Friday, April 3, 2015

Lemon Cheese...because Lemon Curd is a little too fussy.

I am sure you are wondering what I filled that awesome Shortbread crust.  Lemon Cheese, of course!  This was adapted from an old Nathalie Dupree cookbook, New Southern Cooking.  I cut it by 1/3 because it's the perfect amount for a 9-inch tart, her's was created for a 12-inch tart crust.  But the great thing about it is that you can adjust up or down depending on how much you need.  The magic ratio is:

1 egg
1 lemon (juice and rind)
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbls butter

Adjust up from there...

Lemon Cheese differs from Lemon Curd in that it's much, much less fussy.  Lemon Curd requires you to separate eggs.  I don't like separating eggs. [I know I did separate an egg in the previous recipe, but that was only one, and I used the white immediately in a quick morning scramble] Lemon Curd usually uses 4 - 8 egg yolks - which means you have to figure out what to do with your 4 - 8 egg whites - not a tragedy, but long after separating eggs I have often come across a container with an un-determined number of eggs whites/egg yolks...of in-determinant age.  Sometimes, there were smells...eww.

Anyhoo.  This makes about 1 1/2 cups of delightful, lemony goodness!

In a sauce pan, add:

2 large eggs
2 lemons -
[OK, this is a little fussy, use a microplane or other implement and remove the rind from both lemons, just the yellow, not the white pith, which is bitter, if using anything other than a microplane mince the lemon rind finely. Then juice and strain both lemons]
2/3 cup of sugar

Whisk this well, then add:

4 Tbls butter

Cook over medium heat for about 5 to 10 minutes stirring constantly. The butter will melt and it will be loose, like this...

Then all the sudden it will seize up, and become "custardy" like this. See how it becomes lemon yellow and much thicker?  It should JUST come to a slight boil, but don't let it boil, remove it from the heat immediately. By the way, if you let it boil, the eggs will scramble and you just have to throw it away and start over. [Voice of Experience, or VoE, again]

Ok, so Lemon Cheese is actually rather fussy, but well worth it.  Mrs. Dupree used it to fill a pie shell and she topped it with blueberries.  You can use this in all sorts of ways, though - a parfait, with alternating layers of fruit, whipped cream and Lemon Cheese, perhaps?  Buy those pre-made dessert shells and fill with Lemon Cheese and top with fruit?  You can do all sorts of stuff with this.


Perfect (and super easy) Shortbread Crust

A few years ago, my friend, St Cheryl of Shirlington, gave me a recipe for a Shortbread tart crust that I thought was pretty much perfect.  It had 3 ingredients - flour, confectioners sugar and butter, was quickly assembled in a food processor, patted into a tart shell and baked.  I have been using it ever since.  Over Christmas this year, I found a recipe on the Martha Stewart site for a Press-In Shortbread Tart Crust.  It's brilliant, and the perfect amount for a 9-inch tart pan. It similar to St. Cheryl's, but a bit richer.  It has a single egg yolk, regular sugar, butter and salt.  Martha assembled it by hand, which I file under "Life Is Too Short", so I used the food processor - if you don't have one, I highly recommend one, I have had this Cuisinart for over 20 years.  I also reduced by half the amount of salt, because I thought it was too salty.

So here goes.


In your food-processor bowl, with the blade attachment inserted, add:

1 cup AP Flour
4 Tbls. Butter, cut into 4 or 5 pats
3 Tbls Sugar
1/2 tsp Salt (I used kosher salt)

Pulse the processor about 10 times or so, until it resembles coarse crumbs.

Add through the food-tube:

1 large egg yolk

Pulse about 5 times until the yolk is completely incorporated.

Dump the mixture into a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, and press the crumbs into the pan and up the sides of the pan.

Note that I put it on an aluminum pizza pan, those removable bottoms can be tricky and this ensures that you don't make a mess (voice of experience, again).

Place in the freezer, and freeze for at least 20 minutes.

Remove from the freezer and bake in your pre-heated oven for 20 minutes, turning the pan after about 10 minutes, remove when the crust is slightly browned - do not over cook.

Allow to cool.

Then comes the fun part.  You can fill this with anything your heart desires.  Make a chocolate ganache with some chocolate chips and a bit of heavy cream, top with fruit.  Make some pastry cream and top with fruit. If you don't feel like cooking anymore, soften 8 oz. of cream cheese and sweeten with some confectioners sugar, top with get the idea.