There are a lot of different ways to make lemon tarts, and I'm a fan of most of them because I LOVE lemon desserts. Baked lemon tarts usually include cream, creating a custard consistency. Delicious. I've also made lemon tarts with filling similar to my favorite lemon bars. Also, delicious.
These mini Lemon Tarts are prepared with a sabayon method, giving them a fluffy, light consistency that's somewhere between pudding and whipped cream.
Sabayon is a light, mousse-like dessert that's made entirely on the stove top - no baking required. For it's elegance, it's incredibly simple, taking only about 10 minutes to make.
For these little lemon tarts, the eggs are gently cooked with the lemon juice and sugar until thick and fluffy before whisking in some butter and pouring the sabayon into pre-baked pie shells. The whole process requires less than an hour of hands-on time in the kitchen, start to finish - including the time to make and bake the pie shells (not including the chilling the pie dough.)
Make these Lemon Tarts the old-fashioned way and use a wire whisk, or get out your hand-held electric mixer.
As I mentioned above, making the lemon sabayon filling will only take you about 10 minutes. But, it's really super-duper important that you whisk like crazy for that entire 10 minutes. Failing to do so will cause the eggs will scramble. And scrambled egg lemon tart is not what we're going for here.
All that whisking can really give your arm a workout, which depending on your day and point of view, may or may not be a great thing. Personally, I like recipes that make me work for it. But, using a hand-held electric mixer works great too. (Julia Child is rolling in her grave.)
Decorate your lemon tarts or serve unadorned.
As you can see, I used some powdered sugar, cookie cutters and parchment paper to create a very simple decoration on these mini lemon tarts. If you plan to do the same, simply use cookie cutters to trace shapes on parchment. Cut out the shapes, place them in the center of the tarts, and then sprinkle generously with powdered sugar.
One important note about decorating with powdered sugar: After an hour or two, the powdered sugar will melt into the lemon tarts. So, decorate right before serving.
FOR THE TART DOUGH:
- 1 ¾ cup + 2 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 9 tablespoon cold butter, cut into ¼ inch pieces
- 4 tablespoon vegetable shortening
- small glass of ice water
FOR THE SABAYON LEMON FILLING:
- 3 large whole eggs
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoon granulated sugar
- ¾ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 9 tablespoon butter, cut into 9 pieces
- 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
MAKE THE TART CRUST:
- Add the flour, sugar, and salt to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a couple of times to combine.
- Add the butter and vegetable shorting to the flour mixture. Pulse 5-8 times, until the mixture forms little balls, like moist crumbs. It's important to pulse the food processor, not run it continuously so you don't overwork the dough.
- Dump the mixture into a bowl and sprinkle with 3 tablespoon ice water. Use your hands to bring gently bring the dough together, tossing the flour-butter mixture with the water to moisten, then squeezing it together in your hands. Add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together. The dough should be just past crumbly and just coming together. You don't want it to be wet enough to be sticky.
- Put the dough in the center of a large piece of plastic wrap and wrap tightly. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 days.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator, unwrap and cut into 6 even pieces. Roll out the dough, one piece at a time, into circles that are approximately ⅜-inch thick. Gently lift each circle of dough and lay it over one mini tart pan. Press the dough into the tart pan, pressing it into the corners and allowing about 1-inch of dough to hang over the edge. The excess dough will help keep the dough from shrinking down into the pan as the crust bakes and will be cut off later.
- Place the tart pans onto a baking sheet and line each with a small piece of aluminum foil. Fill each lined pan with pie weights or dried beans to weight it down.
- Bake the crusts for 15 minutes. Remove the crusts from the oven and lift out the foil and pie weights or dried beans. Prick the bottom of the crusts several times with a fork. Return the crusts to the oven and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, until the crusts are a rich golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack while you make the lemon tart filling.
MAKE THE LEMON SABAYON FILLING:
- Fill a saucepan with enough water to come about half way up the sides of the pan. Set it over high heat and bring to a boil.
- In a metal bowl large enough to fit snuggly over the saucepan of water without sinking into the water, add the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar. Whisk to combine.
- Place the metal bowl over the boiling water and whisk continuously for 2-3 minutes until the eggs are foamy and have thickened. (Alternatively, you can also use a hand held electric mixer. Beat on medium, continuously moving the beaters around the bowl.)
- Add ⅓ of the lemon juice and continue to whisk vigorously until the mixture thickens again, another 2-3 minutes. Repeat this process 2 more times with the remaining lemon juice. After the third addition of lemon juice, whisk until the mixture is thick enough to where the whisk leaves a trail in the bottom of the bowl.
- Turn off the heat, but leave the bowl over the water. Whisk in the butter, one piece at a time, waiting until each piece of butter is completely incorporated before adding the next. (If you've been using an electric mixer, switch to a wire whisk to add the butter.) The sabayon might loose some of its thickness as you incorporate the butter, but don't worry - it will thicken back up as it cools. Whisk in the vanilla.
- Pour the warm sabayon into the tart shells, distributing it between them evenly.
- Preheat the broiler. While the sabayon is still warm, place the tarts on a baking sheet and put them under the broiler. Either keep the oven door slightly ajar, or turn on the light in your oven so you can watch the tarts. Leave them under the broiler just long enough to brown the tops. This will happen very quickly, so keep watch and do not walk away from the oven.[/I]
- Remove the tarts from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Right before serving decorate with powdered sugar, if desired.
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