Mary Booth’s Favorite Lemon Tartlets

Mary Booth and I met at a Slow Food Austin potluck several years ago.  I made these tartlets because at the time I was hoping to launch a commercial endeavor selling lemon curd.  Mary was on the Slow Food Board and an enthusiastic supporter of local farms and food.  Because of health issues, she told me she could not taste many foods but somehow she was able to taste the tart sweetness of the curd.  Every time I saw Mary after that I was greeted with a big smile and introduced as the Lemon Curd Lady.  Mary passed away this last July, so this holiday season I have renamed my tarts in her memory.  The Austin food community misses you, Mary!

The curd that Mary loved so much was made with eggs from Boggy Creek farms.  With so few ingredients, it is very important to use the best ones possible.  If you have never had farm fresh eggs, get your tail-feathers down to the local farmers market and pick up a dozen.  You will be amazed by the intense color and flavor of the yolks which showcase nicely in this curd.

Lemon Curd

  • 10 egg yolks
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 8 lemons, zested and juiced
  • 2 stick butter, cut into pats and chilled
  • pinch of salt

Directions

Add the zest to the sugar and set aside, preferably overnight but at least an hour in advance.  Check my post  about the virtues of keeping a supply of lemon sugar on hand in your kitchen at all times!  Add enough water to a medium saucepan to come about 1-inch up the side. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, combine egg yolks and sugar in a medium size metal bowl and whisk until smooth, about 1 minute. Measure citrus juice and if needed, add enough cold water to reach 2/3 cup. Add juice to egg mixture and whisk smooth. Once water reaches a simmer, reduce heat to low and place bowl on top of saucepan. (Bowl should be large enough to fit on top of saucepan without touching the water.) Whisk until thickened, approximately 8 minutes, or until mixture is light yellow and coats the back of a spoon. (UPDATE- A friend of mine recommended I add to the description of the thickness. As you whisk the curd, you should be able to see the tracks of the whisk and the curd should be thick enough to stand up on a plate. It will thicken more as it cools but if you don’t cook it long enough, it will be soupy.) Remove promptly from heat and stir in butter a piece at a time, allowing each addition to melt before adding the next. If you have any eggy bits or wish to strain out the zest you can.  Personally I prefer the texture with the zest. Remove to a clean container and cover by laying a layer of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

Tartlet Shells

1 16 ounce  box phyllo sheets (40 sheets)
Butter, melted and cooled  (2-3 sticks)
sugar

Directions

Phyllo dough can be a challenge to work with.  The most important things to know are that it should be gently thawed in your refrigerator at least 1 day before you plan to use it and that it dries out very quickly, so as you remove a sheet, cover the stack of sheets you are not working with immediately with a piece of plastic wrap and a damp cloth.  Do not let the damp cloth touch the sheets or you will end up with a gummy mess. On a clean surface lay 1 sheet of phyllo, lightly spread melted butter over entire surface with a pastry brush and sprinkle lightly (approximately 1/2 teaspoon sugar) over buttered surface.  Lay another layer of phyllo on top and repeat melted butter and sprinkling of sugar.  Repeat phyllo/butter/ sugar for a total of 3 layers.  Lightly spray a muffin tin (mini or standard size) Cut dough in squares a inch or so wider that the muffin cups. (Dough squares will form a fluted-edge tart.) Place the dough in the tins, pressing carefully so that the dough fits snugly in the cups. Brush with butter and bake at 400 degrees for 5-10 minutes or until light golden color. Fill with curd.  Garnish tarts with fresh berries or candied lemon zest.

Makes approximately 40 3 inch tarts.

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