My opinion is that I don’t get to review enough books by guys. I’m not talking about classically trained French pastry chefs. I’m talking about guys who love to cook and happen to bake and put a casual spin on baked goods and desserts that are approachable and down to earth. Brendan Collins might be a full-fledged chef (and has worked in some serious UK establishments) but he dishes up some fab desserts with this Lemon Tart and his take on doughnuts that are quite suitable for the home cook. This image grabbed me right away for its simplicity and its lack of perfectness. Look at the lemon curd filling oozing out just enough to show its silky smooth lusciousness. I love that he gives us a temperature cue because too many people over cook curds and they do not need to in order to obtain a thick-enough texture. A light and casual sprinkling of confectioners’ sugar completes the deal along with the classic and simple sweet crust. This recipe, and his brioche-based doughnuts, are from his book Cooking, Blokes & Artichokes.
Excerpted with permission. Cooking, Blokes & Artichokesby Brendan Collins. Published by Kyle Books, 2016. Photographs copyright Jean Cazals.
My grandma is not a great cook. She’s almost one hundred years old as I write this recipe, which means she was born bang in the middle of World War I and was just entering adulthood during World War II—no time to worry about kitchen skills with a war effort on! She was always a career woman, working into her seventies and only taking time off to have her three children. But she did know how to bake a little bit, and would make cakes and biscuits, my favourite jam, and lemon tarts.
Now before anyone gets excited that this recipe might be a family heirloom, it most certainly is not. Grandma’s was made using store-bought lemon curd and a pastry made from lard. It did, however, give me an early appreciation for the dessert, so when I moved to the big smoke (aka London) I genuinely thought I was a lemon curd expert. Then I ate a lemon tart at Marco Pierre White’s Criterion Brasserie, and it was one of those moments in life when you realize you don’t know shit and you have to start at square one.
This isn’t Marco’s recipe either; his takes incredible skill to cook correctly. But this is a very good lemon tart, in some respects equal to his, just a lot easier for the home cook to master.
- ¾ cup (11/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
- 2 cups sugar
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1¾ cups all−purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups rice or pie weights
- 4 lemons, at room temperature
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 4 extra−large eggs, at room temperature
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the cold butter and ½ cup of the sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla.
- In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and 1⁄8 teaspoon of the salt, then add them to the butter and sugar mixture. Mix on low speed just until the dough comes together. Dump it out onto a flour-dusted surface and shape the dough into a flat disk. Wrap it in clingfilm and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
- On a flour-dusted work surface, roll the dough into an 11-inch round. Curl it around your rolling pin and unfurl it on top of a removable-bottom tart pan 10 inches in diameter. With cold hands so as not to melt the butter, gently press the dough into the pan, slicing any excess off the edges. Chuck the tart shell back in the fridge for 20 minutes to rest; this keeps it from shrinking when baked.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Lay 4 sheets of clingfilm over the top of the tart shell and fill it with the rice or pie weights. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the dough begins to lightly brown.
- Lift out the weights and bake for 20 to 25 minutes more, until golden brown.
- Remove the tart shell from the oven and leave it on the counter to cool.
- Using a Microplane, zest the lemons into a small bowl, being careful to avoid the white pith. Squeeze the lemons to yield ½ cup juice.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the room-temperature butter, the remaining 11/2 cups sugar, and the lemon zest until pale and fluffy; this will take 5 to 6 minutes, scraping the bowl down with a spatula from time to time.
- Add the eggs one at a time, then add the lemon juice and the remaining 1⁄8 teaspoon salt. Mix until combined.
- Pour the lemon curd into a 2-quart saucepan and cook it over low heat, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, until thickened, about 10 minutes (the lemon curd will thicken when it reaches about 175°F, or just below a simmer). Remove it from the heat.
- Fill the tart shell with warm lemon curd and allow it to set at room temperature. Once cooled to room temperature, the tart can be chilled in the refrigerator.