Another French Tart

A year ago, I posted "A French Tart." The post got lots of hits, and I've never been sure if it was the chocolate that was so popular or if the words "French Tart" were what brought an entirely new audience to Cocoa & Lavender!

This week, I am bringing you another traditional French dessert, this time from a new cookbook, a gift from my friend, Susan (of The Modern Trobadors fame).

It contains photographs by François Millo and recipes by Viktorija Todorovska and several accredited chefs. The book is called Provence Food and Wine: The Art of Living. Its beautiful photos make it a veritable feast for the eyes... and we all know that our appetites are whetted by beautiful presentation, and our passions stirred by atmospheric photos. Millo's photos are gorgeous and they evoke the languorous days we spent in Provence several summers ago.

For my first look at the book, I skipped over the wine section and went straight for the food. That will be no surprise to those of you who know me. I was thinking the book would be a collection of traditional Provençal recipes, but was delighted to find nouvelle Provençal dishes mixed in and tangled with recipes from centuries past.

Foodways change. Generally, European cuisine is very traditional, based on historical practices that should be preserved. But cookery is not static. Chefs want and need to be creative. They borrow from here, get inspiration from there, try new combinations.

For some of the traditional recipes, it is important to remember that Provence and Liguria (Italy) share a border, so we see shared influences that are centuries-old. The use of pistou (pesto) in soup has been a Provençal culinary tradition for ages. There are quite a few additional Italian-inspired dishes that illustrate this point, such as the creamy polenta, and a tiramisù.

The use of the word 'tiramisù' is a 20th century name for a layered pudding that has probably been made for centuries by every nonna in every region of Italy. The version in the book is minimally inspired by this; it is macerated berries layered with custard, more of what the British would call a 'fool.' This shows the creativity of the chef, inspired by a traditional dish.

Provence is a destination for young and eager chefs, as well as seasoned veterans. Why wouldn't they want to go to this magical place, steeped in tradition and endowed with abundant fresh vegetables, nuts, olives and seafood? Why wouldn't they want to make their own mark on the culinary map?

Because I am all about the food (if less so the wine), I highly recommend that you hop over to The Modern Trobadors for a visit. Susan has actually met and corresponded with Millo and Todorovska, and has a great post today on the wines of Provence.

I eventually read the wine section and learned a lot about rosé wines, and how to appreciate their bouquet and gorgeous color. These sophisticated wines are not the cheap pink plonk of our parents' day, and they are certainly nothing akin to white zinfandel.

I am enjoying this book, and look forward to cooking through it this summer, bottles of rosé by my side. Today's Tarte au Citron is a very different recipe from others I have received from friends in France. The addition of the whipped crème fraîche really makes this a special treat.

Bon appétit!
~ David

Tarte au Citron 

My notes appear below {in brackets and blue}. It is very important to follow the weights used in these recipes, not volume, especially when dealing with dry ingredients. For example, in this recipe, the 250 grams of flour was about 1 1/2 cups - not 2 cups - of scooped flour. That would make a significant difference in your dough. As always, oven temperatures vary so, when baking, always check 5-10 minutes before the timer.

For the crust:
2 cups (250 grams) {start with 1 1/2 cups}

unbleached all-purpose flour
7 ounces (199 grams) unsalted butter {at room temperature}
1/2 cup (96 grams) granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the filling:

8 ounces (227 grams) crème fraîche
3/4 cup (144 grams) granulated sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
juice of 4 lemons {about 7/8 cup}
4 tablespoons (23 grams) butter, softened and cubed 

Lemon slices or meringue, for garnish 

To Prepare the Crust:

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, butter, sugar, and salt. Mix until crumbly.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the egg, egg yolk, lemon zest, and vanilla extract and beat lightly with a fork. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and beat with an electric mixer on low speed for 2 minutes, or until a dough forms. {This took less than 30 seconds with my KitchenAid mixer, using the paddle attachment.}

Turn out the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Dust your hands with flour and knead the dough for 1 minute. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour (or up to four days). (If you chill the dough for longer than 1 hour, let it warm slightly before rolling out.)

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to a 1/4-inch (6mm) thickness. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch (22.5-cm) tart dish with a removable bottom. Trim off any excess dough. {Cover and freeze for 30 minutes. Uncover before baking. Line crust with parchment or aluminum foil, and fill with pie weights or beans.} Bake for 25 minutes {removing beans at about 10 minutes}. {My crust was done at about 20 minutes.} Remove from the oven and set aside to cool to room temperature.

To Prepare the Filling and Assemble the Tart:

In a mixing bowl, whip the crème fraîche until it is light and airy. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, eggs, and lemon juice over low heat {I suggest medium-low}. Stir well. Cook, stirring constantly, for 15 minutes. {It took 15-20 minutes before it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Straining might be necessary.} Remove from the heat.

Transfer to a bowl. Add the butter and stir well to incorporate. Set aside to cool to room temperature. Fold in the whipped crème fraîche.

Pour the filling into the crust and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or until ready to serve. Just before serving, garnish with lemon slices or with meringue that has been browned under the broiler. {I garnished with fresh flowers from the garden.}

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