In my effort to will the warm weather out of Mother Nature and encourage spring to win the fight over winter, I’ve been making spring inspired foods in my kitchen. Last weekend, I volunteered to bring dessert to a girl’s night dinner party and I settled on a Lemon Lavender Tart.
Lavender is a taste and scent for which I’ve developed an appreciation only in the last 5 years or so. I used to find lavender too sharp and herbaceous for my tastes, but I’ve really grown to love the balance of earthy and floral qualities of lavender. Maybe I’m biased because the scent of lavender reminds me of a villa in Tuscany we once had the fortune of visiting (see pic of the view from our bedroom!). I did encounter an unexpected obstacle in this recipe—finding dried lavender. You’d think that residing in the metropolitan area of Washington, DC, where foodies abound, there would be many options for dried lavender. You’d be wrong. I tried World Market, Sur La Table, Whole Foods, Harris Teeter, Trader Joe’s, Dean and DeLuca, Balducci’s, Cheestique, Mom’s Organic Market, Williams Sonoma and struck out—at all of them. I was told that World Market and Williams Sonoma do often stock dried lavender, but happened to be out when I called. I finally scored my dried lavender at The Spice and Tea Exchange of Georgetown. You can bet the first thing I did was take in a deep breath of the calming aromas after my scavenger hunt!
In this recipe, the lavender grounds the brightness of the lemon. The lemon curd from this recipe comes from Gourmet (sigh) and I found a version of the recipe on Epicurious. I find that many lemon curd recipes are too sweet, but lemon curd here strikes a wonderful balance between the sweet and citrus. I think I’ll make it again soon and pair it with some lavender scones and Earl Grey butter. All of which sound perfect for a Spring tea or brunch!
LEMON LAVENDER TART (adapted from Gourmet via Epicurious)
For the tart shell:
2 tablespoons almonds, with skin and toasted
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup powdered/confectioner’s sugar
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon dried lavender
½ stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and cold
1 large egg yolk
3 ½ tablespoons of good, fruity olive oil
For the lemon curd:
¾ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 3-4 lemons)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest (about the zest of 1 lemon)
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
½ stick (4 tablespoons), unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 tablespoons fruity olive oil
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together the almonds, flour, sugar, salt and lavender to a fine powder. Add the cold butter and pulse again until it resembles a coarse meal texture.
Add the egg yolk and oil, then pulse until just incorporated (admittedly, I over did this in my recipe which is why my baked tart looks a little funny). Spread the dough into the pan (don’t worry about getting it perfect, we are going to harden the mixture a little in the freezer before smoothing out the dough). The dough will be very sticky. Stick the pan in the freezer for 4-5 minutes. Take the pan out and then smooth the dough into the tart pan and up the sides. Pre-heat the oven to 425F.
Chill the dough until firm, about 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Once chilled, bake the shell until golden brown, about 10-12 minutes. Set on wire rack to cool completely before filling.
The curd comes together pretty quickly so make sure the tart shell is cooled before starting the curd. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the zest, lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch, whole eggs, and yolks. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. The mixture will thicken and continue to whisk constantly for 2 minutes after it starts to boil.
Remove from heat, whisk in butter until smooth. Pour the lemon curd into the shell and refrigerate until the curd is set, at least 1.5 hours. I sprinkled a few lavender buds on top of the tart as garnish.