Maria and I have kept in touch since those days and, in the last year, actually got to meet … twice. Those of you who know Maria know what I discovered: she’s even more adorable in person than she is online – and we all know just how adorable she is online: VERY!
Having known Maria as a college student, then a newly wed, then a new homeowner, it’s very exciting to think that soon she’ll be a new mother! And the mom of a very smart child – after all, he was smart enough to choose Maria and Josh for parents. The kid’s got good taste!
To celebrate Maria and Josh, here’s the recipe for The Most Extraordinary Lemon Cream, which you can swirl into a tart crust, use in a trifle or, yes, just eat right out of the bowl.
But before you head into the kitchen to make this cream (kind of like curd, but better), visit all the other wonderful cooks and bakers who’ve made great dishes for this virtual, but truly delicious shower:
Virtual Baby Shower for Two Peas & Their Pod
Simple Bites – Lemon Balm infused Lemonade
Ingredients, Inc. – Healthy Fruit Punch
Food for My Family – Lemongrass Soda
Heather’s Dish – Mixed Fruit Punch
She Wears Many Hats – Mini Pistachio Smoothies
With Style and Grace – Truffle Popcorn
Family Fresh Cooking – Baby Peas & Cheese Frittata
Barbara Bakes – Creamy Orange Fruit Dip and Fruit
Aggie’s Kitchen – Pasta Salad with Balsamic Basil Vinaigrette
Reluctant Entertainer – Nutella Berry Bruschetta
TidyMom – Blue and Chocolate Cake Balls
i am baker – Baby Pea Baby Shower Cake
Brown Eyed Baker – Pavlova
Picky Palate – Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookie Sandwich
What’s Gaby Cooking – Coconut Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing
Cookin’ Canuck – Nutella & Cream Cheese Swirled Blondies
Kevin and Amanda – Baby Blue Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookie Cups
Sweetopia – Decorated Sugar Cookies
Mountain Mama Cooks – Lavender Shortbread Cookies
Sweetapolita – Little Pea Sugar Cookie Pops
Bake at 350 – Petit Fours with fondant pea pods
RecipeGirl – Baby Button Cookies
RecipeBoy – Mud Cups with Gummy Worms
Add a Pinch – Blackberry Tartlets
Dine and Dish – Oven Baked Cinnamon Apples
Wenderly – Handmade Sweet Pea Cards
Our Best Bites – How To: Make a Diaper Cake Centerpiece
THE MOST EXTRAORDINARY FRENCH LEMON CREAM TART
Makes 8 servings
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
1/3 cup quince or apple jelly or 1/2 cup lemon marmalade, for glazing
Getting ready: 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 at least 160 degrees F. (If you can get it up to 180 degrees F, which is what professional pastry chefs do, great; if not – don’t worry, it will still thicken.) 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 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 the right temperature, pull the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of a blender (or food processor). Let the cream rest at room temperature, stirring occasionally, 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 container, 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 whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell.
Serving: The tart should be served cold, because it is a particular pleasure to have the cold cream melt in your mouth. Fruit coulis is nice with the tart, but not necessary, ditto a little crème fraiche. I know it sounds odd to offer something as rich as crème fraiche with something as rich as this tart, but it works – because the lemon cream is so light and so intensely citric, it doesn’t taste or feel rich, a situation that is potentially dangerous and positively delightful.
Storing: While you can make the lemon cream ahead (it will keep in the fridge for 4 days and in the freezer for up to 2 months), once the tart is constructed, it’s best to eat it the day it is made.