This is Plymouth. And the classic everyone can’t stop putting on menus… The Lemon Tart.

I’m not sure where to start.

The Canadian left in January. I spent another two weeks in the country working because I was lonely and there was nothing else to do.

Finally on the 17th of January, after spending a couple nights in a hotel because I was, yes again, homeless, I moved into a flat that overlooks the oldest part of Plymouth – The Barbican.IMG_2849

The Barbican is very cute, narrow cobbled roads wind along to the pier. The supposed location of the departure of the Mayflower is a 5 minute walk from my door. I never thought I would live somewhere so nice, I’m trying to enjoy it. IMG_2960

During the week the area is rather dull, especially since I generally work from 9 until midnight, on my first day off I was amazed to see that most of the shops that board up at night and seem rather abandoned are in fact thriving. On the weekend, carts arrive and sell seafood in little cups and a coffee cart sets up little bistro tables along the pier.

The rest of Plymouth…shithole is a term that could be used. It rains a good deal. We are now in day three of straight sunshine, I think I’ve forgotten about the gloom. IMG_2851

Plymouth was bombed quite a bit during the war, so there are some real architectural eyesores in amongst splendid structures. It is reminiscent in a way of my home town in that way, and the size is on par. You can walk most places in Plymouth, which is nice. The only down side is there are so few nice places to walk to. IMG_2848

 

 

 

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It’s not so bad, but I mostly work with a beautiful view of the sea and battleships if I strain my neck to look out through the pass to the large picture windows in the dining room. Battleships are my new sheep; in the country I couldn’t stop taking photos of sheep until I got the perfect shot (okay, two after that), and in the city battleships have the same effect on me.IMG_2922

I’m not sure what that means. But the Hoe is a lovely place to walk to every day.IMG_2898

The Citadel looms over it, and even though I don’t see the point in a place like Plymouth having a wheel, there is something nice about it just being there. Maybe cause it reminds me of the carnival. IMG_2947IMG_2945 IMG_2853

I took a bit of a wander my first day off to find the market and an excellent example of perhaps why Plymouth was once named the worst dressed city in England. IMG_2847

The Woolworths remains closed, along with several other midlevel department stores.IMG_2846

The Seagulls are the size of roosters here. They have no fear and at dawn they gather on the nearby roofs near the flat and cawcawcawcaw. It’s amusing and wretched at the same time though my flatmate doesn’t agree about the amusing part.  IMG_2845

Apparently Tom Daley isn’t the only fame in Plymouth — Arthur Conan Doyle had a short lived, perhaps struggling medical practice here. IMG_2941

As per usual I have to refrain from speaking about work. I can’t even spill my guts about the country resto because I still work for the same company. All I can say is that openings aren’t easy. They may be the toughest thing you can do in this industry as they embody every horrible, dysfunctional aspect of kitchen life. 17 hours a day for weeks. I did this 5 months ago, and this time round has exhausted me more than I’d anticipated. Everyday feels like walking up a steep hill in a wind storm and every morning you wake up at the bottom again. Only here the management is outnumbered by fresh faced commies who manage to stretch the daily climb by hours, either through queries or throwing your equipment down the hill forcing a start over.

I am never doing this again.

Unless it is my own place.

And there are only a handful of people involved whose neurons fire properly.

ANYWAY If there is anything I’ve learned in England it’s that everyone love the Lemon Tart.

I actually dislike it, I have childhood memories of attempting to eat various lemon meringue pies and watching the meringue slip of the weepy surface of the florescent yellow filling, the wedge leaving a soppy mess of released liquid sugar onto my plate. The lemon meringue pie is the reason I hate meringue. Lemon tarts have followed me everywhere. It followed me to school, was the first dish we created, I admittedly sighed and rolled my eyes. Then at my first job after school, the second job, the London brasserie, then the posh hotel, the country resto, and now in Plymouth.

Dear gods, please don’t let this mean my destiny is somehow intertwined with… a lemon tart.

But here, as with many other places, people love meringue and they love lemon tart. I don’t want to be judgmental, I have to give the people what they want, so I try to give them the best that I can produce (within the confines of what I’ve been told to present, clearly).

The lemon tart will always crack. If it’s perfectly baked it will last a few hours yes, but slowly, starting near the crust, tiny breaks will occur. And once your tart begins to crack, you can’t stop it. Nor can you predict where the next one will start or what journey they will take. Or how many untainted slices you will be able to get the next day.

Googling didn’t help, since everything that surfaced went on about how to not crack it in the oven (trick? Don’t overbake it. Yeah.), but nothing about shelf life sans crack.

In the country I figured it out. Somehow the crust causes the cracks, regardless of whether or not it is still in a protective tin that should, essentially, support a collapsing crust (the physical pressure caused by a softening of the crust due to sugar weepage?). So I cut the crusts off.

Bingo, no cracks. Ever.

 

Classic Lemon Tart Bitch Style (no crust, no cracks)

Enough dough for one square (or round if you’ve nothing else — more trimmings to nibble)8” tart tin, I use a slightly sweet shortcrust so it’s light and flaky rather than sweet and heavy.

7 Lemons, juiced with seeds and pulp

Zest of 2 lemons

1 large Orange, juiced, thrown in with the lemon

7 Eggs and 2 yolks

385g Sugar

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Line your tart tin and blind bake it, making sure the entire bottom is baked. No worries if your sides are too dark, you’ll cut those off anyway, yes?  You can let the extra hang over the sides and trim it post-baking, this will keep the case from shrinking too much in the oven. Have your case cooled, trimmed up (use a razor blade or small, very sharp paring knife to whittle the crust down, finishing it evenly to the height of the tin), and ready to go. IMG_2891

Once your lemons and orange are juiced and zested, with all the messy bits thrown in, lightly whisk your eggs and yolks. Add the sugar, give it a whisk but don’t aerate the mix. slowly pour in all that messy citrus business and give it a few final strokes to finish. IMG_2889

I must recommend that you make the filling a day in advance, maybe even two. The longer it sits in the fridge the more time it has to mature and settle, then the more likely it will come out smooth(that’s the big difference) and vibrant in colour. Let the mix sit all together bits included either overnight or for two or three hours then strain with a very fine sieve.

When you are ready to bake, set your oven to 110C/230F, if you have convection turn off the fan. Do you have 45 min to an hour to bake a tart? I usually don’t. If you set up a pot of water and transfer the filling to a bowl and heat it above the water bath (to about 45-50C) it will bake in half the time than if pulled straight from the fridge. To quote what I told my chef upon discovering this “So if I heat the mix before baking it, it halves the baking time to…half.” I needed sleep I’m sure.

Give your tart case a good brush with egg yolk, then place it in the oven for a couple of minutes. This will help keep the crust crisp. Double check your tart case doesn’t have any cracks or holes. If you do have some, fill them up now, brush them with yolk, cause no one likes a leaky tart. IMG_2935

Skim off all the white gunk from the filling using a ladle. Start by touching the ladle to the centre surface and making small circles. The foam will lap off to the edges making it easier to take off. After you’ve taken off all the major gunk, run two paper towels across the surface to get the rest. There will always be a bit that resurfaces, but don’t worry. It will disappear once the tart has been chilled. Besides, you should be setting fire to this baby.IMG_2938

Pour your filling into the warmed tart case while it’s still in the oven. This will remove any effort to move the case from the counter, no lemon delicious will lap up over the sides and soak your crust. Hopefully you have a kitchen torch, and if you do, give the filling a bit of heat to get rid of the big bubbles. Bake until it has JUST BARELY SET. Overbaking will create a dry, slightly curdled texture, but underbaking this guy (taking it out with a slight wobble, creme brulee styles) will result in severe weepage.

If the filling has been heated, go for 15 then check every two or three until it is just set.

Let it cool.IMG_2821

If you’ve gone the square tin route, when you’re ready to cut, work a knife lightly at the corners on the outside to compromise the structural integrity of the crust before diving in with your slicer, this will help reduce the crumb spread, thereby not forcing you to pick at the little crumby bits with the tip of a small knife for 15 minutes to clean up your masterpiece. IMG_2822

Unfortunately, as mentioned above, the crustless tart results in a good deal of trimmings, but trimmings never go unwanted.

Once cut, I store in the fridge uncovered until the sugar comes to the surface and sweats a bit, then cover with clingfilm until ready to serve.  Then burn ’em. IMG_2937

Transfer to a plate. Serve with raspberries (as I must do, see below) if you are totally boring and don’t know what else to serve Lemon Tart with. If you want something more of your relationship with this classic, I recommend picking up a copy of The Flavour Bible or even deeper still, the Flavour Thesaurus.

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The posts are coming back, I promise. Right now there isn’t anything I can talk about from the a la carte, but I’ll be doing three desserts a week for the 3-3-3 express menu, so my material will come from that. I promise.

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