Peppery Lemon Tart

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen me getting excited about moving into a new flat back in June. Amongst many other more serious reasons for wanting to be out of the old one, I had another more personal, somewhat frivolous reason: my new flat had a brand spanking new kitchen. OH, what a kitchen! It had a shiny glass hob, smooth stone counters, spacious and clean cabinets, and the mother of all kitchen amenities (in England at least)… a dishwasher. If you’re a reader in America, you might not realize why this is such a big deal. Well, one thing I’ve learned from living as a student in England is that most flats don’t have the luxury of a dishwasher. I’ve gotten used to hand-washing my dishes–perhaps a bit too much.

The last time I went home, my parents and I cooked a big roast meal together. I’m used to cleaning up around the house when I visit so that I’m more of a help than a burden. After dinner I started in washing the dishes, scrubbing hard at the pan that the roast potatoes had been in. After about 20 minutes my mom wandered back in from the living room. “What are you doing? We’re waiting on you to start the movie.”

“I’m washing the dishes, mom, I’ll be there in a minute.”

“You can just put them in the dishwasher, you know.”

I looked over at the dishwasher, directly to the right of the sink, underneath the heaving drying rack where I’d been precariously piling roast pans, utensils, plates, and pots. Yes, I’d gotten so used to hand-washing the dishes that I literally forgot my parents had such a thing as a dishwasher.

So, yes, I’m a bit excited to have a dishwasher for times when I’ve dirtied a lot of dishes. And baking is certainly one of those times! I’ve been using my kitchen quite a bit to cook and bake, with the hopes of putting more recipes on the blog. However, as I’m sure seasoned recipe bloggers will know, most recipes take a few tries and tests to get right for public consumption. I haven’t found the time for most of them; luckily, though, this lemon tart turned out pretty spiffy on my first try. See?

It’s not your average lemon tart: it’s got a fairly decent amount of black pepper in the crust and the tart. I got the idea to put pepper in the crust from this blog, and when it came time to make my tart, I figured, Why stop there? Why not put pepper in the custard as well? So I did, and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. I also used brown sugar instead of white sugar, which, while it doesn’t make a tart as vibrantly yellow as some, adds a depth of flavour I think wouldn’t be there with white sugar. Last but not least, I added a dash of orange blossom water, because I happened to have it in my cabinet after a photoshoot at World of Zing. I’m really glad I added it, because it lends a gorgeous floral scent and delicate aftertaste to each bite of the tart. Combine the pepper, brown sugar, and orange blossom water, and you get a lemon tart that’s just different enough to stand out from the crowd.

To begin with, you’ll need to make your crust. You’ll need:

190 g flour
130 g butter (or lard, or a mix) cut into small cubes
35 g icing/confectioner’s sugar
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1-2 tbsp cold water

In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and black pepper. (How much black pepper? Really it’s up to you how much bite you want your tart to have, but I had my bowl on the scale and ground in about 3 g worth of pepper. It definitely had a nice kick.) Drop in your cubes of butter (or lard, which is what we love to use in the South, but a mix also works nicely) which should be cold, but not too cold so that it’s rock solid. Use a pastry cutter to work the butter into the flour mix until it’s all evenly distributed and small balls form. There shouldn’t be much loose flour floating around at this point, and it should look like this:

Then add your yolk, olive oil, and 1 tbsp cold water. Depending on the size of your yolk (I used a medium egg) your dough may be wet enough that you don’t need the second tablespoon of water. Using a wooden spoon, start stirring the mixture. It’ll take a minute or two, and nothing may seem to happen at first, but eventually it’ll start to come together into a ball. And voila! Dough.

Press this into your tart pan (if it isn’t a nonstick pan, you will need to grease and flour it first) and then put it in the freezer for at least 30 minutes to firm up. After about 20 minutes, preheat your oven on to 220°C/425°F; once it’s up to temperature, blind bake your crust for about 10-15 minutes, or until the edges are slightly browned and the bottom starts to feel dry.

Set the crust aside and get ready to make the custard. You’ll need:

90 ml lemon juice (about 3 1/2 lemons)
6 large egg yolks
1/2 tsp salt
150 g soft brown sugar
freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp orange blossom water
lemon zest100 g butter, cut into small cubes
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the lemon juice, yolks, salt, sugar, black pepper (again, to your taste), and orange blossom water. Whisk constantly for about 15 minutes until it begins to thicken up. It may not thicken up too much, but that’s ok. It’ll set when you bake it. Take it off the heat and add the butter and olive oil, then grate in a bit of lemon zest. Stir until the butter has melted and is mixed in completely. Pour the custard into the crust and bake (still at 220°C/425°F) until the tart is set, about 15 minutes. Take it out and let it cool completely before serving; it’s best to refrigerate it for a bit too, but if you absolutely can’t wait any longer, then that’s ok too. Dust it with icing sugar (maybe not as much as we did–Rob got a bit overexcited as my photo assistant/prop man and went crazy with the sugar) and serve it up with some Earl Grey tea or a nice coffee.

To be completely honest, I wanted to make this recipe with bergamots because IT’S BERGAMOT SEASON (!!!) and they are probably the most delicious citrus fruits to grace this planet. But I’ve been too lazy to make the journey to Natoora in Bermondsey, so alas, this is a lemon tart. However, if you want to make this with bergamots, I imagine it would be approximately 100x better since bergamots are basically peppery lemons.

Anyways, give the tart a try–it’s a great project for a rainy Sunday, which we’ll have plenty of now that it’s winter–and let me know how you get on with it in the comments.

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