Mini Lemon Sponge Tarts

October 11, 2010

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I love this time of year.  I love that the air is changing and there is a crispness about it.  I love pulling out my sweaters and bundling up and feeling cozy, I love watching my son practice with his football team at the park, and I especially love that my Meyer lemon tree is coming back to life after being dormant all summer long.  I love lemons.  Perhaps, lemons could quite possibly be my favorite fruit.  My mother-in-law laughs at me every time I order an iced tea in a restaurant.  I always request a huge bowl of lemons, on the side, and I am very specific on how I like them cut.  In wedges, no dinky slices for me.  I have to be able to squeeze all of the luscious juices out of them, getting every last drop, including the pulp.

It seemed only appropriate that I make a lemon dessert to celebrate the beginning of fall, coupled with a handful of very ripe lemons on my favorite tree.

This recipe comes from a book that I consider “perfectly perfect”, rustic fruit desserts.  I bake from it often and, to date, I have had not one catastrophe!  The original recipe was for a 10″ tart.  However, I opted to make minis (I adore mini anything) and in doing so, I had to alter the baking time of the crust (I over baked the first batch of crust and I was unconscious and baked the minis for the same time as the 10″. ooops!)  These are light, flaky, and utterly delicious!

Lemon Sponge Tart

Short dough
yield: 15 mini tarts or one 10″ tart shell

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 Tbls. heavy cream
1 egg yolk

• put the flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl of your food processor.
• add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
• lightly beat the cream and egg yolk and add it to the flour mixture, and pulse lightly.  you don’t want to over process.  this will result in less firm, less flaky dough.
• wrap in plastic wrap, flatten into a 6″disk and chill for 1 hour.
• preheat oven to 375*
• on a lightly floured surface (the dough is on the sticky side) roll the dough out to 1/8″ thickness
• cut enough circles to fit your tart molds.  press dough into tart shells.  prick a few times with a fork.
• put tart shells on a parchment lined baking sheet.
• cover each tartlette with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans.
• bake for 17 minutes (for the tarteletts, 30 minutes for the large tart)
• the tarts can be pre-baked one day ahead.

Lemon Sponge Filling

2 Tbls. unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
zest of 2 lemons
2 eggs separated
juice of 2 lemons
2 1/2 Tbls. all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt

• preheat oven to 425*
• in the bowl of your standing mixer, beat the butter, sugar, and the lemon zest at medium speed until well combined.
• add the egg yolks one at a time. mix until the batter is creamy.
• stir in the lemon juice, then the flour.  mix thoroughly.  this is a very thin mixture
• in a clean metal bowl, whisk the egg yolks and salt until soft peaks form. gently fold in the egg whites into the lemon mixture until evenly incorporated.
• pour into pre-baked tart shells.
• bake for 5 minutes.  turn the oven down to 325* and bake for an additional 12-15 minutes, until the filling is golden and firm to the touch.
• cool to room temperature.
• these are best eaten the day they are baked.  can be stored in the fridge, for up to 3 days.