Considering I have devoted considerable time and effort to writing about food and then going so far as to post it on the internet for all to see, it might seem logical that I am comfortable in the kitchen and like throwing dinner parties. Yes, for all intents and purposes, this is true. That also means that the pressure to perform and put together something special is that much greater. So last week, I found myself looking down the barrel of another dinner party and I went into a bit of a panic. Not only was I feeling uninspired but my guests were to be my brother and sister-in-law, Lopo and Sandrine, and my father, Bruce, flown in especially from New York (not really but he does live in NY). Family can and should be easy dinner guests but it was also the inaugural visit to the new flat and sometimes they can be the harshest critics (or so it seems but in my case it’s mostly self-inflicted, they are nothing but supportive). But I also felt tapped out. I had exhausted all the really wowing dishes at previous dinner parties and I have avowed to not eat anything that is remotely tasty (see Detox days 2 – 7, I am sticking with it for a little while longer).
So in the end, I chose to make a simple and healthy dinner followed by a kick-ass dessert. This is where I pigeon-holed myself. I had just bought a brand new tart tin and I had to use it. I am the type of person who can hardly wait to get home before wearing newly bought clothes. I have even been known to wear them out of the store which is usually awkward for everyone as the sales clerk gingerly tries to remove the tag without cutting off all my hair or stabbing me in the neck.
Have I mentioned that I am really good at the internet? To solve the problem of what tart to bake in my new tart tin, I attacked the internet with reckless abandon and came up with a lemon tart from Delicious Magazine by Raymond Blanc. I have swapped out some ingredients for their less processed cousins but the result is still greedy and delicious and as my brother said as he was finishing up his piece, “it makes me feel better knowing that the pastry crust is whole wheat.”
120g unsalted butter
80g icing sugar, sifted
250g whole wheat flour, sifted
2 egg yokes
1 additional egg
5 Medium eggs
150g caster sugar (brown)
140ml double cream
Zest of 3 lemons
Juice of 4 lemons
Step 1: For the pastry crust, cream the butter and sugar together until smooth, then beat in the egg yolks. For best results, the butter can be slightly softened. Add the sifted flour and incorporate it into the mixture until crumbly. Use you fingers to do this so as to get all the flour and butter mashed together. (Tip: Buy a 20-pack of disposable rubber gloves makes this task and a lot of others much easier and less messy). Mix in 1 or 2 tsps of ice water and press to form a ball.
Step 2: Spread some plastic wrap on the counter and flatten the dough out onto it to form a disk. Chill for 30 minutes. When chilled, roll out with a rolling pin on a flour-dusted surface until it’s about 3mm thick. My pan was 24 cm diameter and 2.5cm deep. Since whole wheat crusts have a tendency to fall apart more easily than their white flour counterparts there is not really easy way to get the dough into the tin besides “try your best!” My technique involved two spatulas and some cursing. Either way, the crust will end up in the tin. Smooth it around the bottom with a baggie full of extra dough, patch up the necessary holes and trim the top. Chill for a further 30 minutes.
Step 3: Put a baking sheet in the oven and preheat the oven to 180˚C. Line the pastry case with parchment paper and fill it with something heavy that will keep the pastry from puffing up. (I used untoasted muesli, it worked just fine and in the end I had toasted muesli, bonus. But you can use rice or beans or something that won’t burn or cook.) Bake on the sheet for 10-15 minutes. Remove the paper and weight and bake for a further 5 minutes. (At this point it is supposed to start looking golden but given its already brown colour that might be difficult to determine.) Brush the pastry with 1 beaten egg and return to the oven for one more minute. Let to cool.
Step 4: Turn the oven up to 190˚C and make the filling. Whisk the eggs and sugar together (remember how to make castor sugar from normal sugar, if not click here). Whisk in the cream, lemon juice and zest until just combined and pour into the case. Cook for 20-25 minutes, allow to cool for an hour. Dust with icing sugar before serving.
Note: This looks like a lot of long steps but it’s not that daunting once you get started. You can also make twice the amount of pastry dough and freeze it so that you can skip those steps next time. Also, the filling is really soupy so getting it into the oven without spilling is tricky. I pulled out the rack so that it was flat and ladled the filling into the case. You might be of surer hand than I, so do whatever works for you. Also the original recipes calls for you to remove the case from tin before the final bake, given the fragility of the whole wheat crust I would keep it on and remove once cooled.