I wish I had a scratch and sniff computer…actually I wish you had a scratch and sniff computer. That way you could be as enchanted by the floral aroma of these wonderful little Meyer lemons as I am. These lemons are so fragrant that even before I zested the peels, sliced them open and squeezed out the juice a honey tinged, fresh lemon scent was wafting around my kitchen. I first used Meyer lemons about a month ago when I made Carrot Muffins with Meyer Lemon Glaze. They were good…in fact they were eat two in a row good. The moist carrot muffins studded with lemon zest and drizzled with a thin honey lemon glaze were perfect for my first experiment with these special, slightly sweet lemons. This time though when I brought home a bag filled with the egg yolk colored little cuties I knew I wanted to make something that really let the lemon flavor shine. I wanted a bust of pure lemon flavor in every bite. I wanted to make a recipe that used LOTS of lemon juice…
and lots of lemon zest. So naturally I turned to lemon curd. Curd is all over the Internet these days (could someone please come up with a better name for it than curd) – lemon curd, blood orange curd, grapefruit curd, key lime curd- you name the citrus and someone has made a curd out of it.
For a long time lemon meringue pie was one of my favorite desserts which means that I’ve made quite a bit of lemon curd in my life time. Never with Meyer lemons though. And never with honey! I spotted this recipe over on the Cookie + Kate blog where she made both a blood orange and a Meyer lemon curd sweetened with honey instead of white sugar. Since I loved the honey and lemon glaze that I made for my carrot muffins I was eager to try it. It was totally the right choice. The honey adds just a touch of sweet to the floral-scented Meyer lemons and the result is a slightly sweet yet wonderfully tangy smooth curd. The other tip that I picked up from Kate was how to make lemon curd with no straining and no risk of cooked egg bites tarnishing the final product. Basically the idea is to cream the butter and honey like you would if making a cake, then incorporate the eggs and juice before cooking. It worked really well and will defiantly be the method I turn to from now on when making any kind of curd.
For the tart crust I decided on a sweet buttery shortbread type with lots of ground almonds. I love the nutty flavor that the almonds lend to the dough and they also provide a bit of crispy texture that compliments the silky smooth curd perfectly.
I made mini tarts and blind baked them filled with pie weights. If you don’t have pie weights you can use dried beans but be sure not to skip this step altogether. If you try to bake the tart crust without weights the dough will bubble up in the middle leaving no room for the delicious lemon curd. Believe me, I’m telling you this from experience.
Here they are fresh out of the oven. Almost good enough to eat even with out the lemon curd.
And here they are filled with sweet and tangy lemon curd and topped with fresh whipped cream.
Honey Sweetened Meyer Lemon Tarts
Adapted from Cookie + Kate and Taste of Home
Makes (3) 4 1/2 inch tarts or (1) 9 inch tart
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup honey
4 egg yolks
2/3 cup Meyer lemon juice (from 7-8 lemons)
1 tablespoon Meyer lemon zest
1 cup white unbleached flour
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2-3 tablespoons ice water
For the topping:
Meyer lemon shavings
1. Make the crust: Pulse the almonds in a food processor until finely ground. Add the flour, sugar, butter, almond extract and salt and pulse until combined. Slowly add the ice water 1 tablespoon at a time until a soft dough forms. Using your hands form the dough into a ball, place it between two pieces of parchment or wax paper and flatten to a disk shape. Wrap the edges of the paper tightly around the dough and refrigerate for 1 hour. (Alternate directions: Since I only have a small one-cup food processor I used it to ground the almonds and then transferred them to my stand mixer where I finished the dough. I followed the same process; mixing all the ingredients together and then adding the ice water a little at a time until a dough formed. It worked perfectly, the only drawback was more dishes to wash.)
2. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and unwrap the sides of the dough, but leave it between the sheets of paper for rolling. This prevents the dough from sticking to the surface and your rolling pin without using flour. Start by pressing the dough with the rolling pin from the middle to each end, turning the dough 180 degrees and repeating. Continue rolling the dough into a circle about an 1/8th inch thick. If making small tarts, cut out circles slightly larger than the pans you are using (my tartlets pans are 4 1/2 inches wide so I cut out 5” circles) and press the dough into the pans. If you are making one large tart, place the entire dough circle over the pan, press it into the bottom and corners and trim the edges.
3. Cut pieces of parchment paper or aluminum foil large enough to cover the bottom of the crust and extend out a bit over the edges of the pan. Place the paper or foil over the crust (s) and fill with pie weights or dry beans. Bake for 20 minutes, remove the weights and paper or foil and continue baking until the edges turn a light golden color, about 5 –7 more minutes. Remove from the oven and let the crust cool.
4. Make the Lemon Curd: In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a medium size bowl if using a hand mixer, mix the butter and honey until creamy, about 3-5 minutes. Slowly add the egg yolks and whole eggs; beat until combined. Add the lemon juice and mix briefly. Don’t worry if the batter looks lumpy, it will smooth out on the stove top.
5. Transfer the mixture to a medium size non-reactive pot (not aluminum or unlined copper) and cook over medium-low heat stirring constantly. The mixture will begin to thicken after about 5 minutes. Continue stirring until it it thick and jelly-like. Test for doneness by running your finger over the back of a wooden spoon coated in the curd- if it leaves a clear path it is ready. For me it took about 7 minutes for the curd to finish. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon zest.
6. Pour the lemon curd into the cooled tarts shells.* Before serving top with whipped cream and a sprinkle of shaved lemon peel if desired.
*If you are not using the lemon curd right away transfer it to a bowl and place a piece of plastic wrap over the top letting come in contact with the curd. Gently press the plastic into the top of the curd until it is completely covered. This will prevent air from forming a crust on top of the curd. Refrigerate until ready to use.