Saturday, October 5, 2013

Emily's Lemon Tart

Happy (belated) birthday, Emily!

As I mentioned in my snickerdoodle post, September 29th was Emily Bennett's 80th birthday. Emily has been one of my favorite American Girl characters for quite some time, and even though I couldn't do anything for her earlier in the week, I didn't want her birthday to slip by unnoticed, especially considering (as anyone who's read Happy Birthday, Molly! knows) thanks to war shortages, she hasn't been able to really celebrate her birthday with a proper party since she was five years old. Molly offers to let her share her birthday, which they decide should be a proper English tea party, and promptly gets annoyed when she finds out that a proper English tea party isn't much like an American birthday party at all.

When the topic of what the main treat would be during a tea party, Emily suggests a lemon tart, which Molly turns down in favor of the chocolate cake she's been wanting all year. Since this is Emily's birthday, and I don't have war rations to work with, we're making a lemon tart in her honor.

The tart is mentioned on page 43 of Happy Birthday, Molly! Or at least, in my edition it is.

I've never made a tart before, and honestly, it sounded kind of complicated. It doesn't help that I've been busy all week, and haven't had a lot of time for recipe research or planning, let alone the time to bake a semi complicated dessert. I finally found a recipe that sounded easier because it didn't require baking the crust with pie weights, which I'm pretty sure we don't own.

(But don't quote me on that, my mom is out of town at a friend's wedding, and for all I know, maybe we do and I just can't have her help me find them.)

The recipe is from Joy of, and can be found here! Aside from sounding easier than some of the other tart recipes I found, this one features a shortbread crust, and as some of you may remember from my last Emily post, I do love shortbread. What's also great about this website is that some of the recipes feature instructional videos to show you how to prepare them properly, which helped me feel a lot more confident that I knew what I was doing when I got started.

Obviously, the crust is the first thing to start with. I gathered all my ingredients, quickly measured everything out and threw them in a bowl.

And this is where things started to go wrong. The recipe made enough dough to fit a nine inch tart pan, and mine is probably closer to twelve inches. I hoped it could maybe stretch to fit, but I had no such luck.

So I thought hey, making some more dough shouldn't be that hard, right? The first time was easy enough! Let me just get the rest of the ingredients out of the pantry and get this started again!

I'm not sure what went wrong here, but something definitely did. The dough was flaky and white, not the nice golden color you see in the pictures above. It makes the seam pretty easy to see here:

So I was pretty nervous when I stuck it in the oven. Actually, I was nervous enough that I said you know what, if it's a disaster after it bakes in the oven, just call it a day and try again later. I wasn't even sure if I'd have enough butter to try again!

Fortunately, I didn't have to. Again, because my pan was sort of too big for a normal tart pan, balancing it on top of a cookie sheet in the oven didn't work out so well. It tipped forward, so about a quarter of it was a little toastier than the other, but look! You can't even tell I used two different doughs to make the crust!

So then came time for the filling. I have to admit, the reason I decided to make this tart versus another recipe I was considering was because it had much fewer ingredients in the filling, and didn't require gelatin. Instead, it's got a cream cheese base, and was described in the recipe as having more of a cheese cake texture once it was baked.

This went off more or less without a hitch, although while I was juicing my lemons, I discovered I had sliced my thumb open on something, probably while frantically slicing up the butter to make the extra crust. It's not a bad injury or anything, but it's definitely annoying, and I'm already impatient for it to heal.

It was now that roadblock number two happened: my camera stopped working. I couldn't figure out what the problem was, and ended up taking a picture of the wet filling in the crust with my phone, so if the picture looks a little weird, that's why.

I fixed my camera while the tart was baking, and about a half an hour later, this is what I pulled out of the oven:

Sorry all these pictures are so dark, by the way. I don't know what's wrong!

I left it in the fridge to chill for a very long time, mostly because I had about a thousand other things I needed to do today and I'd already spent a lot of time on this. It was definitely a time consuming recipe to make, and I'm pretty tired in the wake of that and the other things I had to do today.

While it was chilling, some of the filling cracked a little, and the crust didn't survive coming out of the pan as well as I would have liked it to, which resulted in an overall pretty homely tart. I think part of the problem with the filling was just that the crust was sort of too thick, and I didn't try to mess with the recipe for the filling, so there wasn't actually enough of it to really fill the tart the way it should have.


So once I finally got back to it, it was nice and cold and ready for some yummy whipped cream on top. Whipped cream has always been a favorite of mine - when my grandma would make strawberry shortcake, I would often just ask her to give me a bowl of whipped cream with no strawberries or biscuit! I'd never actually made it myself though, and learned first hand why you don't want to hand whip it unless you really, really have to. A mixer will get the job done a million times faster!

It made a ton of whipped cream, and I ended up having to throw a lot of it out because I knew it wouldn't keep overnight. I'll try to cut the recipe down next time I'm only making it for a small group of people. It was definitely tasty though!

And there we have it! I have to admit, I was a little nervous to try it. Aside from the fact that it isn't 100% on recipe because of my mix up about the size of my pan and that it doesn't exactly look super pretty, I was sort of feeling exhausted and ready to move on with my life after the amount of mess this recipe made, not to mention how much time and effort went into it. Most of my taste testers weren't around at 9:00 PM either, especially since my parents are out of town for a friend's wedding, so I convinced my brother to try a piece, and I think we were both pleasantly surprised! It was definitely very lemony, and sour enough that it didn't taste artificially lemony, and the whipped cream really contrasted that nicely. The crust was flaky and tasty, and overall, I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out.

That being said, holy cow, tarts can be a lot of work! I think I'd like to make a smaller one next time and see if that's more manageable, because this twelve inch pan makes way too much for me. Apparently it'll also throw off a lot of the recipes I was hoping to use, and I'd rather make too much of something than not enough.

Next time, we're (hopefully) going to be making bagels with Rebecca! Until then, I've got a lot more lemon tart to figure out what to do with.

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