Thyme Lemon Tartlets
I struggle under the weight of my tiring body as I sledge through the dense forrest. Fallen men litter the makeshift path I trek. I try not to notice them. I force my eyes to find the horizon through the dense brush and heavy smoke filling the putrid air around me. My ears ring in pain, barely able to grasp any auditory clue as to my enemies whereabouts; they’re only alerted to activity by the deep rumble of a far away explosion.
This is not a good place to be alone. I pick my pace up. My tired, cold hands grasp my weapon tightly. It is my rifle. I know there are many like it, but this one is mine. It is my life at this moment. And even though without me my rifle is useless, without my rifle, I am far more useless. Out here nothing survives. I’ve just been lucky.
“Grenade!” a distant foe yells.
I stop in fear as a pinecone rolls up to my feet. I let my eyes slowly rise to my opponent as a frown forms on my disappointed, dirty face.
“Hey! I threw a grenade. You’re dead…” my foe insists. “Die.”
I fall to the ground. These are the rules of war.
“Mas! Russ! Lunch is ready!” the pleasant call of my mother rings out through the cul de sac.
I hop to my feet and run up to my front door. My wounded brother follows close behind. As we make our way to the kitchen we argue about who lived the longest. It was me. Despite the homemade spread my brother and I skip the little sandwich triangles, piles of chips and pickle wedges. We go right for the lemonade.
As soon as we finish a couple cold glasses of freshly squeezed, just sweet enough lemonade, my brother and I rummage for the left over lemons. Our sour-obsessed tongues crave the sort of refreshing feeling only raw lemon can provide. My mother seems shocked at my young brother and my desire and capability to eat raw lemons. We leave the rind behind but little else as we devour the last of the remaining lemons in our kitchen.
“Thanks, mom!” we both ring out as we dart out the door, back to a beautiful summer day filled with elementary versions of imaginary war, street hockey and other frivolous games.
While I no longer play war, or run around outside for days on end until I’m nauseous, I do find myself captivated by super-tart lemon treats. The lip-puckering flavor you can’t find anywhere else seems to fit the growing, warming days perfectly.
When paired with sweetness and the almost-savory flavor of thyme, a wonderful balance is created giving this tart a subtle difference from the classic lemon treat. The snap and crunch of the crust plus the caramelized sugar coating plays nicely with the smooth lemon filling. The addition of sugar on the top also adds a little sweetness to this otherwise very tart dessert.
Cooking with Lemon: Lemons have a very in-your-face, bold flavor. A little can go a long way. A lot can give you incredible flavor. The juice of the lemon will impart tartness and the acidic attributes of lemon whereas the zest will give the dish the lemony aroma and flavor. If you are are looking for a slightly less tart version of this dish, try substituting half the lemon juice with water but leave all of the lemon zest in the recipe.
Thyme Lemon Tartlets
Yield: 6, 6″ round tartlets
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Baking Time: 35 minutes
Assembly Time: 10 minutes
6, 6″ round tartlet pans
Pie weights or dry beans
Large baking sheet
Kitchen torchIngredients:2 pounds Cinnamon Cornmeal Crust (recipe below)
1 quart Thyme Lemon Filling (recipe below)3 tablespoons sugar (for sugar crust)Instructions:1. Prepare the crust and filling according to the instructions. Set each aside. Preheat the oven to 375°F.2. Roll the Cinnamon Cornmeal Crust out to about 1/8th inch thick. Cut six, 8 inch circles out of the dough. Place the dough disks in the tartlet pans, gently pushing the dough (careful not to stretch it) into the corners and crevices. Cute the excess dough from the top so that the crust is level with the top of the pans. Line the dough with parchment paper, forming it so it is the same shape as the dough int the tartlet pans, leaving an extra couple inches of parchment paper sticking from the top of the pan for easy removal. Fill the paper cups with pie weights or dry beans.3. Place the lined and filled tartlet pans on a baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes until the visible edges begin to brown.5. Remove the pie weights or dry beans by lifting the parchment paper. Take care in this step to not pull up any dough. Place the now-naked tartlet pans back in the oven and bake for another 5 to 7 minutes or until the dough appears dry and is barely firm to the couch.6. Pour enough filling in each tartlet pan to fill it just to the top (level with the crust). Lower the oven to 350°F and bake the filled tartlets for another 15 minutes or until the tartlets are set.7. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.8. Sprinkle a light, thin layer of sugar on the top of each tartlet. Using a kitchen torch, carefully torch the sugar until it begins to melt and turn a caramel-brown color. Take care to keep the torch moving as the sugar will burn easily if the torch is left in one place too long.
Short Dough: Most tarts use a form of short dough to create the base. Short dough is essentially a cookie dough (butter, sugar, eggs & flour). Unlike pie dough that is flaky, short dough becomes firm and rigid allowing the tart to stand on its own. Because short doughs often contain a lot of butter and sugar in relation to flour, they are a very wet/soft dough. Short doughs must be refrigerated for an hour or more before rolling out.
The cornmeal in this dough gives the crust a crunchy texture and depending on the crunch you are looking for you can use corse ground of finely ground cornmeal. The honey in this recipe will help dry the dough out more giving it a crispier texture. Honey also aids in browning.
Cinnamon Cornmeal Crust
Yield: 2 pounds or enough for 6-8, 6″ round tartlets
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Stand mixer with beater attachment or
Large bowl & spoon
Parchment paperIngredients:12 ounces unsalted butter
8 ounces sugar
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon salt
2 ounces honey
Zest from 1 lemon
8 ounces flour
8 ounces cornmeal
1 tablespoon cinnamonInstructions:1. Mix the butter, sugar, egg yolks, salt, honey and lemon zest together until blended well.2. Add the flour, cornmeal and cinnamon and mix just until a dough forms.3. Form the dough into a disk and wrap in parchment paper.4. Place in the refrigerator and chill for a couple hours.
Thyme Lemon Filling
This recipe is adapted from a Bo Friberg Meyer Lemon Filling recipe.
Yield: 1 quart filling
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15-20 minutes
Heavy bottomed pot
Wooden spoon or whisk
Ingredients:12 ounces sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 egg yolks
Zest from 3 lemons
1 1/4 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely choppedInstructions:1. Mix all of the ingredients together in a heavy-bottomed pot.2. Place the pot over medium-low heat and cook until thick, stirring constantly.2. Taking care not to overheat or boil the mixture, remove from the heat once the mixture is thick enough to coat a spoon (this will take about 15 to 20 minutes).3. Set aside until ready to use.