Sometimes there is so much that you could say about a certain dish that you end up saying very little. Or at least very trivial or trivial-sounding things when you think you might do better. This is one of these few dishes.
I grew up with this tart, or, rather, it has been part of my growing-up and my happiest childhood moments. It is from that drawer of memories of long and warm Mediterranean summer nights when your short-sleeves would serve you well far beyond midnight. The drawer that is filled with pictures of strolling along the promenade of elegant resorts such as Nice and Monte-Carlo, awing at women in evening dresses, roaring Ferraris and stately Rolls Royces, and all kinds of Côte d’Azur glitz while enjoying the tastes that were not only for everyone but – as it showed – would stay with me for the rest of my life. I really almost start smelling the oleander and the mimosa trees of Southern France in summer, and hear the song of the crickets at night whenever our paths cross.
Probably another reason why I wish to say so much about this tart is that while I grew up with its forever seductive look and taste, I would keep my respect. And this may be because it can easily overpower you with sweetness while giving your face muscles a good squeeze for its sour notes. Maybe it is because you can, unfortunately, get it wrong so easily. And probably it is also because you can nevertheless never really resist the tempting look of this cake, challenging you into battle over and over again. And finally, because when you get it right… 😀 😀
This tart is a classic of the Mediterranean cuisine. Predominantly of the French cuisine (of course?) but while reminiscing about those blessed summers spent in Southern France in my childhood at the mention of it, I have to say that I actually had one of the best versions of this tart in the small Mallorcan village of Fornalutx in a place owned by the impressive Maria (I am not inventing this) where the large Spanish families would meet for traditional Sunday lunches, and her taciturn and friendly partner would sometimes hand you an orange from one of the trees in the garden when he thought she was not looking. (They also made an unbelievable arroz nero and Mallorcan rabbit stew – check out my totally-helpless-in-comparison-with-Maria recipe: Mallorcan Rabbit Stew with Oranges, Fennel and Olives .)
So this is a tart for the happy moments. For celebration. For Sunday lunches with the family and romantic candle light dinners. For every day when every day is special. For those who enjoy food and flavor and, foremost, life. Give it a try – over and over again!
For the pâte sucrée („sugar pastry“):
- 110 grams of butter
- 80 grams of icing sugar
- 50 grams of whole egg (approximately 1 large egg)
- pinch of salt
- 20 grams of almond powder (finely ground blanched almond)
- 200 grams of (cake) flour (German type 405)
For the lemon confit:
- 100 grams of water
- 50 grams of sugar
- zest of the lemons used for juicing (see further)
For the lemon cream („crème au citron“):
- 140 grams of lemon juice (juice of approximately 7 lemons)
- 160 grams of sugar (reduce down to 110 grams if you like your tart less sweet/more sour)
- 200 grams of whole egg (approximately 4 large eggs)
- 4 grams of gelatin
- 80 grams of butter
For the Italian meringue:
- 100 grams of egg white
- 80 grams of water
- 250 grams of sugar
Preparing the pâte sucrée („sugar pastry“):
- Beat the butter and the sugar with a spatula until creamy.
- Incorporate the egg and the salt.
- Add the flour (previously passed through a fine sieve) and the almond powder. Mix with the spatula until you have a smooth dough.
- Wrap in cellophane and let rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour, ideally overnight.
Blind-baking of the crust:
- Take the dough out of the fridge approximately 20 to 30 minutes before use. It should still be cold but soft enough to handle it.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (fan oven).
- Butter a tart pan. Press the dough into the bottom of the pan and up the sides.
- Cover with a sheet of baking paper and weigh down with baking weights.
- Bake for 15 minutes, then take out of the oven and remove the weights and the baking paper. Reduce the temperature of the oven to 160 degrees Celsius.
Preparing the lemon confit:
- Bring water to the boil in a small saucepan.
- Blanch the lemon zests in the boiling water for approximately 1 minute. Let drip off.
- Make a syrup from the water ant the sugar by bringing the water mixed with the sugar to the boil, then take off the heat.
- Add the zests to the syrup and let marinade for at least 1 hour before letting them drip off.
Preparing the lemon cream („crème au citron“):
- Soak the gelatin in cold water for approximately 10 minutes.
- In a large mixing bowl, mix the eggs lightly.
- Put the lemon juice and the sugar in a saucepan. Heat up.
- When starting to boil, take off the heat and pour over the eggs while beating energetically.
- Pour back into the saucepan, heat up again and beat continuously. At ebullition, take off the heat again. Add the butter and the gelatin, mix for another 2 to 3 minutes.
- While still hot, pour over the bottom of the crust. Spread evenly, then refrigerate for approximately 30 minutes.
- Spread the lemon confit over the top of the lemon cream.
Preparing the lItalian meringue:
- Mix the water and the sugar in a very clean saucepan. Avoid splashes.
- Heat up and in the meantime, start beating the egg whites until stiff.
- When the sugar and water mix reaches a temperature of 121 degrees Celsius, take off the heat and, once the bubbles subside, pour over the egg white while continuously beating until cooled down completely.
- Spread over the tart – either use a piping bag or spread rather „free-style“, creating little tips with the back of a spoon. You can really be creative here – choose whichever style of decoration you like best.
- Use a kitchen torch to color the tips of the meringue.
Let air-dry for a while. I, personally, believe that this tart is best one day after preparing it. But I leave it up to you to explore!