Golden Lemon Tarts

by mutteringhousewife

There are many motivations for baking. You’re hungry, the kids are hungry, you’ve found a new recipe, you want to use up some coconut, you want to try out an exciting new butter. I wanted to make this recipe because of the little introduction printed above it.

I have two Pillsbury cookbooks from the late fifties, given to me by my Nanna when she couldn’t be bothered baking any more. I’ve flicked through them partly for amusement value, goodness those American housewives served up some odd stuff! But they certainly loved trying new things and using lots of flavours in their baking. The cookbook I’m referring to today is a thousand recipes from the Pillsbury Best of the Bakeoff collection, with coloured photos on the inside of the covers of hundreds of jolly housewives in aprons baking at rows of stoves while men in suits walk up and down tasting their food. I’m guessing that this was one of the Bakeoffs in question. Most recipes in this book have cute little descriptions between the heading and the baking instructions. Like “Here is a refreshing pie . . . the filling boasts fresh lime juice and crushed pineapple and calls for no cooking at all!”. Or “Plenty o’ apricots between crumb base and topping. Yummy with whipped cream”. Here’s the descriptor for the recipe that caught my eye.

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How could I not make it. Of course, I also wanted to give the Pepe Saya butter a go in pastry. I should point out that it isn’t strictly a fair experiment, usually when I make pastry I’m fairly slapdash about it, with results that are invariably disappointing. Today I made the Lattice Pastry as directed, and now I don’t know if it was because I was being obedient or if it was the butter, but it is hands down the best pastry I’ve ever made.

Sift one and half cups of flour into a bowl with half a teaspoon of salt. Actually, I didn’t do that, I just dumped it in. Cut in half a cup of shortening (in the olden days they might used suet, but I went with 125 grams of Pepe Saya unsalted butter). You should use a pastry cutter for this, or extremely long fingernails. The idea is to not warm up the butter. I took a deep sigh and cut it in with a knife, a fairly time consuming job. Next time I’m up at the shops I’m getting a pastry cutter. When the average size of the butter bits is close to that of a pea, start sprinkling over tablespoons of cold water while tossing the flour with a fork. It was suggested that five would be sufficient, but I used six. Gather it together in a ball of crumbly dough and plonk it on your flour covered bench top. Flatten it down with your hands, then roll with a rolling pin until it’s about half a centimetre thick. Mine always crumbles around the edge, it’s never a nice circle like in the illustrations. Am I doing something wrong, or are they just cheating? I found that rolling into the centre makes in less crumbly. I’m going to put this lot into those little fluted tart tins with removable bottoms, so I pick a circle cutter with a slightly larger diameter than the tins. Cut out circles of pastry and very gently press them into the tins. Squash up remaining dough and reroll until you fill all of your tins. If you have the patience, you should blind bake these for ten minutes at 220 degrees, then uncovered for another five. I didn’t, so mine are a bit puffy.

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You’re now going to fill these with lemon curd. You can buy quite nice lemon curd, but I’m sure you’d like to know how the Scottish lady in the concentration camp did it.

In the top of a double boiler place eighty grams of butter, one cup of caster sugar (actually, next time I’m going with three quarters of a cup, it was a bit sweet), the grated zest of a lemon, one third of a cup of lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Wait until the butter has melted, then gradually stir in four egg yolks. Continue stirring fairly continuously, only pausing to take phone calls pertaining to your daughter’s social life, for about ten minutes. The curd will still be fairly runny, but form slow moving drips when you hold up your whisk instead of falling straight off. Here’s my double boiler setup.

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I’d wait a bit for the curd to cool down and thicken up before ladling it into the tart cases. I probably wouldn’t serve them with whipped cream, as suggested, but possibly a quenelle of King Island double cream would complement it nicely.

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Or not.

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