Lemon Almond Tart: The Bumpy Road to My First Julia Child Recipe

IMG_0237As a gesture of rebellion against tradition I present to you an elegant lemony fresh tart to make for the holidays instead of the usual Pumpkin pie (which I love) or Apple pie (ditto) it’s just that sometimes, as some one who cooks a lot, I really just like to break with tradition and switch things up.

Originally this post was going to be published before Thanksgiving, but as you can see that didn’t happen 😉 Planning a dinner party two days after Thanksgiving was, um, a little ambitious. At lease this is in time for the upcoming festive season.

This recipe is the first one I have made from the Art of French Cooking, which my friend Debby gave me (both values!) for my birthday.

The pictures represent a play-by-play of my process while making it.  However, in retrospect, when I make it again, and I will make it again as it is a great dessert, I would do things differently.

First off the process that the peel undergoes is not sufficient enough to make the peel translucent and soft.  Mine turned out a little of the tough side.  What I propose, as you will see, is a much more robust boiling of the lemon first and then cutting it after it’s been poached. I tried to soften my further by leaving them in the sugar and simmering them longer in the syrup, all this really accomplished was that they crystalized when I finally decorated the cake with them.IMG_0208After this experience I also think the cake would look nicer if the peel is directly placed on to the pre-baked shell and then the almond pastry cream added on top.  It’s an aesthetic choice I leave to you, when I make it again I will post a picture so you can see which one you prefer.

The other changes are both about the size of the pan.  Julia Child recommends an 8″ tart pan for this recipe and a dough recipe that makes enough for a 10-11′ tart pan.  Sure you can make cookies with the left over dough, but it seems a better use of the dough would be in the tart you are making, no?  Also, the recipe makes way more filling than would fit into a small 8″ tart so by making a larger tart you can use not only use all the dough but the filling as well.IMG_0218My tart overfloweth and I still had plenty of left over filling.IMG_0219 (1)Also, I added a little salt to the pastry and used only butter, not the combo of shortening and butter she suggests.  Never been a fan of shortening. The way I see it butter makes everything better 😉

Hopefully all this chatter hasn’t turned you off making this recipe, like I said, it’s great and I hope that my experience with making this tart will make it easier for you when you make it!

Lemon Almond Tart

Sugar Crust:

In a large bowl wish together: 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, 4 tablespoons sugar,  1/8 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add: 7 tablespoon chilled unsalted butter, mixing until it is well incorporated with the dry ingredients, but there are still visible lumps of butter.  Stir in: 1 egg, beaten and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla combine until the dough forms into a ball.  Use your hands to help bring it together and incorporate the butter fully.  The dough may be sticky, sprinkle with a little more flour if necessary.

This can also be done in a food processor.

Press the dough between two pieces of parchment and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour or up to over night.

Preheat the oven to 375 F

Roll out the dough between the parchment paper and flip into a 10-11″ tart pan with a removable bottom.   It is almost impossible (for me at least) to transfer the rolled dough into the pan with out some of it crumbling or needing to be rebuilt.  Not to worry this is very forgiving dough, use your finger to press the dough back in place. Conversely I recently tried something that worked very well.  After you have rolled the dough out between two sheets of parchment, remove the top sheet, lift the bottom sheet with the rolled dough on it and fit it directly into the pan.  This makes it easier and when the tart if cooked it is much easier to remove from the pan and place on your serving dish.

Cover the tart with parchment or tin foil and fill with pie weights.

Cook for 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven, remove the weights and parchment.  With a fork prick the dough bottom and sides, place back in the oven and cook another 10 minutes.

When done the shell should be highly brown and the sides  will have shrunk a bit. Place on a rack to cool.

Lemon Peel: Cut 3 organic* lemons in half and juice them.  Reserve the juice and place the lemon halves in a small pot and cover with water, bring to a boil. Remove from heat drain water, fill the pot up again with fresh water and bring to a boil again.  Do this a total of 3 times.  Remove the thrice boiled lemon halves to a cutting board to cool

Once you are able to handle them, use a spoon to scoop the pith and flesh of the lemon, cut into thin strips (about a 1/4″).

In a small pot add: 2/3 cups sugar and 2 cups of water bring to a simmer until the syrup reaches 230 on a candy thermometer. Add the lemon peel and 1 teaspoon of vanilla.  Let soak for 30 minutes.

Take a tablespoon of the lemon peel and place in a bowl with 1/3 cup of sugar and toss until the peel is well coated. These candied peels are used to garnish the baked tart.

Preheat the Oven to 325 F.

The Filling: In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment add: 2 Large room temperature eggs and 1/2 cup sugar beat for 5 minutes until the egg mixture has increased in volume, is pale yellow.

Fold into the egg and sugar mixture: 2 Tablespoons of Lemon Juice, the grated rind of 2 Lemons, 1 Teaspoon of Almond Extract, 3/4 cup of finely ground (but not pasty) almonds.

Remove the lemon peel from the syrup and sprinkle over the bottom of the prepared tart shell then pour over the filling.  Place on a baking sheet and bake in the middle of a preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until the top has puffed slightly and is golden brown.

Let cool on a rack until room temperature.

Reheat the syrup to 228 F on a candy thermometer.  Spoon the glaze over the top of the tart. Garnish with the reserved candied lemon peel.  Remove from pan and move to a serving plate.  Serve at room temperature with unsweetened whip cream. IMG_0223Garnish with reserved candied lemon peel.  Below is my slightly crystalized first attempt. Hopefully the changes in the above recipe will yield a slightly prettier tart. IMG_0232IMG_0239



About urbanfoodguy

I'm a self taught cook with a dedication to buying and eating food that is as humanely and sustainably raised as possible. Which is why in addition to recipes you will see a lot of environmental/political reporting here. I started cooking when I was about 6, it's something I always loved to do. Watching Graham Kerr - aka "The Galloping Gourmet" - was what got me started and I have never really looked back. Over the years I've been a private chef, a caterer, and a food stylist for magazines such as Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Real Simple, Oprah, Martha Stewart's Everyday Food and many more. I've also worked in the prep kitchen for the Food Network on the Bobby Flay and Paula Deen shows. Now I work at home in my kitchen sharing with you here recipes that I create or that other people have created that inspire me and I think you will like. I love my neighborhood (the Lower East Side of Manhattan) and I love to travel. Because NYC is such a big place I tend to focus mostly on my 'hood and the ones that are close by: The East Village, Bowery, Chinatown and Williamsburg. My love of travel has no limits really, I'm always ready to get on a plane. I was lucky enough to have a business for many years that allowed me to spend a lot of time in South East Asia. These days I've been spending time in Mexico, Germany, Canada and the West Coast of the U.S., but check back you never know where I might end up. I do consulting, cooking classes, and freelance lifestyle writing so if you are interested please send me a note: urbanfoodguy@gmail.com
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2 Responses to Lemon Almond Tart: The Bumpy Road to My First Julia Child Recipe

  1. reelcharlie says:

    Looks like another winner. I can almost smell and taste the lemony goodness through your photos!

    • urbanfoodguy says:

      You will get to taste it soon enough as I plan on making it for christmas eve and or christmas day – you know just to have something around to snack on 😉 AnsI know Dennis loves lemon. Neil says this is in his top 5 desserts ever – high praise for a non chocolate dessert!

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