Wednesday, 4 January 2012

:: Lemon Divine ::

The best ever Lemon Tart
:: Megann’s Kitchen ::

:: the best ever lemon tart ::

Ahhh, Melbourne. The food love of my life. If there was one thing I used to love about working in the cafe scene was the sensation of ordering a sweet lemon tart to accompany my always perfect latte. CafeSegovia in Melbourne's Block Arcade would have to be where my obsession started. The small, yet busy cafe, was not only a source of income for me during some penny pinching years whilst studying, but owners also dutifully fed me with generous staff meals & treats. I have to admit, I wasn’t the greatest waitress in the world, but working there was some of the happiest times I can remember. It was a carefree environment full of laughter where simply working the Friday Jazz nights or hearing the newly released Santana’s ‘Smooth’ (yes, it was summer of '99 if I recall!) over & over on the stereo would fill me with joy.

:: pouring the mixture into the blind baked pastry ::

I came across this divine, yet relatively easy, recipe in Stephanie Alexander’s Cooks Companion once when I had too many lemons & I knew instantly it was the one which would transport me back to one of my favourite places of employment. The luxuriously smooth lemony curd is ideal for a hot Summers day dessert to cut through the empowerment of any meal & to finish it off with perfection. Not to mention the lively green mint with the golden lemon looks very Australian for Australia Day on the 26th January!
Pastry - check... lemons - check... other fridge/pantry items - check.... 
now let's go!
3 large lemons
6 eggs
250g caster sugar
200 ml cream
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or seeds of 1 vanilla bean
pure icing (confectioner's) sugar to dust

Line a 24 cm loose-bottomed tart pan with pastry, then bake blind at 180°C (350°F) for 10 minutes. Remove pastry weights & parchment paper then bake for another 5 minutes, until just cooked through. Reset your oven to 160°C (320°F).

:: preparing the mixture ::

Zest and juice the 3 lemons. Combine eggs & sugar until well combined, then add the zest & lemon juice & stir. Add cream & vanilla seeds/paste & mix well using a whisk. Pour into just-baked pastry case and bake for 35-45 minutes until almost set & just turning a golden blonde on top. Cool in tin for at least 30 minutes before serving however, as it's a custard base, it's ideal chilled in the fridge for at least an additional 30 minutes to allow it to fully set. Serve dusted with icing sugar and with thick cream.

:: I like to serve my lemon tart with double thickened cream & a light dusting of icing sugar.

:: adding a festive touch ::

:: I couldn’t help myself this festive season when I made this recipe- I cut out some white chocolate stars & piped some of the remainder melted white chocolate over a slice to present. To garnish I used some baby mint leaves to accentuate colour & freshness.

:: lemon fresh ::

Kitchen Notes
:: Short of time & don’t want to make your own pastry? For a home-made result I highly recommend the amazingly gourmet Carême VanillaBean Sweet Shortcrust Pastry (located in speciality food stores, such as Essential Ingredient) - or Pampas Sweet Shortcrust Pastry (located in Supermarkets). This pastry is incredible... hand-made in their kitchens just for you.
:: As it is a loose bottom tin, I like to place it on a tray to remove & place back in the oven with ease. This way there is no chance of you accidentally breaking the crust of your pastry by putting your hand through the base!
:: Remember that the lemon filling will continue to set upon cooling.

:: Today I made it with rather sweet lemons & found 250g of caster sugar to be too much - you can easily adjust the sweetness of your tart by simply adding less sugar - approximately 200g of caster sugar (give or take) in this circumstance. 
:: I place any leftover lemony egg mixture into oven safe dishes (try tea cups) with some rasberries sprinkled on top & bake for 25-30 minutes as a chefs/toddlers treat! Yummy.

:: freshly baked easy lemon tart ::

Dedicated to Owen Brokensha
:: Sharing fond memories of my life-long friend: he used to come & visit me on my break at Cafe Segovia for a coffee, dessert & a little gossip. It was tremendous working so close by each other!

From Stephanie Alexander, The Cook's Companion, 1996.

I would also love to see your Megann's Kitchen Creations/photos of recipes that you have made on Megann’s Kitchen Facebook

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

:: Shortcrust Heaven ::

Never Fail Sweet Shortcrust Pastry
:: Megann’s Kitchen ::

:: preparing to blind bake the never fail sweet shortcrust pastry ::

This recipe is the ultimate Sweet Shortcrust Pastry for tarts. It holds its form perfectly & the shrinkage is minimal. Why? I think adding the egg yolks are the secret. I find that it is also a little more forgiving than others. Just when I think I have completely ruined my pastry attempt by adding too much water, over handling the mixture or even over baking it turns itself around & I end up looking at a successful tart in wonderment.

Another key element in pastry is to have quick hands. Make sure that your mind doesn’t wonder off whilst using the food processor or over kneading it on the bench top. The less handling the better where pastry is concerned! Remember that & you will have brilliant pastry every time.
I first found this recipe in a Delicious Magazine from one of their regional Cafe adventures. I love the fact that it isn’t from a celebrity chef/cook, but someone more like me who, in another lifetime, would run a rustic & homely cafe in the beautiful Alpine wine region in North East Victoria. Yes, my own cafe truly would be an adventure!

250g plain flour
100g chilled unsalted butter, chopped
100g caster sugar
2 egg yolks
A pinch of salt
2-3 Tbs chilled water

Place the flour, butter, sugar & salt in a food processor. I use my ever so trusty KitchenAid. Pulse in the food processor until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the two egg yolks & whilst blending, add 2-3 Tbs of chilled water until the mixture comes together. When the mixture just combines into a ball (see picture), stop the processor & form a disc in your hands. Wrap in cling wrap & chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour

:: adding the egg to the flour mixture ::

Preheat oven to180°C (350°F). On a lightly floured surface with cling wrap below, roll the pastry until it is 3-5mm thick. With the cling wrap still attached to the pastry, carefully lift & line a greased 28 cm loose-bottomed tart pan with pastry, then trim with the heal of your hand. Chill for 10 minutes in the freezer or 20 minutes in the fridge. Remove the cling wrap, prick the pastry with a fork then line with parchment paper & fill with pastry weights. Bake blind at 180°C (350°F) for 10 minutes. Remove pastry weights & parchment paper then bake for another 5 minutes, until just cooked through. Reset your oven to your desired temperature for recipe filling. 

:: resembling fine breadcrumbs ::
:: process til pastry forms a ball ::

:: cover in cling wrap & chill ::
:: I use biscuit & pastry flour ::

Kitchen Notes
:: As it is a loose bottom tin, I like to place it on a tray to remove & place back in the oven with ease. This way there is no chance of you accidently breaking the crust of your pastry!
:: Don’t skip the resting/chilling process! It is essential to stop the shrinkage of your pastry.
:: I always roll my pastry onto a large piece of cling wrap. This helps a great deal when transferring to your desired baking tin.
:: In lieu of pastry weights, you can use uncooked rice, dried beans or even small, clean polished pebbles.
:: I have also made this pastry a day in advance, simply keeping it chilled in the refrigerator as a rolled ball, wrapped in cling wrap.
:: Remember, quick hands! Especially in a warm room- you don’t want the butter to melt.
:: Keep the remainder of the pastry for biscuits or styling accents to your tart/pie.

:: while cling wrap is on, remove pastry with hand then chill ::

:: prick the pastry evenly with a fork ::

Quick Kitchen
:: Short of time & can’t make your own pastry? I keep a couple boxes of Carême Pastry in my freezer for such occasions & your guests will be none the wiser. Carême Vanilla Bean Sweet Shortcrust Pastry (located in specialty food stores, such as Essential Ingredient) is incredible & their All Butter Puff Pastry is second to none.
:: I recommend Pampas Sweet Shortcrust Pastry (located in Supermarkets), however don’t be fooled into the low fat option. It turns out quite tough & biscuit like instead of the wonderfully short texture that you are aiming for. Full butter please!

:: a perfectly blonde pastry ready for desired filling ::

I would also love to see your Megann's Kitchen Creations/photos of recipes that you have made on Megann’s Kitchen Facebook
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