find? That in the world of Lemon Curd, Ina might be the comtesse, but le roi is a man named Pierre Herme.  And if you want lemon curd that will make your eyes roll around in your head like loose marbles just before you lose control of your bladder and pass out on the floor in bliss, you want to make his. Since his recipe calls for adding the butter AFTER you cook the lemon/sugar/egg stuff, and blend it to create a sort of butter emulsion, the texture is remarkable.

The blogs were very positive about Ina's shortbread crust, though. Twice as much butter as regular pastry crust. Can't go wrong there.

So I set out on my own: I decided to tuck the Herme curd into the Countess' crust. Is a royal marriage like Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon's, or Charles and Di's. (Okay, this tart works way better than most royal unions.)

The results? Remarkable. I served the tart for breakfast at our book club overnight, with fresh berries and whipped cream. Is a very good way to start the day, but is unfortunately low in fiber.

(Is generic lemon curd tart image, not actual product. Who stops to take photos of delicious food when she could be eating it?)

You know what is even more remarkable? You wouldn't even know all that butter was in there, except that I already told you. You just think, 'MMMM', not 'BUTTERY'.

So you want one for yourself, don't you? 
Yes, I suspected you might.

So here is the Herme/Countess/Beeswax Lemon Curd Tart Recipe hybrid, for your eating pleasure:

Lemon Curd Directions:

1 cup sugar
Finely grated zest of 3 lemons (Beeswax note: I used 5 lemons. I like my tart very lemony, plus I have tiny slaves who zest things for me.)

4 large eggs
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 4 to 5 lemons) 

2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons (21 tablespoons; 10 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into tablespoon-sized pieces (
Beeswax note: I just scooped in a little at a time).
1 fully-baked 9-inch tart shell (
see recipe below.)


Getting ready: Have a thermometer, preferably an instant-read, a strainer and a blender (first choice) or food processor at the ready. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.

1. Put the sugar and zest in a large metal bowl that can be fitted into the pan of simmering water. Off heat, work the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic. Whisk in the eggs followed by the lemon juice.

2. Fit the bowl into the pan (make certain the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl) and cook, stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch. You want to cook the cream until it reaches 180°F. As you whisk the cream over heat—and you must whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling—you’ll see that the cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then, as the cream is getting closer to 180°F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks. Heads up at this point—the tracks mean the cream is almost ready. Don’t stop whisking and don’t stop checking the temperature. And have patience—depending on how much heat you’re giving the cream, getting to temp can take as long as 10 minutes. (Beeswax note: mine took only 4-5 minutes).

3. As soon as you reach 180°F, pull the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of a blender (or food processor); discard the zest. Let the cream rest at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until it cools to 140°F, about 10 minutes.

4. Turn the blender to high and, with the machine going, add about 5 pieces of butter at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed while you’re incorporating the butter. Once the butter is in, keep the machine going—to get the perfect light, airy texture of lemon-cream dreams, you must continue to beat the cream for another 3 minutes. If your machine protests and gets a bit too hot, work in 1-minute intervals, giving the machine a little rest between beats. (Beeswax note: My Bosch blender attachment didn't have any trouble.)

5. Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal and chill the cream for at least 4 hours or overnight. When you are ready to construct the tart, just whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell.

Serving: The tart should be served cold, because it is a particular pleasure to have the cold cream melt in your mouth. (Beeswax note: Re-chill the tart for a couple of hours after you pour it into the shell, but not too long before you serve it, or it could become soggy. I served it with whipped cream and assorted berries.)

Storing: While you can make the lemon cream ahead (it will keep in the frige for 4 days and in the freezer for up to 2 months), once the tart is constructed, it’s best to eat it the day it is made.

- makes 8 servings -
Adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan

Barefoot Contessa Tart Shell Directions:

  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • Pinch salt

Mix the butter and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Press the dough into a 10-inch-round or 9-inch-square false-bottom tart pan, making sure that the finished edge is flat. Chill until firm.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter 1 side of a square of aluminum foil to fit inside the chilled tart and place it, buttered side down, on the pastry. Fill with beans or rice. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and beans, prick the tart all over with the tines of a fork, and bake again for 20 to 25 minutes more, or until lightly browned. Allow to cool to room temperature. (Beeswax note: Don't cook this long or crust will become very hard. Don't cook until brown, just cooked.)

Good luck to you! Remember, lemon curd is great on toast (or scones), too!

Neighbors, if you need lemons, gimme a call. I'll totally hook you up!


Azúcar said...

You said 'lemon curd' and I just about lost my marbles. That's a tsunami of butter, and I salute you.

Kari said...

Is it possible that you've got yourself an Empire Red Kitchenaid whipping up your buttery goodness? You forgot to mention the glory and delight that step must have added to the mix as well.

cally said...

total intimidation. The word curd sounds dirty. But looks delicious.

I, too, am an Ina Garten watcher. Her Outrageous Brownies are...outrageous. I'd like to eat lunch with her.

Jolene said...

You had me at lemon curd.

Fiona said...

Butter.... love butter, naughty sexy butter. mmmm

corrie said...

I LOVE lemony things. My mouth is totally watering right now. I can even feel the little twinges of tart/sour lemon in my teeth. Wish I was in your book club.

Lisa said...

So, I'm not the only one who loves to watch the KitchenAid mixer go round 'n round 'n round...'n round..'n round...just ...thinking...about...it...is...making...me...fall...into...a...deep...sleep....zzzzzzzzz

Thanks for the awesome recipe! Can't wait to try the royal union!

Julie said...

I stop to take photos of delicious food before I eat it...wierd I know, but I like to brag and let everyone know what a mah-va-liss cook I am..the proof is in the pics right?

jt said...

not scared of butter.
thanks for typing up the long recipe.
ina's lemon cake is one of my all time favorites too. It's fancy.

Heidi Ashworth said...

Oh, man, I'm drooling and it's buttery drool, I kid you not!

Melanie J said...

I love my red Kitchenaid. And I made cookies today just so I could play with it, and then gave them all away. I will cry if it ever breaks and then give it a proper burial next to the guinea pig in the backyard with its own headstone. The mixer, that is. Except I'll have to name it now. What does one name a mixer? Great. Something else to think about.

Jenni said...

oh, it sounds divine!!!

Shellie said...

I love Ina. I made a coconut cake of hers once that had 3 sticks of butter in the batter and like 4-5 in the frosting. it wsa good. I will try this lemon curd. looks like I'll need to go to Ikea for a tart pan seeing that I don't have one.

Pam said...

you are the queen of cooking to me right now. I think I'm alergic to cooking so I bow down to you with your buttery kitchen aid skillz.

Varney Family said...

Lemon and butter...cannot get better :) I now have a project for all the lemons I have too! Thanks for delicious idea.

wonder woman said...

My favorite part of making cookies is creaming the butter and sugar together. Many a time I have had to restrain myself from stopping the process there and eating the pound of butter and 4 cups of sugar.

I salute you for being such a splendid matchmaker.

heather said...

That is far too complicated for me, but thanks. :)

sarinahbrooks said...

Seriously, impressed! I need lemons, want to trade oranges for lemons?

colette said...

so delightfully told that I might try it even though my husband is the cook extraordinaire at my house!

Renae said...

That sounds delicious! I've always wondered if Ina ever loses it and actually yells. She's just too dang calm. I imagine that when she burns the butter she lets out a string of profanities that makes the cameraman cry. It makes me feel better about myself. ;)
You should try piping some lemon curd into the middle of some lemon or vanilla cupcakes with lemon buttercream frosting. Is lip puckering good.