Let’s start by saying that I have had a bit of a challenging week and it made me think about the saying, “when life gives you lemons make lemonade”. To make sure that I quoted the quote correctly, I did a quick Google search and wikipedia comes up with the following explanation of the quote:
‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade is a proverbial phrase used to encourage optimism and a positive can-do attitude in the face of adversity or misfortune. Lemons suggest sourness or difficulty in life; making lemonade is turning them into something positive or desirable.’
Of course Google will also suggest other versions of the quote, like the ones below.
“I believe when life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade…and try to find someone whose life has given them vodka, and have a party.”
“When life gives you lemons ask it for sugar and water too. Otherwise your final product would be some acidic lemon juice!”
Okay, so I wasn’t actually given any lemons and nor did I make lemonade, but I did buy five lemons to make a Tarte au citron. With Week 1 of my patisserie challenge almost over and no bake to show for it, I thought that I better get started, so last night, I made pâte sucrée for the base of my Tarte au citron. According to Will Torrent, pâte sucrée, which is used to make tarts ‘is similar to pâte sablée but the use of caster/granulated sugar instead of icing/confectioners’ sugar makes a less delicate pastry’.
As the recipe suggested leaving the pâte sucrée in the fridge overnight to chill, I didn’t complete the bake until later this afternoon after we had completed an 8 mile off-road run. The next step of the bake was rolling out the pâte sucrée and lining a tart tin. Having recently worked with straight forward short-crust pastry, I had forgotten that pastry enriched with egg can be a little bit more difficult to work with. I struggled with the first roll (the pastry was more sticky than I think it should have been, possibly because I added vanilla extract rather than the seeds of a vanilla bean) so I ended up having to re-roll the pastry. Re-rolling is not the best as it can result in the pastry becoming too tough, but I really didn’t have an option as my pastry was sticking to my work bench, despite lightly flouring the surface. My re-roll resulted in a relatively well-lined tart tin, except for the fact that I really do need to get a new 25 cm tart tin. My tart tin is a cheap one that I got for our camper van. It has a lip/rim on it which means that when you try to cut off the excess pastry, it is difficult to get a neat edge. Alright, I know a poor work person blames his/her tools but I think I have a legitimate concern in this regard.
The next step was to blind-bake the pastry. The recipe suggested that I should blind bake the pastry with baking paper/baking beans in it for 10 – 15 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius and then lower the oven to 160 degrees Celsius, remove the baking paper and beans and bake it for a further 5 to 10 minutes. Given the lip on my tart, I erred on the side of caution and blind baked my pastry for 10 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius and 5 minutes at 160 degrees Celsius. Needless to say, I was a bit too cautious as the base could have had at at least another 5 minutes. That being said the sides and the rim of the pastry was nicely cooked with a slightly nutty, caramelised flavour. And my husband says that despite my concern the pastry was not under-cooked.
Although I may not have been entirely happy with my pastry, I have to say that the filling was cooked as it should have been. The recipe says ‘Pour the filling slowly and carefully into the tart case. Push the tart further into the oven , close the door, say a little prayer and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until it just starts to set in the centre but still wobbles like a jelly’. Although I didn’t say a prayer, I did continue to watch the tart closely through the oven door (as the do on Great British Bake Off). I checked the tart after 30 minutes, again after 35 minutes and then finally lost my nerve and removed the tart from the oven after about 37.5 minutes. The result was a well cooked filling with the required wobble. The only thing that I would do differently next time (if there is a next time) is skim the lemon filling mixture more before pouring it into the tart case. My cooked tart had a few small, burst bubbles on the surface, which shouldn’t have been there. The perfect lemon tart has a smooth, glass-like surface. Thank goodness the recipe suggested finishing the tart with light sprinkling of icing sugar, which hid most of my multitude of tiny bubble ‘sins’.
After allowing the tart to cool to room temperature, my husband and I tucked into a small slice. My husband was ecstatic, whereas I felt that it was a little too sweet and rich for my taste (9 eggs, 390g sugar, 275ml of double cream and the juice and zest of 5 lemons will no doubt do that). Despite my opinion, my husband says it has just the right balance of sweet and tart.
After my husband squirreled away another piece of the tart to eat tomorrow, I took the rest of the tart up the road to our resident photographer so that he can try to works his magic on my bake and turn it into a piece of art in the form of a photograph. Given that my tart cracked slightly en route and the light sprinkling of icing sugar had dissipated somewhat from the surface of my tart by the time I delivered it to him, who knows whether he will be able to turn what may have become a sow’s ear into a silk purse.
Thank goodness I took a photo of my bake earlier, before my walk in the dark partly-destroyed the aesthetics of my bake. Oh yes, and I should have used a warm knife to cut the tart so that I would have got a neater edge – what would my Chef Tutor say about my over-sight? And with all this, Week 1, my 1st bake and the first of my 52 challenges is complete. As in cookery school, I am sure there will be trials, tribulations and triumphs along the way.