Lemon curd tart and the nostalgia that ensues

San Francisco is a city that holds a special place in my heart. I visited for my first time about one week before meeting Jon. I was out there for a work conference, and my mom met me for the second half of the trip to walk and shop and eat our way around the city. Upon recommendation, we went to Tartine bakery, waited in the ridiculously long line, and sat like sardines at the cozy and bustling tiny bakery’s tables. I loved it from the second I walked in. It’s on an unassuming street corner, and the smells coming from within are divine.  Although we’d never been before, something about the way that everyone else was behaving just made us follow suit, unintimidated.  When we got up to the counter, there were so many beautiful things to choose from. The girls taking our order had on aprons covered in flour and powdered sugar. You could tell that this was a process everyone was used to—lines out the door, people coming from near and far, people leaving with hands full of craggy loaves, sweet rolls, tarts, and pastries. We finally snagged a spot at a table and ate our morning treats with piping hot coffee, gushing over how unbelievable every single bite was and watching the line of people shuffle in and out of this little powerhouse of a bakery. My favorite was the lemon cream tart, which looked like the most pillowy cloud of lemony perfection I’d ever seen. And it truly was.  Our first time at Tartine will forever be one of my favorite memories with my mom.

When I returned home, I was introduced to a guy who told me that San Francisco was his favorite city in the world, and also home to his favorite team, the 49ers. About a year into dating him, he went out to San Francisco with his friends to watch a 49ers-Bills game.  I stayed at home and was loving hearing updates about what they were doing and how the trip was going. Sitting at work one morning, about to have my coffee, our office receptionist told me that a package had been delivered to me.  Having literally never received a package at work before, I had no idea what it could be. I opened up the strange, tightly wrapped over-nighted box to find the sweetest little note from my Jon about his desire to time this delivery just right with my morning coffee, and beneath the note was a (still in tact) lemon cream tart from Tartine!! I was blown away then, and still just get such a feeling in my heart about it. See?! I have a special thing about lemon tarts and San Francisco.

While no sane person would even attempt to recreate Tartine’s concoction (and—I secretly love that I'll have to return in order to taste it again), this lemon curd tart recipe from Ina Garten is truly delicious. It’s perfectly sweet, tangy, and creamy, and I love how lemon makes everything taste lighter.  With a little dollop of whipped cream, it’s also one of the prettiest sights on a tablescape—morning, afternoon, or night. I love that it feels classic and old fashioned, but something about it is so much more refreshing than a heavy chocolate dessert.

Lemon curd tart

Mostly unchanged from Ina Garten

Tart shell

12 T unsalted butter (1½ sticks, plus more for greasing, at room temperature
½ cup sugar
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
1¾ cups flour
Pinch salt

Lemon curd

4 lemons, at room temperature
1½ cups sugar
8 T unsalted butter (1 stick), at room temperature
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
⅛ tsp salt

Start by making the tart shell. Mix the butter and sugar together in an electric mixer until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a separate bowl, sift together flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Press the dough into a 10-inch-round false-bottom tart pan, making sure that the finished edge is flat. Chill until firm.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter one side of a square of aluminum foil to fit inside the chilled tart and place it, buttered side down, on the pastry. Fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and beans, prick the tart all over with a fork, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes more, or until lightly browned. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Now make the lemon curd. Zest the lemons, being careful to avoid the white pith. Squeeze the lemons to make ½ cup of juice and set the juice aside. Put the zest in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the sugar and process for 2 to 3 minutes, until the zest is very finely minced. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter with the sugar and lemon zest. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and then add the lemon juice and salt. Mix until combined.

Pour the mixture into a 2-quart saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 10-15 minutes. The lemon curd will thicken at about 175 degrees, or just below a simmer. Remove from the heat.

Fill the tart shell with warm lemon curd and allow to set at room temperature. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprig of mint for an extra touch.