Tarte au Citron au David Lebovitz

Now with photos!

As I mentioned way back in August, while in France this summer N. fell head-over-heels-silly in love with tarte au citron. This is far from shocking; as far as I’ve been able to determine – and I’ve been feeding him for some time now – his two favorite flavoring agents are lemon and plain old black pepper.

Of course I intended to make him one – well, us; I can’t say I don’t also love what is essentially lemon curd in pie form – but somehow months passed and I never got around to it. And this weekend, facing down the disappointment of a wonderful green salsa I intended to share with you until it almost caused an electrical fire and may have destroyed my blender, at which point I stopped paying attention to quantities and photography, I had to square off against the equally important truths that it’s been almost a month since I last published anything here, and that I just didn’t feel like engaging in recipe development to try and make something innovative when the existing reality is basically perfection already.

So I’m trying something new. I’m allowing myself an option I shouldn’t think of as “lazy,” but as informative. I’m reporting on a recipe I used. Here, I’ve made David Lebovitz’s tarte au citron, employing an unusual method for tart dough he learned from a friend, and a filling that was exactly what I needed to make loving use of two lemon-filled bags I received recently from friends (thanks, M. and A!). Those contributions not used here went into a big pitcher of pisco sours I, regrettably, didn’t think to photograph until they were half gone. What kind of blogger even am I?

The method for the dough reminded me of the base for pate a choux, which you’d use for cream puffs, eclairs, or churros: the butter is melted and the flour gets stirred into it; no obsession with cold fat here. I found the quantity of dough just a touch less than I comfortably wanted to press into my tart pan, and in fact a few cracks did develop as it baked, but the genius idea of saving a piece of raw dough “about the size of a raspberry” to patch cracks prevented any filling leakage.

I do think I cooked the filling a little longer than I should have, as it took a while to strain and there were some suspiciously eggy looking bits left in my sieve. But hey, less time in the oven?

N. made “mmm” noises a lot while he ate his slice, so I think it passed muster, though the edges of the crust were uneven and we weren’t sitting at a table outside a restaurant in a cobbled alley in the south of France. The tart shell here is buttery and crisp, though I wonder if cooking the butter a touch longer would offer the extra luxury of brown butter flavor. Many of Lebovitz’s commenters said it was flaky; I found it more like shortbread, but was pleased with the texture. The curd inside is rich and silky and not overly sweet; tasting it made me salivate a little in a way I appreciate from tart desserts.

My “original” addition here is limited to adding some blackberries before serving. While it’s certainly not particularly innovative to add fruit to a dessert, they were a nice textural change and flavor pairing for the lemon. And they were on sale. If you’re going to do the same, you might even toss them lightly in some sugar before placing and serving (though if you’re going to try this, you’ll need to slice and eat fast, because sugaring the berries will make them bleed juice into the pristine sunshiny surface of your tart).

Tart Dough recipe here

Lemon filling and assembly recipe here


“Parsley Pie”

2016 Food Blog February-0492Whereas last month’s blog experiment entry left me stumped for a while, not only do I know which post led this searcher to my blog; the dish I wanted to create coalesced pretty quickly in my mind. The search term “parsley pie,” with its bright green focus, seemed appropriately spring-y for this first warm week in Southern California. Though I had my own ideas already, I did a quick image search to see what other sorts of “parsley pies” turned up, and the answer is: not many. Most of what I saw were meat pies, with the addition of parsley to lighten up the filling or, in one case, add fiber. Some of these concoctions were the classic British pork pie, with high, golden sides and, sometimes, a hard boiled egg or two cunningly tucked into the filling, while some were shepherds pies, with parsley added to the ground lamb or to the mashed potato topping.

2016 Food Blog February-04372016 Food Blog February-04572016 Food Blog February-0458What I’d envisioned, quite contrary to these heavy options, was a pie where parsley dominated: something like a quiche Lorraine would be a neutral base, and allow for greater visibility for the heaping mounds of the freshly chopped herb in question. I suppose if I’m being absolutely honest I should call this a parsley quiche, but it does have a proper crust and a filling, and since that ultimate internet authority Wikipedia (hah!) classifies quiche as a “savoury pie,” I’m going to cross my fingers behind my back and declare that this counts.

2016 Food Blog February-04632016 Food Blog February-04732016 Food Blog February-0476Because there are no bulky chunks in the filling to hold it up, this must of necessity be a shallow pie. Thus it was a perfect opportunity to use the tart pan I bought myself for Christmas (though a pie pan would work fine). Along with eggs, milk, and of course the eponymous parsley, I whisked in a combination of other herbs: basil, cilantro, dill, and a few chives, to add some variety to the flavor. And because I can’t help myself, I topped the green freckled custard with crumbles of feta cheese, which admittedly adds a pleasant brininess that the pie would suffer without.

2016 Food Blog February-0500A few thoughts: if you’re going to make this, you have to like parsley. This seems a distressingly obvious revelation, but I mean it – this really, really tastes like parsley. If it’s too herbaceous for you, or you’re looking for a bit more to sink your teeth into, crumbled, crisp prosciutto, or lumps of crab, or slick slices of smoked salmon, would bulk it up nicely. Alternatively, a side salad with a thick wedge would make a perfect spring lunch. As for construction, if you use a tart pan you really have to be sure your crust forms an unbroken layer around the bottom edge of the pie. Cracks or very thin areas can lead to egg leakage in the oven. Don’t ask me how I know this.

2016 Food Blog February-0503

“Parsley Pie”
Makes a 9-inch pie
About 2 hours, including crust resting time
For crust:
6 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1¼ cups)
½ teaspoon salt
4 ounces unsalted butter (1 stick or 8 tablespoons)
2-4 ounces cold buttermilk (water would be fine too)
For filling:
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 cup chopped parsley
1 cup chopped mixed soft green herbs (such as basil, chives, tarragon, cilantro, dill, etc)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper (I used black, but white pepper would work too)
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese


  • To make the crust, combine the flour and ½ teaspoon salt in a food processor. Cut the stick of butter into 12-16 slices, then add these to the processor as well and pulse at 1 second intervals until the butter is mostly broken up into blueberry or cherry-sized chunks. With the processor running, dribble in the buttermilk just until the mixture starts to come together into a dry ball. You may not need all of the buttermilk. Turn the mixture out onto a large piece of plastic wrap and use the plastic wrap to help you quickly and decisively form the mixture into a flat disc about 6 inches in diameter. Wrap it up and stow it in the fridge for at least half an hour. Not only does this chill the butter, making for a flakier end result, but it allows the buttermilk to hydrate the flour.
  • While you wait for the dough to chill, preheat the oven to 350F with a rack in the middle position, oil or butter a 9-inch tart pan or pie plate, and prep the filling ingredients. Whisk the eggs with the cup of milk and add in the chopped herbs, the ½ teaspoon of salt, and the ¼ teaspoon of pepper. Note: 1 cup chopped parsley means you chop before you measure, so you do need a rather large bouquet of herbs to meet the required amount.
  • You can whisk the feta in with the herb and egg mixture, or you can crumble it over the top of the custard when it’s poured into the crust. Or, of you prefer, you can do a little of both, mixing some in and saving some to sprinkle on top. You do you.
  • After at least half an hour in the fridge, remove the dough disc and unwrap it onto a floured board. Now, this is crucial: let it sit about ten minutes to warm up just a tad before you try to roll it out. When it has had a chance to shake the chill off, sprinkle its surface with a little flour and, with a floured rolling pin, roll it out into a circle about 11 inches in diameter. I like to start in the middle of the disc and push away from me first, then bring the rolling pin back all the way towards me. Then I turn the disc of dough 90 degrees and repeat, flipping it over if needed, until I have a rough circle.
  • Use the rolling pin to help you transport the circle of dough into the prepared pan. Drape the dough gently down into the edges and, if you are using a tart pan, be sure to press it lightly into the grooves on the side of the pan, and carefully patch any thin areas or cracks along the bottom. For extra insurance, place the tart pan on a cookie sheet – this makes for easier transport to and from the oven and, if you do suffer some leakage, keeps the mess contained, not on your oven floor.
  • Whisk up your filling mixture again to ensure even distribution, then gently pour it into the crust. Sprinkle some or all of the crumbled feta over the top, if desired, and carefully transport to the oven.
  • Bake 45-60 minutes until the crust is pale gold and the filling is set and has puffed slightly in the center. Remove to a wire rack and let cool at least fifteen minutes before you carefully remove the tart pan (if using) and center the pie on a serving platter. I used a cake stand because I like to be fancy for you. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Apple Cranberry Hand Pies

2016 Food Blog January-0251When my sister was a kid, she somehow acquired a cooking toy the internet tells me was called “McDonald’s Happy Meal Magic: Pie Maker.” Released in 1993 (feeling old yet?), it allowed the user – with parental guidance, to be sure – to create a small pocket snack that, at least in inspiration, vaguely approximated the fast food giant’s classic dessert. The “pies” this toy made can’t have been very good; from what I recall, they consisted of a piece of store-bought bread, crusts removed, that you rolled out thin and topped with a small hill of fruit filling (I remember applesauce; my sister recalls jam). You then folded the bread over the filling, placed it in a little box-like contraption and, upon forceful application of the lid, squashed and crimped it into submission. You could then sprinkle on some cinnamon sugar, and eat it immediately.

2016 Food Blog January-02192016 Food Blog January-0221The problem with this, aside from the fact that it doesn’t sound very appetizing anymore, was that after going to all the trouble of removing crusts, rolling out, squashing and crimping, my mom would only let us eat one or two at a time. And I can’t imagine they would keep well.

2016 Food Blog January-0222Regardless of practicality or flavor, though, I remember this being a lot of fun. There was a satisfaction to assembly-line production of “dessert” items that, though not as prolific as Lucy and Ethel’s experience, meant we had the ability (if not the permission) to create high volumes of sweets.

2016 Food Blog January-0224This was my introduction, though I didn’t realize it, to hand pies. A sweet rejoinder to pasties, flaky dough encases a fruity filling in a single serving that, true to its name, can be picked up (once it has cooled enough, of course) and eaten straight out of hand. It can also, of course, be topped with a scoop of ice cream, or drizzled with caramel, or a dozen other plate-and-fork applications, but the glory of being able to lift one straight off of a baking sheet and walk away utensil-free is worth noting.

2016 Food Blog January-0225A mid-winter pie should be sweet, yes, but it should also be tart and bright to wake up your sluggish, post-holiday self. I decided on apple and cranberry. I always buy a few extra bags of cranberries when they are on sale in November and December, and stow them in the freezer in case I get early spring cravings for cranberry sauce.

2016 Food Blog January-0233The dough for hand pies needs to be easy to manipulate, since you’ll be rolling and cutting and folding and crimping, so I went with the cream cheese dough I’ve been dabbling with lately – it is a moist dough, so it doesn’t tear as easily as some, and the cream cheese as well as butter keeps it fairly tender even when you work it a bit.

2016 Food Blog January-0237The filling is lightly adapted from Joy the Baker’s Apple Cranberry Crumble pie.  In addition to the classic procedure – toss the apples with sugar, cinnamon, lemon juice – Joy includes two extra steps: let the apples macerate for thirty minutes or so, to create a puddle of sweet, spiced juices. Rather than just dump this into a pie shell, in a stroke of genius, you bubble the juices down with some butter to create a thick, syrupy caramel, which you promptly stir back into the fruit before filling your crust. You end up with a slightly less wet filling, which is a fine thing on the mess front, and a deeper, more developed flavor. I took the liberty, and I think Joy would approve, of adding a few tablespoons of bourbon to my juice mixture before I boiled it down into a syrup.

2016 Food Blog January-0242These are lovely little pockets of sweet tartness. In the time it takes the crust to go pale gold and fluff up into pockets of flakiness, the small chunks of apples and coarsely chopped cranberries swimming in syrupy cinnamon caramel have time to cook through, but not turn to mush. Your only enemies here are time and heat – as with all butter-based pie crusts, if the butter in the dough warms up too much before it goes in the oven, the crust will not puff and flake, as the butter will melt right out of the dough before it has a chance to create layers of pastry. But you can surmount this by carefully moving back and forth between prep with the crust and the filling, making use of your fridge in between, and still put forth a dessert in about two hours. I brought one to N. to sample, and he returned ten minutes later with an empty plate and said “that was really, really good. Now I just want four more.” I didn’t tell him I’d already eaten two and was contemplating another.

2016 Food Blog January-0259I call that a win.

2016 Food Blog January-0275These will keep wrapped in aluminum foil for 2-3 days before the pastry starts to get a bit soggy. Good news, though: they reheat perfectly in a 300F toaster oven.

2016 Food Blog January-0250

Apple Cranberry hand pies
Makes 16 5-inch pies
Time: about 2 hours
For Crust:
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
8 ounces cold full fat cream cheese
8 ounces cold unsalted butter (2 sticks), cut into thin slices
3-4 tablespoons very cold water
For Filling:
3 large granny smith or other tart apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-½ inch chunks
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons bourbon (optional)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
For assembly:
Flour, for dusting
Coarse sugar, to sprinkle


  • To make the crust, pulse the flour, salt, and sugar in the belly of a food processor until evenly distributed (consider doing this in halves – my food processor could barely handle the whole quantity). Add the cream cheese and let the mixer run until the mixture is homogeneous – it will be the texture of barely moistened sand and stay together only a moment when pressed between thumb and fingertip, as in the photo above.
  • Dump in the slices of butter and pulse in 1 second intervals until most of the butter is broken up and, when tested, the mixture stays together when pressed between thumb and fingertip.
  • Drizzle in 3 tablespoons of the cold water and pulse again briefly once or twice. We are looking for the mixture to just start to come together into a rumbling ball in the belly of the machine. If the mixture seems too dry, add the last tablespoon of water and pulse again briefly to bring together.
  • Stretch out a piece of plastic wrap on your countertop and dump the contents of the food processor onto it. Remove the blade and use the plastic wrap to help you shape the dough into a disc about 6 inches in diameter. Try to handle it as little as possible to keep it tender. Wrap it up and stow it in the fridge for at least an hour.
  • While the crust chills, make the filling. Combine the apple chunks, lemon juice, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and ¼ teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Toss with a spatula or your fingers to evenly distribute the spicy, sugary coating. Gently maneuver the apples and their sugar and spice mixture into a fine mesh sieve and position this over the large bowl you were using, then set aside for at least 30 minutes (Joy says up to three hours, though I didn’t leave mine this long). The objective here is to catch the drippings.
  • While the apples drip, preheat the oven to 400F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove the pie crust disc from the fridge. Lightly flour a large board and a rolling pin, then unwrap the disc, divide it in half, and set half on the floured board. Pop the other half back into the fridge until you are ready for it. Using firm and deliberate strokes, roll out the first half of the dough into a rough circle about ¼ inch thick. Every few rolls, shift the dough circle around, flipping it and adjusting it on the board – this will minimize sticking. You can also add more flour if needed.
  • With an even ¼ inch layer of dough, use a floured cutter or lip of a glass to cut the dough into circles. I went with 5 inches in diameter. To avoid extra stickiness or tearing the dough, press straight down without twisting. Once you have cut all the way through the dough, then you can twist the cutter a bit to loosen the round from the board.
  • Once you have made all the circles you can, gather together your scraps and re-roll them – you want to do this as quickly as you can to prevent the butter from softening too much. Roll out and cut again, then repeat with the other half of the dough. Position your dough circles on the prepared baking sheets (it’s okay if they overlap – they won’t stick), and put them into the fridge to chill out again.
  • Now turn back to the filling. When you have at least ½ cup of liquid from the apples, pour it into a small saucepan along with the 2 tablespoons butter and the bourbon, if using, and cook over medium-low heat until it becomes thick and syrupy, and only about ⅓ cup remains.
  • While the apple drippings cook down, plop the apples back into the original large bowl. Using the same food processor you used for the crust (you can wash it out if you want – I usually just scrape out any big lingering bits), pulse up the cranberries until they are coarsely chopped. You can do this by hand if you want, but it is fairly messy.
  • Add the cranberry pieces to the apple chunks in the large bowl, and toss them with the cornstarch until the cornstarch is no longer visible.
  • When the apple drippings are reduced to a thick, syrupy caramel, pour it back over the fruit and toss gently to combine.
  • Now, pull the prepared dough rounds out of the fridge (I’d do one baking sheet at a time), and add 1½-2 tablespoons filling to each 5-inch round of dough. You will be tempted to add more. Don’t do it! 1½, or a scant 2, tablespoons is all that can safely fit. If your rounds are smaller, you will, of course, need less filling. When all rounds are filled, you’ll likely have a tablespoon or 2 of filling left over.
  • As you place each tiny pile of filling in the middle of the dough round, fold it in half and press the edges together with your forefinger and thumb. To seal each little half-moon package, set it down on the floured board or on your baking sheet and press down on the edges all the way around with the back of the tines of a fork.
  • Settle each crescent evenly spaced on your baking sheet – you should be able to fit 8 per sheet without them touching each other. Slash the top of each one lightly with a knife to give an escape valve for steam, and if desired, sprinkle on a pinch or two of coarse sugar before levering them into the oven.
  • Bake at 400F for 25-30 minutes, until the crusts are puffed and golden brown, and possibly a bit of gooey syrup escapes from the less-carefully-crimped edges.
  • Cool for at least 10 minutes before digging in. They are perfect on their own, but I suspect a scoop of vanilla ice cream wouldn’t hurt matters…

Dill and Cream Cheese Crust

I’ll be the first to admit that this post is totally cheating. Despite my plans to participate in December’s Twelve Loaves project (they are cooking holiday breads and I can’t wait to check out the offerings tomorrow), amidst cleaning and cooking and family and tree hunting (since we visit family during the actual Christmas holiday, I like to get my tree early so I can enjoy it for a couple weeks first), there was also a pile of grading to be done, and oh, right, lesson planning so I know what I’m doing in class this week would be good too, and there simply weren’t enough hours in any of these glorious days to include several rises, and shaping, and spicing, and glazing, and all those steps I’d intended to embark on to have something sweet and festive to share with you today (no spoilers, though, only hints, because I still want to make them…)

Instead, here’s a cheat post to tide us all over. There are no photos (besides the one from Instagram yesterday; take a peek down on the right side of the page), and only a quick little recipe, but if you, like me, struggle endlessly with pie crust, you might want to give this one a try. It is decadent but simple, since all the work is done in a food processor, it rolls out like a dream, and I even managed to keep it flaky! I’m including suggestions for both savory and sweet below, and feel free to omit or change out the herbs to your liking. I used the sweet variety for my Thanksgiving pumpkin pie on Thursday, and the savory for a turkey pot pie on Saturday.

Both recipes are adapted from Shirley O. Corriher’s wonderful book Bakewise, and make enough for 1 single-crust 9-inch pie. Including chilling time for the dough, they take a little under 90 minutes, and the procedure is exactly the same.

Cream Cheese pie crust
1 cup flour
For savory: 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill
For sweet: 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 ounces full fat cream cheese
4 ounces cold, unsalted butter, cut into slices
1-2 tablespoons very cold water


  • In the belly of a food processor, pulse the flour, dill or sugar (depending on whether you’re making sweet or savory), and salt until evenly distributed. Add the cream cheese and let the mixer run until the mixture is homogeneous – it will be the texture of barely moistened sand and stay together only a moment when pressed between thumb and fingertip.
  • Dump in the slices of butter and pulse in 1 second intervals until most of the butter is broken up and, when tested, the mixture stays together when pressed between thumb and fingertip.
  • Drizzle in 1 tablespoon of the cold water and pulse again briefly once or twice. We are looking for the mixture to just start to come together into a rumbling ball in the belly of the machine. If the mixture seems too dry, add the second tablespoon of water and pulse again briefly to bring together.
  • Stretch out a piece of plastic wrap on your countertop and dump the contents of the food processor onto it. Remove the blade and use the plastic wrap to help you shape the dough into a disc 4-6 inches in diameter. Try to handle as little as possible to keep it tender. Wrap it up and stow it in the fridge for at least an hour.
  • About ten minutes before you are ready to roll out the crust, remove the chilled disc from the refrigerator and set it on the counter. The fats inside the dough need to warm just a little bit to make rolling easier. When ready, dust a bread board generously with flour, unwrap the disc of dough and sprinkle it with flour as well.
  • With a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough in a rough circle. Start in the center and push forward, then back again toward you. If the dough cracks, don’t worry, just keep rolling and it will usually come back together.
  • After one or two rolls in one direction, turn the dough 90 degrees and flip it over, then roll again. Continue this process, rolling, turning, and flipping, and rolling again, until you have a circle about 11 inches in diameter. Re-flour the board, the crust, or the rolling pin in between if things start to get sticky.
  • Carefully drape about half the dough over the rolling pin and quickly move it to your 9-inch pie plate. Settle it in gently, easing it into the bottom edge of the pan, and rather than cutting off the excess, fold it back and wedge it between the pie plate and the crust itself. A little extra crust at the top is always a good thing. Use your thumb or a fork to press the edges at the top for a decorative border.
  • Fill and bake as directed, and enjoy.