After years and years of not owning a tart pan, I finally bought one, and the first thing I wanted to do was make Thomas Keller's lemon tart. My friend, Ellen, had made one with her family and they had raved about how good the pine nut crust was, so I knew I needed to try it.
The pine nut crust recipe makes enough for 3 tarts but is hard to divide since it only uses one egg. Go ahead and make the full recipe and keep the leftover dough in the fridge where it will keep for a couple of days or the freezer, where it will keep for a month, because after you taste it, you'll just want to make more.
Pine Nut Crust (from Bouchon)
makes enough for 3 tart crusts
2 cups pine nuts
1/3 cup sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
8 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Place the pine nuts in a food processor and pulse a few times. Add the sugar and flour and continue to pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
Add the butter, egg, and vanilla extract and mix to incorporate all the ingredients (the dough can be mixed by hand or in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment). Divide the dough into three equal parts. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes before using.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously butter and flour a 9-inch fluted
tart pan with a removable bottom and refrigerate it while the oven
Remove the tart pan from the refrigerator. Use your fingertips
to press the chilled pine nut dough evenly over the bottom and up the
sides of the pan. I found that the easiest way to do this was to fill
in the sides of the pan first, and then press down whatever dough is
left into the bottom. That way you don't have to worry about making
sure there is enough dough to evenly press into the sides if you started
in the middle.
Prick the tart crust with a fork to prevent it from puffing up
unevenly. Bake the crust for 10 to 15 minutes, then rotate it and bake
for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until it is golden brown. Remove the
crust from the oven and let it cool while you make the filling.
The filling for this lemon tart is made using the sabayon method, which means the eggs, lemon juice, and sugar are first cooked over boiling water and then incorporated with the butter.
1 pre-baked Pine Nut Crust
2 large eggs, cold
2 large egg yolks, cold
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
Bring about 1 1/2 inches of water to a boil in a medium pot. Meanwhile, in a large metal bowl, whisk the eggs, yolks, and sugar for about 1 minute, or until the mixture is smooth.
Set the bowl over the pot and, using a large whisk, whip the mixture while you turn the bowl (for even heating). After about 2 minutes, when the eggs are foamy and have thickened, add one-third of the lemon juice. Continue to whisk vigorously and, when the mixture thickens again, add another one-third of the lemon juice. Whisk until the mixture thickens again, then add the remaining lemon juice. Continue whisking vigorously, still turning the bowl, until the mixture is thickened and light in color and the whisk leaves a trail in the bottom of the bowl. The total cooking time should be 8 to 10 minutes.
Turn off the heat and leave the bowl over the water. Whisk in the butter a piece at a time. The sabayon may loosen slightly, but it will thicken and set as it cools. Pour the warm sabayon into the tart crust and place the pan on a baking sheet.
Preheat the broiler. While the sabayon is still warm, place the tart under the broiler. Leaving the door open, brown the top of the sabayon, rotating the tart if necessary for even color; this will take only a few seconds, so do not leave the oven. Remove the tart from the broiler and let it sit for at least 1 hour before serving. Serve at room temperature or cold.
As you can see from the picture above, I didn't do a great job with broiling the top evenly. It would've been a lot easier with one of those mini blowtorches that you use for creme brulee, I think.
As with all Thomas Keller recipes, this is not simple to make, but delicious to eat. Since I still had enough crust for 2 more tarts, I decided to try a super easy lemon tart recipe next.