A French Tart makes for a Sweet Passover

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January 30, 2014
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The lemon tart featured below is classic French lemon tart was one of the first desserts I learned to prepare in pastry school in Paris and when I did dessert catering in Geneva, Switzerland, it was one of the most popular orders. I created this gluten-free dessert version so we could enjoy a lemon tart on Passover and added a nut crust flavored with basil to give it a modern twist.

You can make the lemon cream filling three days before finishing the tart. In the photo here I used a square tart pan with a removable bottom, but you can use a round tart pan or standard pie plate. I have often complained about the 8-inch pie pan because it barely holds enough pie to feed my family of six. One solution has been to make large “pies” in 9 X 13-inch pans so I get more servings. I did an event recently at Beth T’filoh in Baltimore, Maryland where they served my Chocolate and Pistachio Tart from the Holiday Kosher Baker. In order to produce enough servings for the large crowd, they doubled the recipe and made it in a 9 X 13-inch pan and when chilled cut it into small squares. You can do the same here and have enough servings for your Seder crowd.

Passover Baking tips

  1. Passover margarine comes in large one-pound blocks. When you bring them home, immediately cut them into quarters so you have sticks at the ready.

  2. Bring egg whites to room temperature quickly by placing bowl of cold whites over a second bowl that has 2 inches of hot hot water. Stir whites every few minutes and in no time your eggs will be warm enough to beat into fluffy peaks.

  3. Have a coffee grinder dedicated for grinding nuts into nut flours; it is less expensive than buying already-ground nuts

  4. When planning Passover menus, do not forget breakfast and lunch. For some new breakfast ideas go to Kosher Scoop

  5. Keep your grocery receipts nearby all holiday long and note at the end what you didn’t use and what you want to make sure you have more of for next year

Lemon Tart with Basil Nut Crust

Serves 8

Basil Nut Crust

4 tablespoons margarine

1 cup ground walnuts (ground fine)

1 cup ground almonds, or almond flour

3 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil leaves

Lemon Filling

3 large eggs plus 2 yolks

1 cup sugar

5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 3 lemons)

Zest of 1 lemon (use a Microplane zester or grater with small holes)

5 tablespoons margarine

Meringue Topping

1/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons water

1 large egg white

Preheat oven to 350ºF. You will need an 8 or 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom or a pie plate.

First make the lemon cream: Place the eggs, yolks and sugar in a heatproof bowl and set over a medium saucepan with simmering water (or use a double-boiler). Add the lemon juice and zest and whisk. Cook the lemon cream uncovered whisking occasionally, until thick. This takes approximately 30 – 35 minutes. Be patient and do not stir too much. If the water in the saucepan boils too fast, turn down the heat.

Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in the margarine a tablespoon at a time. Set aside.

While the lemon cream is cooking, prepare the crust: Melt the margarine either in the microwave oven for 45 seconds, or on the stovetop, until melted. Add the walnuts, almonds and sugar and mix until combined. Add the chopped basil and mix in. Scoop into the pie pan and use your hands to press to cover the bottom and go up the sides. Try to even out the rim at the top. Place in the oven 15 minutes.

Remove from oven and spoon the lemon filling into the crust. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the outside edges of the cream are set; the inside can remain a little wobbly. Let cool and then place in the fridge for at least two hours or overnight.

To make the meringue topping: In a small heavy saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Continue to cook the sugar until it reaches 230ºF on a candy thermometer. While the sugar is cooking, beat the egg whites in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on high speed until stiff. When the sugar is ready, turn the mixer speed to low and then slowly pour in the cooked sugar down the side of the bowl, not directly onto the wire whisk. When all of the sugar has been poured in, turn the mixer up to high for one minute.

Use a silicone spatula to spread the meringue all over the top of the lemon or use a pastry bag and tip to make any decorative designs. You can use a blowtorch to lightly brown the meringue or place the tart in a 450ºF oven for a few minutes, watching the entire time, until the top browns.  Store in the fridge for up to three days.