Thursday, June 16, 2011

Lemon Cream Pie {A Recipe}

Lemon Cream Pie
You may have noticed, there hasn't been a whole lotta baking going on over here at Casa Q. Foodie lately. We've been watching our girlish figures and trying to eat more healthfully overall - so at the very least, whenever I do get the itch, I make sure I have a plan for the results that doesn't involve us eating the whole thing ourselves.

One such opportunity presented itself a few weeks ago when our good friend Tommy was visiting from San Francisco with his lovely girlfriend Liz. We threw them a little dinner party with some other mutual friends. The menu included Aperol cocktails, honey and thyme glazed ribs, a fava bean, cucumber and herb salad, and for dessert, this lemon cream tart - which was so thick and so deep, I'm just going to call it a pie.

For the crust, I used some butter cookie dough I had made a few weeks ago and blind baked it in a fluted quiche pan because I wanted it to be deep enough to accommodate whole strawberries standing on end. The filling was Tartine's recipe for "lemon cream" - which they put in small tart shells at the bakery. It's creamy, rich and slightly tart -  unless you're the one who makes it you'd never guess how much butter is in it. And cream. Especially once you whip a whole pint and pile it on top...

Just try not to think about it. Or do.  Whatever you think is best. :)
Lemon Cream Pie
Lemon Cream Pie with Strawberries
adapted from the Tartine Cookbook

For the crust:
(You will only need about a third of the recipe, but the rest freezes well.)
4 sticks (1 pound) fresh, best quality unsalted butter, softened. (I like Plugra and Straus.)
1 1/3 cups sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract - or vanilla paste, if you like flecks.
4 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

Beat butter, sugar and salt together in a standing mixture with the paddle attachment. Blend in the egg yolks, one at a time, and then the vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour gradually, mixing just until combined. Divide dough into thirds. If you want to bake right away, just press and flatten chunks of the soft dough into a 9 inch quiche pan or regular pie pan until the bottom and sides are evenly covered. Pat cookie dough to be used later into a 1.5 inch thick round and refrigerate. (To bake, roll out or slice and bake at 375 for 5-10 mins depending on size. Also makes great thumbprint cookies.)

Chill the shell thoroughly before baking - you can even pop it in the freezer if you're in a hurry. You want it nice and cold when it goes into the oven. When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375, and line the shell with parchment and pie weights or beans. Blind bake the shell at 375 for about 15 minutes with the weights in. Take them out, and bake about 5 minutes more, until it's nice and golden brown. If you're using a fluted shell, when you take the weights out - use the round handle of a wooden spoon or a pen to press the dough against the sides of the pan all the way around. Allow to cool completely before filling.

For the filling:
1/2 cup plus 2 T. lemon juice
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup unsalted butter, cool, cut into tablespoon sized slices or cubes

1 pound of medium to large sized strawberries

Heat about 1.5 inches of water to a simmer in a double boiler, or a saucepan that is the right size for a non-reactive metal bowl to fit into so that the bowl doesn't touch the water but sits just above it. In the bowl, combine the lemon juice, whole eggs, egg yolk, sugar and salt. (Add the egg yolks last and whisk immediately - if you let the egg yolks and sugar sit, they will become grainy.) Rest the bowl on the pan and whisk until the mixture becomes thick and registers 180 degrees on a thermometer, this will take about 10 minutes. Remove the bowl from the water and let the mixture cool to about 140, stirring occasionally.

When the mixture has cooled to 140, strain it with a fine mesh sieve, and use a hand blender in a high sided bowl or bar blender to blend in the butter one chunk at a time, blending continuously, and allowing each chunk to become incorporated before adding the next. It will be pale yellow and very thick. At this point you can add a little lemon zest or up to a tablespoon or so of lemon juice if needed to brighten the flavor. (I did, but I used Meyer lemons, which are a little more mild than Eureka.) Chill the cream until your tart shell is cool, or if it is, go ahead and fill it.

To assemble the tart (which you should do no more than a few hours before you plan to serve it) cut the tops off of the strawberries and dot the tart shell with them flat side down, points up, about a quarter inch apart. Pour the lemon cream over the top and chill for at least an hour.

To unmold the chilled tart from it's pan, turn a stove burner on, and quickly but carefully turn it over the flame to warm the outside of the tart pan all the way around, using a dish towel to protect your hands. Place your hand on the bottom and gently pry the ring down off the tart. Use a long thin knife to slide the tart off of the bottom of the pan and onto a platter or plate.

For the topping:
2 cups of cream
2 Tablespoons of powdered sugar

Beat cream in a standing mixer with the whisk attachment on high until soft peaks start to form. Add powdered sugar and continue to beat until stiff.

Dollop the top of the tart with the whipped cream, spreading to the edges with an offset spatula, and dot the top with smaller whole strawberries. Refrigerate until ready to serve.


  1. This looks fabulous! Thank you for sharing! Do you happen to have a photo of the INSIDE of the pie? I'd like to see the strawberries arranged as indicated.

  2. @Courtney - I wish I had taken one! I didn't get the camera out until it was all done, and when we served it it was too dark. The strawberries are just standing on the tart shell - they might poke out of the lemon filling, but the whipped cream covers it all. :)

  3. This lemon cream pie with strawberries looks mouth-watering good. Thanks for the recipe.