Saturday, 9 June 2012

Lemon Tartlettes

It's been about a week since I last baked. I made a trip to London to visit a friend earlier this week and gained lots of baking inspiration. My friends and I made trips to Laduree and Pierre Herme's london outlets and even visited Le Cordon Bleu's London campus. The quiche lorraine that I had at their cafe was excellent! I was also fortunate enough to have tried Pierre Herme's Rose and Jasmine macaron and I liked the earl grey infused chocolate macaron too! It's just a matter of time before I try to re-create those flavours myself. I also bought a book by Michel Roux on pastry from Harrods at a tenner. There's simply so much I want to bake and fortunately I've got the next few weeks all to myself so the oven will be my best mate for a while.

I've wanted to make lemon tartlettes even before I finished my exam in May. I like the fragrance of lemons but what I like even more was to use a blowtorch to make burn marks on meringues. :) Being a beginner in baking I had practically none of the equipments required, no tart tins, no blowtorch. I suppose baking can be a very expensive hobby especially at this early stage, but I see this as an investment provided I take good care of all my baking utensils.

The result:

 I also took this opportunity to try out some piping techniques that I have read about on the internet, namely the bouquet of flowers, basketweave and roses. The formers turned out well but the meringue roses simply did not work. It was very difficult to pipe them despite having done so using buttercreams before. The meringue was way too sticky to pipe the petals properly and it didn't hold its shape very well either. Furthermore the burn marks created with my blowtorch failed to produce the depth of vision I wanted. Having said that, 2 out of 3 is not bad for a first attempt, I think.

The two patterns that worked:

I was pleased with the taste but since I've got some leftover pastry from last night I decided to make a second batch of tartlettes but with 3/4 of the lemon juice stated in the recipe and 10g more sugar. I also decided to go brave and tasted the raw egg-lemon mixture prior to baking to make sure I get the sweet-sour balance the way I wanted. I will do the tasting tomorrow since I've already had two lemon tartlettes today and I can already feel my waistline expanding! Having said that these tartlettes are actually not as fattening as many other desserts, I reckon it's got about 20g of fats per tartlette.

Anyway I will post the adjusted recipe tomorrow if the second batch of tartlettes turn out better.


The second batch of tartlettes were divine! If I may (not-so-humbly) say so myself. They smelled superb with the fragrance of lemon, tasted really lemony and best of all, were sweet with just a hint of sourness. Here's the recipe (taken from Raymond Blanc's website with some adjustments to the filling):

Shortcrust pastry: (makes 8 tartlettes)

60g diced butter at room temperature
40g sifted icing sugar
1 yolk (and an additional yolk for brushing later)
125g plain flour
1 tbsp water

Cream the butter with sugar, beat in the egg yolk, add the flour and rub with your fingertips until crumbly. Add the water and work the mixture to form a ball, knead for a few more seconds until well combined. Avoid kneading too much as gluten will develop. Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for 30minutes.

Meanwhile prepare the lemon filling:

4 large eggs
170g caster sugar
80ml lemon juice
2 tbsp lemon zest
150 double cream

Whisk the eggs, sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest until well combined. Double cream should be added last as the whisking process can incorporate air into the cream and produce froth in your mixture. Set aside.

Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to as thin as you can manage without creating holes and tears. Frequently dust the underside of the pastry as you roll it out to prevent it from sticking to the surface.

Use your tartlette tins as a guide cut out circles of pastry that are about 1 to 2 cm wider than the tins. Line the tins with the pastry circles and press tightly into the flutes. Prick the base with a fork and leave to chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 180C (conventional oven).

Line the tart tins with foil/parchment paper and spread some baking beans in the tin. Blind bake for 10 minutes. Take the tins out, remove the foil and baking beans and return to the oven for another 5 minutes. Take out the tart tins, brush with the egg yolks to seal the pricked holes and return to the oven for a further one minute.

Turn the oven temperature down to 160C and pour in the lemon mixture into each tart tins to the brim and bake for 15-18 minutes. It's important to check your tarts from 10minutes onwards by giving them a jiggle, it should just wobble slightly in the middle. That said, I have over-baked my tarts before during my first attempt and it didn't really make a huge difference.

The tarts are lovely on their own but if you wish to do the decorative patterns as seen in my photos you'd need to make a Swiss meringue with the egg whites that you've got from making the pastry. Swiss meringue or Italian meringue are preferable because they're cooked to high enough temperature to pasteurise the whites.

Swiss Meringue:

2 large egg whites
40g caster sugar

Whisk your egg whites with sugar over a pan of simmering water and measure the temperature until it registers 150F or 65.5C. Take off heat and continue whisking until stiff peaks form.

Use icing tip no.47 to make the basketweave pattern. Alternatively use a star tip of any kind for the bouquet of flowers. Simply pipe spirals of meringue all over the tartlette. Finally, create burn marks using your blowtorch. I got mine from a supermarket in the UK at 10quid (it was on offer) and bought the butane gas from at a cheap price.

These lemon tartlettes are delicious to eat anytime of the day. They taste quite light perhaps due to the flavour of lemon. Indeed I just had half of it right before I typed this out.

That's it for this recipe. I have just baked two batches of macarons to be used as gifts for a friend's dinner and to thank another friend for lending me his book. The flavours I re-created were the ones I tried at Pierre Herme's london outlet: Earl grey chocolate and Jasmine ganache. My flatmate reluctantly tried the earl grey chocolate and was surprised by the unexpected flavour. I could have eaten the whole bowl of ganache on its own, and I don't normally like chocolate ganache(s)! I might post some pictures of those if I think my blog hasn't had enough pictures of macarons already. My next baking mission is to tackle the notorious croissant pastry, commonly used for croissants but can also be shaped differently to make pain au chocolat and pain aux raisins. I will probably have to wait till Tuesday though since I've got lunch AND dinner tomorrow with some mates and croissant dough requires almost 8 hours to make due to the resting period in between the proofing and rolling of pastry.

Signing off,

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