a taste of lemon: curd + tarts.

 lemon. such an obvious choice for flavour, taste and scent. to add brightness, texture and complete yumminess. and one ingredient around here that was reserved for fish and water only. until now.

years ago when our old faithful, martha stewart, landed her pretty little self in prison she cut herself off. no visitors except her lawyers and daughter i believe. but somehow that sneaky little rosie o'donnell got herself in there to visit her dear friend. they chatted about the experience not getting into it to much but just being there to enjoy each others company. during the conversation rosie asked martha what she is missing the most from her regular life as opposed to her prison life. and you know what martha said? she said she missed the taste of lemon. that's it. i remember watching this (i think on the view) and scrunching up my face and going what? how bizarre. that was before i succumbed to my legacy in this life and let food lead my path. now i get it. fully.

what power it has!! and how completely wonderful and enjoyable! i always seem to reach for the chocolate, the butter, the vanilla and the more rich fruits for baking and the peppers, onions, tomatoes and root vegetables for cooking but now i find myself reaching more and more for the lemon for both equally. and that has prompted this series of recipes that i want to share centering on lemons.

today let's talk curd. personally i think it is an awful name for something so delicious, so decadent. something that transforms before your eyes as you can't take your eyes off it for a minute. to watch it take form from a pile of ingredients - all stars in heir own right - and become something so brilliant, so yellow, so silky.

i had forgotten this taste as when i opened my specialty food shop and this recipe was a clear hit i was not the one producing it anymore - i had moved on to the deli/cafe food and had left someone else prepare the baked goods. and since then the baking bug had left me for awhile since selling and moving out east i took a little break from all things desserty but unfortunately for my hips and bum it has hit me harder than before

this other thing i love about this is the versatility of it. you can put it on anything to make it stand out from the crowd. fill a layer cake with it. top some shortbread cookies. bake off a sheet of puff pastry and smear it on top (technical term here!). stuff cupcakes. spread it on grilled pound cake - yes i said grilled pound cake!! (more on that later). add it to semifreddo. the list is endless and the taste will shock and amaze you everytime - every bite will feel like the first.

sweet life bakery lemon curd.
i only have one reservation about this - the butter. as i was making it i was tasting along the way so i could feel the impact from start to finish. on the last stage - where the curd comes together and before you add the butter - the impact of the lemon was outrageous! it knocked me over, fireworks on my tongue and i was begging for more. then i added the butter and the curd went down a note. little more subdued but still amazingly flavourful in every way. this is where i am torn as i believe a whole tart of the impact creating curd would be too much and the butter infused one was just right but i was left wanting more. but my hips thanked me for stopping. 

3/4 cup fresh lemon juice - about 6 lemons
grated zest of 2 lemons
2 large eggs
7 egg yolks
3/4 cup of sugar
4 tablespoons butter - softened

in a glass measuring cup measure out your lemon juice then add the zest as well to allow the zest to softened up and let stand for about 10 minutes.

in a medium glass bowl (suitable for double-boiling) whisk together the eggs, egg yolks and sugar until combined. add the lemon juice mixture and whisk once more.

set the bowl over a pot of simmering water but do not let the water touch the bowl! cook, stirring constantly with heatproof spatula, until the mixture has thickened to a pudding-like consistency, 6 to 8 minutes.

remove from heat and whisk in butter till emulsified. strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the curd to prevent a skin from forming. allow to cool, then use immediately or place in a sealed container and pop it into the fridge for up to one week!

to make the tarts:
prepare one batch of my sweet pie dough (recipe below) and, using a 3-inch in diameter round cookie cutter, cut out rings from the rolled out dough. place each ring into a cup on a mini cupcake pan and press into the mold and pierce all over with a fork - place prepared sheets into the freezer and freeze for at least 1 hour/preferably though overnight. remove from freezer, place a square of parchment in each shell and fill with baking beans (you can buy special baking beans but i just use raw beans that are designated only for this purposed, live in a jar marked baking beans and are used over and over . pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees and bake off your shells for approx. 18 minutes or until the edges are golden brown and when checked the bottoms look cooked. pull out and let cool for 10 minutes, then remove beans, remove from pan and let cool completely. one recipe makes approximately 30 to 36 tart shells.
raw tart shells filled with baking beans prior to baking.

my sweet pie dough. 
after tinkering with other recipes and my tastes this is what i have come up with. enjoy.
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
3/4 cups ice cold water

place in food processor the flour, sugar and salt - pulse a few times to mix up. place butter in flour mix and pulse a few times till butter roughly the size of peas/hazelnuts. while pulsing in quick short bursts add the water slowly (a drizzle) through top tube. as soon as dough comes together into a ball remove from processor and divide into two equal balls. flatten to a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour minimum. dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to three months. thaw in fridge before rolling out if using frozen.

makes 2 balls of dough. enough for two 9-inch single crust pies or one double crust.

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