Friday night dinners at LeeMichael and Bryan’s New Hampshire lake house call for simplicity.
Grill-roasted chickens and potatoes cook themselves while we ease into the weekend with glasses of wine and an always-spectacular sunset across the deep blue water of Lake Winnipesaukee.
Dessert, on the other hand, is a more involved affair. When I asked LeeMichael what he wanted me to bring, his only request was that it involve lemon.
(Actually, I think he said something like “LEMON!!!!” That’s his normal decibel level for things he likes, anyway.)
Normally, I wouldn’t bat an eye, immediately turning to my favorite lemon-olive oil tart—a recipe I’ve made so many times I can almost assemble it in my sleep. But the wrinkle here is that LeeMichael’s allergic to dairy. Specifically, he and butter are mortal enemies.
I realize what I’m about to say is the equivalent of thumbing my nose at fate, but cooking without butter is a hardship I don’t usually bear.
It’s the tried-and-true thickener for my lemon curd, the flaky binder for my pie and tart crusts, and the last thing I throw into my risotto along with Parmesan cheese. I get a little freaked out if I have fewer than three pounds of butter in my house at any given moment.
But I’d do anything for LeeMichael, so some minor changes had to be made.
The olive oil stayed, of course, keeping the tart’s undercurrent of savory richness, but the butter was shockingly easy to remove from the recipe.
Switching it out for coconut oil in the crust (and adding a little extra coconut to boot) made the tart’s final flavor and texture somewhere between rustic, old-fashioned lemon bars and elegant curd-topped shortbread.
It went over big-time. (I suspect someone might have been sneaking back to the house from the beach on Saturday to eat more of it, since there was suspiciously less of the tart when I went back for breakfast seconds on Sunday morning.)
I amped up the lemon flavor for our tart, but you can reduce the amount of juice in the recipe below to 1/2 cup if you’re not as obsessed with puckery desserts as we are.
Even so, the sweetness of the crust balances out the smooth, citrusy filling for a little big of sugar and a little bit of sour in each bite.
- 1 3/4 cups (210 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup (28 grams) confectioners sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon Diamond brand kosher salt
- 1/2 cup (105 grams) solid coconut oil
- 1 large egg yolk
- zest of 1 lemon (use the zest from one of the lemons you'll use for the curd)
- 1/4 cup shredded sweetened or unsweetened coconut (optional)
- 3 tablespoons good, fruity olive oil
- 4 lemons, zested and juiced (about 2/3 cup juice)
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs + 2 large egg yolks
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons good, fruity olive oil
Make the crust:
- Pulse the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor a few times until blended.
- Add the coconut oil, egg yolk, lemon zest, and shredded coconut (if using). Pulse until the coconut oil is the size of small peas.
- Drizzle the olive oil through the feed tube while the processor runs until a soft, shortbread-y dough forms.
- Press the dough into a 9 1/2-inch tart pan as you would for a batch of no-roll tart dough.
- Dock the bottom of the crust by pricking it a few times with a fork, then freeze for at least 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the tart crust is golden brown and dry. Cool to room temperature.
Make the lemon curd:
- Bring a small saucepan filled halfway with water to a simmer.
- Whisk the lemon zest and juice, sugar, and egg yolks together in a heatproof bowl.
- Place the bowl over the simmering water. Make sure the bottom of the bowl rests over the water and doesn't touch its surface.
- Whisk continuously for about minutes while the liquid heats and turns from sloshy and translucent to opaque.
- When you start to see steam rising from the liquid, scoop about 1/4 cup out of the bowl.
- Whisk the reserved liquid with the cornstarch.
- Return the cornstarch-infused liquid to the bowl and continue to whisk for 1-2 minutes more until the liquid thickens into a curd consistency. Be careful not to let the curd come to a full simmer, or you'll start to scramble the eggs.
- Remove from the heat and strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean bowl.
- Whisk in the olive oil, then pour the filling into the cooled tart crust.
- Refrigerate overnight to let the lemon curd firm up completely before serving.
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