Thursday, December 17, 2009

From Bouchon - Bouchon's Lemon Tart

I've been lucky enough to have eaten at Thomas Keller's restaurant Bouchon several times in my life. A couple times with my parents when they lived in Napa, and last year for a wonderful Valentines Day lunch, complete with champagne and oysters. It's one of my favorite restaurants, and I've never had anything there that was less than stellar.

On my first visit with my Mother, we ended the meal with a slice of fresh lemon tart. I've never particularly cared for lemon flavored desserts or candy. In fact, I used to remove all traces of it from whatever I was eating. Yellow skittles? Always precisely plucked from the bag before eating the acceptable flavors. Lemon Jolly Ranchers? No thank you. Lemon Bars? Nope. I just never cared for the synthetic flavor, which tasted too overpowering and fake to me.

So I'd never really ventured into the world of fresh lemon desserts. Needless to say, because of that, I didn't exactly have high hopes when the slice of tart at Bouchon hit the table. But, it was Bouchon. And one has to figure that they know what they're doing in a Thomas Keller restaurant. Lemon desserts also happen to be one of my Mother's favorites. I picked up my fork and gingerly took a bite.

It was, to. die. for.

Smooth and tart with just the right amount of sweetness. The crust reminded me of a sable cookie, finely ground and buttery. It was a truly perfect dessert.

Now that I'm home for the holidays, I've been wanting to make a dish for each member of my family, something special. I knew this would be the perfect thing to make for my Mother. I was just hoping I could pull it off, and that it would bare some sort of resemblance to what we had at Bouchon years and years ago.

I have to say, I'm pretty impressed with myself. Well, more impressed with the recipe actually, which, while intricate, was actually quite easy to follow and turned out beautifully. Word to the wise, my six year old niece thought it was a tad too sour, the adults disagreed. I guess I'd now consider this a grown-up dessert. Especially because of the pine nut crust. Don't let that intimidate you or scare you off, this is possibly the greatest tart crust...ever.

There. I said it. Now go make it.

Bouchon's Lemon Tart
serves 9

The recipe for this dough makes enough for 3 tarts, you can freeze two portions for later use.
Sabayon is a light custard like filling.

Pine nut crust

2 cups pine nuts (about 9 ounces)
1/3 cup sugar
3 cups flour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place the pine nuts in a food processor and pulse a few times. Add the sugar and flour and continue to pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Place the nut mixture in a mixing bowl and add the butter, egg and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer or by hand until thoroughly combined. Next, divide the dough into 3 parts. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap. Freeze 2 pieces for future use and refrigerate the third piece for at least 10 minutes before using.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter and flour a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom and refrigerate it while the oven heats. Once the oven has heated, remove the tart pan from the refrigerator and use your fingertips to press the chilled dough over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Trim off excess.

Bake the crust for 10 to 15 minutes, then rotate the shell and continue baking until golden brown, another 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the shell from the oven while you make the filling. There may be some cracks in the shell. They will not affect the tart.

Lemon sabayon

2 eggs, cold
2 egg yolks, cold
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
6 tablespoons butter

Bring about 1 1/2 inches of water to a boil in a pot that is slightly smaller than the diameter of the mixing bowl you will be using for the sabayon. Meanwhile, in a large metal bowl, whisk the eggs, yolks and sugar until smooth, about 1 minute.

Set the bowl over the pot so that it's not touching the water, and, using a large whisk, whip the mixture while you turn the bowl, for even heating. When the eggs are foamy and have thickened, about 2 minutes, add one-third of the lemon juice. Continue to whisk vigorously and when the mixture thickens again, add another third of the lemon juice. Whisk until the mixture thickens again, then add the remaining lemon juice. Continue whisking vigorously, still turning the bowl, until the mixture is thickened and light in color, and the whisk leaves a trail at the bottom of the bowl. The total cooking time should be about 8 to 10 minutes.

Turn off the heat, but leave the bowl over the water as you add the butter, whisking in, one tablespoon at a time. The sabayon may loosen slightly, but it will thicken and set as it cools.

Pour into the tart shell and place on a baking sheet. Heat the broiler. While the sabayon is still warm, place the tart under the broiler. Leaving the oven door open, brown the top of the sabayon, rotating the tart if necessary for even color, about 20 to 30 seconds. Keep an eye on the tart so it doesn't burn.

Remove the tart from the oven and let it sit at least 1 hour before serving at room temperature or chilled.


  1. Oh MAN that sounds good, Elissa! I'm totally bookmarking this recipe for when we have a food processor. YUM.

  2. You can always borrow mine till then! It's pretty delicious! Didn't last long around here!