You may have noticed that the “perfect” (note ironic scare quotes) kitchen has quite the thing for lemon. While I love bright, acidic savory things, Mr. T gets super excited about citrusy sweets. And, well, who am I to argue? It seems every lemony dessert that gets produced is the favorite, at least until a new one appears or an old one gets revisited. This lemon cream, however, with its amazing flavor and a singularly voluptuous, silky texture, might just actually be THE ONE. Coming from the kitchen of famed French pâtissier Pierre Hermé via his American collaborator Dorie Greenspan, it’s no surprise that this is something special. And, from a culinary standpoint, it’s excitingly innovative.
With the same ingredients as a lemon curd, it’s the way in which they’re combined that makes it so special. Rather than combining it into the other ingredients at first, the butter is held back and then emulsified into the cooked egg, sugar, and lemon mixture. It’s essentially a really sweet, lemony mayonnaise made with butter instead of oil. While that may sound a little gross, you’ll have to trust me when I say it most definitely is one of the most wonderful things EVER. I put it in a cookie crust and ringed it with blackberries. Next time–and oh, will there ever be a next time–I will do a flaky, tender short crust instead. The cookie crust provided a bit too much textural contrast. This would also make a lovely glue for trifle, filling for cake, spread for toast, or anything, really, that you could think of. It’s just that amazing. Do, however, be sure to chill it sufficiently. I didn’t quite give it the time it needed, which is why my blackberries are listing like drunken sailors…
Pierre Hermé via Dorie Greenspan
Makes ~ 4c
1 cup sugar
Finely grated zest of 3 lemons
4 large eggs
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 4 to 5 lemons)
2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons (21 tablespoons; 10 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
1 fully-baked 9-inch tart shell
Have a thermometer, preferably an instant-read, a strainer and a blender (first choice) or food processor at the ready. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.
Put the sugar and zest in a large metal bowl that can be fitted into the pan of simmering water. Off heat, work the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic. Whisk in the eggs followed by the lemon juice.
Fit the bowl into the pan (make certain the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl) and cook, stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch. You want to cook the cream until it reaches 180°F. As you whisk the cream over heat—and you must whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling—you’ll see that the cream will start out 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. Don’t stop whisking and don’t stop checking the temperature. And have patience—depending on how much heat you’re giving the cream, getting to temp can take as long as 10 minutes.
As soon as you reach 180°F, pull the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of a blender (or food processor); discard the zest. Let the cream rest at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until it cools to 140°F, about 10 minutes.
Turn the blender to high and, with the machine going, add about 5 pieces of butter at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed while you’re incorporating the butter. Once the butter is in, keep the machine going—to get the perfect light, airy texture of lemon-cream dreams, you must continue to beat the cream for another 3 minutes. If your machine protests and gets a bit too hot, work in 1-minute intervals, giving the machine a little rest between beats.
Pour the cream into a bowl, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal, and chill the cream for at least 4 hours or overnight. When you are ready to construct the tart, just stir the cream gently to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell.