It’s been a week of some serious treats at my house. It all started last Saturday with this birthday cake for my daughter.

Then, there was the Daring Baker’s challenge.

Next, these killer chocolate chocolate chip cupcakes for a Food52 contest…

And finally…this lemon cream tart. A tart so delicious, I can’t seem to find the words to do it proper justice.

lemoncreamtartslice1

For the last few weeks, I’ve been unable to stop buying bags of Meyer lemons every time I’m at the store.

2lemons

I’ve been using them in lots of different ways including this healthy Meyer Lemon Pudding that I shared last week. But because they probably won’t be available here for too much longer, I decided to use my remaining Meyer lemons to make Dorie Greenspan’s Lemon Cream Tart.

This recipe comes from the book Baking: From My Home to Yours. The recipe is also available here, on Serious Eats.

Lemon cream is very much like lemon curd, only the butter is added/emulsified in at the end. Dorie gives credit for this technique/recipe to French pastry chef Pierre Herme.

Like lemon curd, lemon cream can be used on toast, muffins, scones, or pancakes. It’s also fabulous in between cake layers or, of course, as the filling for this tart.

lemoncreamandgabbie

Because I had leftover gluten-free graham crackers from the Daring Baker’s Challenge, I used these to make a graham cracker crust.

grahamcrust

The crunchy sweet base filled with the cool lemon cream…

fillinglemontart

was perfect.

You can make a graham cracker crust with traditional store-bought graham crackers, if you like, or go ahead and use your favorite fully baked 9 inch tart shell. You can make the lemon cream ahead of time and keep it in the refrigerator or freezer, but make sure to assemble the tart right before you plan to eat it.

Lemon Cream Tart

adapted from the recipe for Pierre Herme's Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart in Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan; note that I omitted the lemon zest and decreased the butter...
*You will need a candy thermometer, a double boiler, and a blender for this recipe; the tart will serve 8

Ingredients:

*1 cup sugar, preferably organic
*4 large eggs, preferably organic and free range
*3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 4 to 5 lemons, preferably Meyer lemons)
*1 stick plus 5 tablespoons organic unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into tablespoon-sized pieces (note that Dorie's recipe calls for one more whole stick of butter)
*1 fully-baked graham cracker crust (gluten-free or traditional) or a 9-inch tart shell

Directions:

1. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan. In a small pot that will fit in the saucepan, whisk in the eggs with the sugar and then the lemon juice.

2. Fit the bowl into the pan and cook, stirring with a whisk or a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens. Use a candy thermometer to determine the temperature as you're cooking the cream. You want it to reach 180°F.
This can take a long time, and while Dorie instructs to keep whisking, I did not stir the whole while.

3. I found that in the double boiler, curdling the egg really wasn't a concern. I left and got a whole bunch of laundry folded and nothing bad happened. Do make sure to keep water in the bottom of your double boiler, though, because it will evaporate more than once while your lemon cream is cooking.

4. As it heats up and as you keep whisking the the cream, Dorie says "it will go from light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then, as the cream is getting closer to 180°F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks. Heads up at this point—the tracks mean the cream is almost ready". Keep whisking, but know that it really can take a little while longer to reach 180°F.

5. When the temperature reaches 180°F, take it off the heat and allow it to cool for about 10 minutes.

6. In a blender, process the cream on high and, with the machine going, add about 5 pieces of butter at a time. Continue to blend until all the butter has been added and the cream is perfectly smooth.

7. Pour the cream into a container and chill for a few hours or overnight. When you are ready to construct the tart, just whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell.

8. The tart should be served cold, and it is fantastic with a dollop of crème fraîche or Greek yogurt.

lemoncreamtart2

This tart is best the day it is made, but I’ve been eating the leftovers out of the freezer and it’s pretty darn delicious this way too!

A Little More Meyer Lemon Love:
Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Meyer Lemon Curd Nanaimo Bars
Kelsey the Naptime Chef’s Meyer Lemon Rice Pudding
Local Lemons’ Local Meyer Limoncello
And for even more lovely lemon recipes, check out the Lemon LoveFest Library over at Wine Imbiber!
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The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and www.nanaimo.ca.

Nanaimo Bars | healthy green kitchen

Let me first start by saying that while I don’t know Lauren in person, I’ve gotten to know her through her blog over the last few months. Lauren was one of the first people to start commenting regularly on my blog, in fact, and I think she’s a gem for that. But she’s also a gem for the great gluten-free food she shares at Celiac Teen, and I was extremely happy to see she was the DB host this month.

I’ve been to Vancouver Island (the location of the town Nanaimo) and I have heard of Nanaimo bars, but I have never tasted them before. I knew I’d love them the moment I saw the ingredients list and pulled up some pictures on the Web, though. A layered creation of crushed graham crackers, chocolate, coconut, almonds and then more chocolate with a custardy frosting-like middle? Hello? Clearly these are not waistline-friendly. But with Lauren at the helm of this challenge, I knew they’d be gluten-free and damn good.

I followed Lauren’s recipes with just a couple of substitutions (either because I couldn’t find something at the store or because I didn’t have the necessary ingredients at home) which you’ll see below. I kept everything gluten-free and found these to be incredibly delicious. Not an every day treat by any means; these definitely go into the decadent recipe category!

And now for the recipe.

First, you’ll need to make the graham crackers.

Gluten-Free Graham Crackers/Wafers

Ingredients
:

1 cup sweet rice flour (also known as glutinous rice flour)
3/4 cup tapioca starch/flour
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter (cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen)
1/3 cup honey, preferably a mild-flavored variety such as clover
5 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

Directions:

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine the flours, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Pulse on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal. If making by hand, combine aforementioned dry ingredients with a whisk, then cut in butter until you have a coarse meal. No chunks of butter should be visible.

In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the honey, milk and vanilla. Add to the flour mixture until the dough barely comes together. It will be very soft and sticky.

Turn the dough onto a surface well-floured with sweet rice flour and pat the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 2 hours, or overnight.

Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Sift an even layer of sweet rice flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will be quite sticky, so flour as necessary. Cut into 4 by 4 inch squares. Gather the scraps together and set aside. Place wafers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. Repeat with the second batch of dough.

Adjust the rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat oven to 350F.

Gather the scraps together into a ball, chill until firm, and roll again. Dust the surface with more sweet rice flour and roll out the dough to get a couple more wafers.

Prick the wafers with toothpick or fork, not all the way through, in two or more rows.

Bake for 25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the touch, rotating sheets halfway through to ensure even baking. It might take less time for them to cook, and the starting location of each sheet may determine its required time. The ones on the bottom will brown faster.

Cooled completely and place enough wafers in a blender or food processor to make 1 ¼ cups of crumbs. Another way to do this is to place in a large ziploc bag, force all air out and smash with a rolling pin until wafers are crumbs.

Note: I had some trouble finding the gluten-free flours for the graham crackers at my local natural foods store. So I took a gamble and tried the recipe using 2 1/4 cup (the total amount of sweet rice, tapioca, and sorghum flour combined) of Arrowhead Mills Gluten Free Pancake and Baking Mix. The dough was a little crumbly when I rolled it out but I figured it didn’t matter since I’d be making graham cracker crumbs with it anyway. They’re not going to win a beauty contest, but the graham crackers actually ended up tasting great.

Nanaimo Bars | healthy green kitchen
Next, you proceed with the Nanaimo bars recipe. Any leftover graham wafers may be kept in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Nanaimo Bars

Bottom Layer
1/2 cup unsalted butter (I used organic coconut oil because I was low on butter)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/4 cups gluten-free graham wafer crumbs (see above)
1/2 cup almonds, finely chopped
1 cup coconut (I used 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded organic coconut; my kids don’t love it so I halved the amount)

Middle Layer

1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons heavy cream (I ran out of butter and used sour cream)
2 tablespoons vanilla custard powder such as Bird’s; vanilla pudding mix may be substituted
2 cups icing (powdered sugar)

Top Layer
4 ounces (115 g) semi-sweet chocolate (I used organic, gluten-free semi-sweet chocolate chips by Sunspire)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (again, I used sour cream because I was out of butter)

Directions:

For Bottom Layer: Melt unsalted butter, sugar and cocoa in top of a double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, nuts and coconut. Press firmly into an ungreased 8 by 8 inch pan.

For Middle Layer: Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light in color. Spread over bottom layer.

For Top Layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool and pour over middle layer. Chill before slicing.

These bars freeze very well.

Nanaimo Bars | healthy green kitchen

This broccoli salad was inspired by another contest at Food52. I submitted this recipe to the contest, but have since tweaked it a bit to come up with the version you see here.

broccolisalad

Though I will certainly eat steamed broccoli, I much prefer it when broccoli has been blanched. Yes, I know “blanched” is just a fancy way to say “boiled” and yes, I know you lose some of the nutrients in the cooking water.

But I simply don’t care. I don’t blanch/boil it for very long and it just tastes better to me.

My favorite way to eat blanched broccoli is with a simple dip made from equal parts good quality mayo and organic brown mustard. So I took the basic elements, embellished them a bit, and came up with a lightly dressed sweet and crunchy broccoli salad. If you can’t find the Meyer lemon for the dressing, use regular lemon juice and add a bit of honey.

Blanched Broccoli Salad with Pumpkin Seeds and Dried Cherries
Serves 2-4

Ingredients for the salad:

* 1 head of organic broccoli, cut into florets
* 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted in a hot pan for 1-2 minutes, until they pop (be careful they don’t burn)
* 1/4 cup dried cherries

For the dressing:

* juice of 1/2 Meyer lemon
* 1 tablespoon mayonnaise (or a little more to taste), preferably made with olive oil (or use grape seed oil Vegenaise, which also happens to be vegan)
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 1/2 tablespoon organic brown mustard

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a large pinch of salt and the broccoli florets. Cook for 2-3 minutes (not more: you don’t want the broccoli to be too soft). Drain the broccoli and allow to cool.

Mix the broccoli, pumpkin seeds and dried cherries in a large bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, the mayonnaise, the olive oil and the mustard. Pour the dressing over the salad and mix well to combine.

Sadly I didn’t make it into the Food52 “broccoli finals” with this recipe…to see those that did, (they are both roasted broccoli recipes) and to vote for the winning recipe check out Roasted Broccoli with Paprika Vinaigrette and Marcona Almonds and Roasted Bagna Cauda Broccoli.