Friday, May 22, 2009

Lemon Tart with Pistachio Crust, Mascarpone Cream and Pistachio Praline

A few years ago, The Cake Book was featured in The Best of the Best, a book published by Food & Wine. They ran a few recipes and photos from the book, and they asked me to develop a new recipe, which didn't have to be a cake. I created a Lemon Tart which had a pistachio crust and was accompanied by a mascarpone cream and pistachio praline. Unfortunately, the folks at Food & Wine felt the recipe was too long, so we got rid of the praline and the mascarpone cream to shorten it. Here is the original, unabridged recipe, as it was orignially conceived. I love the combination of lemon and pistachio, and I think it works very nicely in this recipe. The lemon filling is tart, yet balanced, which is how I think a proper lemon tart should be. The recipe is for one 11-inch tart, but I decided to make eight 4-inch tartlets for the photo. Serve it at room temperatue or chilled, as you prefer.

Lemon Tart with Pistachio Crust Mascarpone Cream and Pistachio Praline

Makes 8 servings

Pistachio Tart Crust:
1/2 cup shelled unsalted pistachio nuts
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
1 large egg
1 large egg white for brushing tart shell

Lemon Filling:
2 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup freshly squeezed and strained lemon juice
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons

Pistachio Praline:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup shelled unsalted pistachio nuts

Mascarpone Cream:
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup mascarpone cream
1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make the crust:
1.Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to oven to 325 degrees F. Spread the pistachio nuts onto a baking sheet and bake for 5-6 minutes, just until fragrant. Cool completely. Turn the oven off.
2. Combine the confectioners' sugar and cooled nuts in the bowl of a food processor and process until the pistachios are finely ground. Add the flour and salt and pulse until combined. Scatter the butter pieces over the dry ingredients and pulse about 10 times, until the butter is in pea-sized pieces. Add the egg and process just until the dough begins to come together (don't let it form a ball). Transfer the dough to a work surface and form it into a disc. Wrap the disc well in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour (or up to 3 days).
3. Lightly dust a work surface with flour. Unwrap the dough, place it on the work surface, and dust it very lightly with flour. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to a 13-inch circle, lifting and rotating the dough often and dusting it lightly with flour as necessary. Fold the dough in quarters and place it in an 11-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Unfold and gently press the dough onto the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Roll the pin over the top of the pan to trim off excess dough. Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork at 1/2-inch intervals. Refrigerate the shell for at least 30 minutes.
4. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line tart shell with a square (about 14 inches) of aluminum foil. Fill the shell with pie weights, dried beans or rice. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Using the overhang as handles, carefully remove the foil and weights from the shell. Return to the oven and bake 10 to 12 minutes longer, or until lightly golden brown.
5. Place the egg white in a small bowl and whisk it with a fork a few times. Brush the bottom of the hot tart shell with the egg white and let cool. Leave the oven on.

Make the filling:
6. Fill a medium saucepan one-third full with water and bring to a simmer. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, sugar and lemon juice. Place the bowl over the simmering water (the water should not touch the bottom of the bowl). Cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is thickened and light in color, about 8-10 minutes. Turn the heat off, but leave the bowl over the pot of hot water. Whisk in the butter one piece at a time, whisking until is is completely melted. Pour the filling into the cooled tart shell. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the center is set and the tart is slightly puffed. Transfer the tart pan to a wire rack and cool completely.

Make the praline:
7. Coat a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Combine the sugar and water in a medium, heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar and occasionally brushing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush. Continue to cook, without stirring, ,until the mixture turns a light caramel, 2 to 4 minutes.
8. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the nuts. Return the pan to the heat and cook, stirring, until the nuts are completely coated with the caramel and it deepens to an amber color. Immediately pour the caramelized nut mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. Allow the praline to cool for 30 minutes, or until hard.
9. Using a large knife, coarsely chop the praline. Place in a food processor and process just until it's finely chopped (it's ok to have a few large pieces of pistachio in the mix).

Make the cream:
10. Place the cream, mascarpone, confectioners' sugar and vanilla extract in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until the cream forms soft peaks.

Serve the tart:
11. Serve a slice of the tart topped with a dollop of Mascarpone Cream. Sprinkle the tart and cream with a generous amount of the Pistachio Praline. (Store any remaining praline in an airtight container. It makes a great topping for ice cream.)

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