From the Kitchen: Tarte Au Citron with Meyer Lemon & Lavender Shortbread Crust
For my birthday last year, I wanted nothing more than to dine at Thomas Keller’s 3-Michelin star, James Beard Award winning restaurant, The French Laundry; so Evan took me to Napa for a little weekend getaway. Unfortunately, the same weekend we were visiting coincided with the restaurants’ annual winter break and my poor little, food loving heart was completely crushed. My 30th birthday was totally ruined….okay, it wasn’t ruined….not even close, in fact. The thing about Napa Valley is that it’s as much a food lover’s dream as it is that of a wine lover. There seems to be an endless supply of amazing, award-winning restaurants at every bend. And good ol’ Thomas Keller was kind enough to not only start one fabulous restaurant in Napa Valley, but three! So when The French Laundry was no longer an option, we made reservations at Bouchon and I wasted no time surveying the menu to begin designing my perfect birthday meal. As much as I remember enjoying the entire experience as a whole, only a year later, I can’t seem to remember what I ate that night…well, except for dessert, that is. I’m no stranger to lemony sweets-pies, bars, tarts, cookies, cakes- you name it and I’ve probably had it (and loved it) but there is something so special about the Tarte Au Citron served at any Thomas Keller establishment. Not only is the taste unreal, the consistency of the lemon sabayon (which is more of a custard than a curd) is silky and smooth and pairs so perfectly with the buttery, slightly sweet, slightly salty pine nut crust.
I wanted to recreate this delicious confection but I also wanted to put my own spin on it. A few years ago, I tried one of these lemon lavender ice cream sandwiches from Ruby Jewel and it blew my mind. I was in college at the time and my love for food and palate had yet to be developed so this was crazy stuff for me. Pairing lemon with a flower? Say wha?! Nowadays, lemon and lavender is one of my favorite flavor combinations, they go together like pb&J in my book. Here’s my take on Thomas Keller’s Tarte Au Citron with a Meyer lemon and lavender shortbread crust. I loved how this tart came out, it was sweet and lemony and totally unexpected. The lavender really delivers a flavor profile that sort of awakens your senses. It’s almost like each ingredient hits you separately, like it’s telling a story or something. I can definitely see myself making this over and over…and over! Recipe after the jump. Enjoy!
Makes 6- 3 1/2″ round tarts
- 6- 3 1/2 inch round (plain or scalloped) tart or quiche pans. The ones with the removable bottom work best
- parchment paper cut to fit the bottom of your tart pans.
For the Crust:
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoon dried lavender blossoms, chopped
- 1 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (I used Meyer lemons but any will do, I like Meyer’s for their color and sweetness)
- 1 1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- pie weights or dry beans
- Mix the sugar with the chopped lavender and grated lemon zest in a medium bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer), beat the butter in at a medium speed until well mixed. At low speed, beat in the flour and salt until a soft dough forms. Transfer the dough to a sheet of plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
- Roll the dough out onto a floured surface to about 1/4in thick and cut six 5in. circles.
- Butter or oil the tart pans and place a piece of parchment paper at the bottom of each pan to avoid sticking.
- Fit the cut dough into each tin, making sure it fills every scallop or crevice evenly. Cut any excess off of the top.
- Pierce the bottoms of the dough several times with a fork to avoid puffing during baking.
- Preheat the oven to 350°.
- Place tart pans on a baking sheet and refrigerate for about 10 minutes.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned. Let tarts cool in their pans.
For the Sabayon:
- 2 large eggs, cold
- 2 large egg yolks, cold
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (again, I used Meyer lemons but any kind will do)
- 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
- Bring about 1 1/2 inches of water to a boil in a pot that is slightly smaller than the diameter of the bowl you will be using for the sabayon. 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 crusts on a baking sheet.
- Preheat the broiler. While the sabayon is still warm, place the tarts under the broiler. Leaving the door open, brown the top of the sabayon, rotating the tarts if necessary for even color; this will take only a few seconds, so do not leave the oven. Remove the tarts from the broiler and let it sit for at least 1 hour before serving. Serve at room temperature or cold.
Note: I had leftover shortbread dough and sabayon. I rolled whatever dough I had into a small log and wrapped it in plastic wrap and refrigerated. I put the sabayon in a small mason jar (also placed in fridge). A day or two later, I cut the shortbread log into 1/4″ thin rounds and baked them up for about 10 minutes. I served them with a heaping dollop of lemon sabayon and a freshly steeped cup of tea. Delicious! ****I would like to warn that from my findings on Google and such, you probably shouldn’t keep the sabayon for too long. I threw mine out after five days even though it still looked and tasted amazing.