For the last 10 years or so, I have been drawn to Tarte au Citron or lemon tart whenever it appeared on a restaurant menu. I love the juxtaposition between the sweet, crumbly crust and the intense sweet/sour filling. I have made a couple of such tarts before, but I am forever on the lookout for recipes which look brilliant and taste wonderful. And let me say, there are LOTS of seriously bad lemon tarts out there that ruin it for casual dabblers. Thomas Keller has an appealing recipe in his Bouchon cookbook, and I had been meaning to try it for a while, when I suddenly found myself with an abundance of dayap or limes…
…so the idea and base recipe is Mr. Keller’s, but the the several changes are mine. Instead of a pine nut crust, I decided to try making a roasted pili nut crust with fresh vanilla beans. Instead of a lemon sabayon filling, I made a dayap filling, and followed the instructions to broil the crust to this beautiful “bruleed” effect.
I made enough dough for three medium sized (6-7 inch) tart pans (with leftover dough for yet another tart which you can store in the freezer). To make, roast and cool some freshly picked pili nuts and add 3 cups worth into a food processor. Add 1/2 cup of sugar and blitz this for a few seconds until a coarse meal… Pili nuts have a VERY HIGH fat content, perhaps even more than macadamia nuts, so I thought it might be a good stand-in for pine nuts… with the added benefit of a distinctly filipino flavor profile.
Add four cups of all purpose flour and blitz a bit more until the nuts are finely ground and transfer to a mixer, add 12 ounces of softened butter, 2 medium sized eggs and the intense contents of a fresh vanilla bean (not the skin, just the vanilla paste inside) and mix until the ingredients are all incorporated and you have a dampish dough.
Divide your dough into four pieces (in this case, roughly 225 grams per portion), wrap in plastic cling film and refrigerate for about 30 minutes before using. Butter and flour your pans and refrigerate until ready to bake the tart shells. Take the dough out of the fridge, and press into your tart pans with removable bottoms until you have an even crust all over, see photo above. I ALWAYS make the crust too thick, thinking a thinner one won’t hold up. So avoid the tendency to do this. For this sized pan, 200 grams of dough should be sufficient for the size of the pictured pan. Oddly, with this pili nut crust, I liked the crust so much I was happy it was a bit thicker than usual. :)
Blind bake (meaning without any filling in it) the crusts for roughly 10-12 minutes in a 350F oven, until they are lightly golden… Notice how the edges are quite even in the baked tart shell above, but a little thicker than usual.
Next the filling. A bit of a kili-kili sweat generator, but I promise you TOTALLY WORTH THE EFFORT. Repeat, TOTALLY WORTH THE EFFORT. :) There are several ways to make the filling, but this “sabayon method” yields spectacular results. You will need 3 large eggs, 3 large egg yolks, 1 cup + 2 tablespoons white sugar, 3/4 cup of dayap juice and 9 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
Prepare a double boiler and bring the water up to a gentle boil. In a metal bowl whose base will fit nicely on top of your double boiler, whisk together your eggs, yolks, and sugar until very smooth. Place the bowl on top of the double boiler, and whisk the mixture constantly (and turning the bowl for even cooking) until the mixture has thickened slightly. You will start to feel beads of sweet in your armpits and start questioning if Marketman has lost his marbles. Add 1/3 of the dapap juice and whisk vigorously and when the mixture thickens, add another third and so on. Keep whisking and by now you will have switched hand a couple of times and your wrists will be complaining. The total cooking time should be around 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, take the bowl off and place it on a kitchen counter, whisk in the butter until you have a smooth but curdly-textured sabayon. It will thicken as it cools. At this point, pour the warm mixture into your pre-baked tart shells and place them under the broiler of your oven and carefully watch them and rotate to get a nice even browning of the top crust. Remove the tart and let it rest for at least two hours before serving. It’s great served at room temperature, but I have to admit, I like it the next day served COLD straight out of the fridge, with a cup or two of good tea.
The dayap tart joined two other desserts at the birthday dinner. The chocolate cake with a caramel and dark chocolate icing was made by the teen. It was superb without being overly rich. We also had a large apple pie for those who wanted some fruit…
The dayap tart was amazing. I wish I had access to fresh dayap all year round. This is a perfect example of western techniques but using local ingredients that results in something really good…
Need I type more? :)