Growing up in the South, my favorite dessert was lemon ice box pie prepared with a graham cracker crust, a smooth lemon filling, and a whipped cream topping. Mile-high lemon meringue pie ran a close second. Later, as a college student in France, I discovered individual lemon tarts, made with butter-rich pastry crusts that encased glossy lemon fillings. The truth is I’ve never met a lemon pie or tart I didn’t like! My most recent crush is a lemon tart scented with anise that I tried in Paris awhile back
At Baieta on the Left Bank, I swooned over a little lemon tart with Provençal accents. Crushed fennel seeds were incorporated into the golden crust, the filling appeared to be a classic lemon curd, and on top there were swirls of mascarpone, petit meringues, and a scoop of sorbet scented with Pernod, the celebrated anise liqueur from the South of France. I was won over after my first bite of this dessert with its burst of vibrant flavors and contrasting textures.
For a simpler version, I prepared a large, single tart, adding crushed fennel seeds to a butter-rich dough, and using my best lemon curd for the filling. I omitted the meringues, but added some mascarpone and Pernod to sweetened whipped cream that I served in a bowl alongside the tart.
Although best made and served the same day, this dessert is still very good 24 hours later. In fact, I was sneaking slices of it for midnight snacks several days later! My love of lemon tarts and pies remains intact!
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Lemon Tart with Pernod Whipped Cream
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed (See cooking tip.)
8 tbsp unsalted butter, chilled and diced
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
3 tbsp ice water plus more if needed
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
Grated zest from 2 lemons (about 1 tablespoon)
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Pernod Whipped Cream
1/2 cup heavy or whipping cream
3 tbsp mascarpone
1 1/2 tbsp confectioner’s sugar
2 tsp Pernod plus 1/2 tsp extra if desired (See market tip.)
1. For crust, place flour, crushed fennel seeds, and butter in food processor fitted with metal blade. Pulse several times until mixture resembles oatmeal flakes. With machine running, add egg yolk through tube. Gradually, add water and process just until flour seems moistened but does not form a ball of dough. If necessary, add up to1 tablespoon extra water. Place mixture on a work surface and knead several seconds until butter is well incorporated and a smooth ball of dough is formed. Flatten into a disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes. (Dough can be prepared one day ahead; bring to room temperature 20 to 30 minutes before rolling out.)
2. Roll dough on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch circle. Carefully lift dough and mold into a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Trim dough so that it hangs 1/2 inch over sides of pan, then fold dough in and press towards sides of a pan. Prick bottom of dough with tines of a fork; cover and refrigerate tart shell for 30 minutes or longer.
3. To bake, arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line tart shell with a sheet of aluminum foil and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake 10 minutes, then remove foil and weights and bake until shell is a rich golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes more. (Forty minutes worked best in my oven.) Remove and cool to room temperature.
4. For filling melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat and set aside. Combine sugar, eggs, yolks, lemon zest and juice, and vanilla in medium heavy saucepan over medium low heat and stir constantly with whisk until smooth. Whisk in melted butter and continue to whisk until mixture thickens, about 10 minutes or longer. (Do not let mixture boil or eggs will curdle.) After mixture has thickened turn heat to low and whisk 1 to 2 minutes more. Pour filling into prepared shell and chill at least 2 hours or longer.
5. For topping, whip cream until it just starts to thicken, and then add the mascarpone and confectioner’s sugar. Continue beating until just firm. Remove and stir in Pernod. For a stronger taste add an extra 1/2 teaspoon. (Pernod cream can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Slice tart and top each serving with a generous dollop of Pernod Cream. Serves 8
To crush fennel seeds, place them in an electric spice grinder or mini-food processor, and grind into a powder. You can also crush them with a mortar and pestle, or place them in a self-sealing plastic bag and use a rolling pin to pound them into a powder.
Pernod or other anise-scented liqueurs (such as Ricard) are available in wine and liqueur stores.
Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2019