Friday, February 19, 2010

I've Got Sunshine On A Cloudy Day

Lavender Lemon Mini Tarts
Lavender Lemon Mini Tarts – because it's cold outside, and I'm dreaming of the month of May.* Looking at the lemons and egg yolks sitting next to each other on my counter as I got ready to make these tarts, brought to mind those great lyrics and thoughts of sunny days ahead. After our little false-Spring came to a cloudy end yesterday, I've realized how sick of Winter I am. But then I think about all the things I love about Winter and I start to miss it before it's even gone. Twisted, I know. It's like that with every change of season for me. So relieved to finally welcome the next one, but wistfully sad for the loss of the last. A good reminder to appreciate the things we have while we have them.

Lavender Lemon Mini Tarts
These are a combination of two different recipes. With a dozen+ egg yolks in my fridge and some of the first lemons off our little tree, making lemon curd seemed the thing to do. I liked the idea of a butterless lemon curd, since I'm running low on butter and the word "butterless" sounds healthy (or at least less fattening). The spiced tart crust recipe that I found, appealed to me as much for the flavor possibilities as for the promise of less shrinkage from the addition of vodka.

Butterless Lemon Curd (from the Lemon Angel Food Cake recipe), page 510, The Martha Stewart Cookbook, 1995

My Notes: Butterless but not effortless. Unless you consider 40+ minutes of whisking over a steamy stove-top, effortless. It's times like this that I wish I was more ambidextrous than I am. But what better opportunity for practicing, right? This lemon curd is a lovely shade of creamy pale yellow and it took 8 of my egg yolks left over from the other day. The Meyer lemons from our tree are pretty small, so it took two of them to come up with enough zest, but two were not enough to make the 3/4 cup of lemon juice required. I augmented it with some lemon juice I had frozen some months ago and then made up the difference with a little bit of bottled lemon juice. After the lemon curd cooled, I pressed plastic wrap onto the surface and refrigerated it until the tart shells were ready. The flavor is lemony lovely. The texture is very light, almost fluffy or foamy, as if there were egg whites in it instead of egg yolks. I can see why it would go nicely inside an angel food cake. Maybe it's not the best choice texturally for tarts but I was curious and am glad I made it.

Lavender Tart Shells adapted from Spiced Lemon Tarts at

1-1/3 cups flour
2 Tblsp sugar
1/4 tsp of sea salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp dried lavender
1 stick of cold butter
1 large egg
2 Tblsp vodka, ice cold (we keep it in the freezer)

Put all dry ingredients into bowl of food processor and pulse a few times until lavender flowers are ground up. Cut the butter into small pieces. Add the butter and egg and pulse until combined. Dribble the vodka into the mixture a little at a time as you continue to pulse. Once the dough begins to form into a ball, take it out of the food processor and pat it together on a lightly floured board. Shape the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

On a floured board, roll out the dough to approximately 1/8" thickness. Cut out 12 circles from the dough using a cookie cutter or an empty can (I used the 3.5" ring from a large Mason jar canning lid). The circles need to be large enough to fit into the bottom of a muffin cup and go up the sides 1/2" or more. Press the dough circles down into the 12 muffin cups. Prick the bottoms all over with a fork and place pan in the freezer. Turn oven on to 350°.

Bake tart shells for about 20 minutes, or until they begin to turn a nice golden brown. Place pan on rack to cool. When cool enough to handle, remove tart shells from muffin tin and finish cooling on the rack. Store in airtight container if not using right away. To serve, fill with lemon curd and top with fresh berries and/or whipped cream.

Notes: There was enough dough left over to make 12 super-mini tart shells (and 6 "cookies"). I used an old tomato paste can with both ends removed (2.25" diameter) as a cutter and pressed the dough circles into a mini muffin pan using my dough "tamper". It was the first time I'd used it and it worked perfectly.** These little bite-sized tarts turned out so itsy-bitsy cute. If I had my Teddy Bear here, we could have a splendid tea party.

*Paraphrased lyrics are from the song "My Girl" written by Smokey Robinson. Simple, pure, and timeless: "I've got sunshine on a cloudy day. When it's cold outside, I've got the month of May." In other words, carry it with you in your heart, and you'll never be without it.
**Plus you can use it as a muddler for making mojitos in the Summer!
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