Another day, another celebration for another coworker. Ergo another dessert to prepare.
Today was Alice's 25th birthday. Alice, for those of you who don't know, is basically the glue that holds AJWS together. She's the executive assistant to our esteemed President (the fabulous Ruth Messinger) and to say that Alice handles grace under fire is the understatement of the year. So of course, when she requested a lemon tart I felt the need to deliver.
I have a few recipes that I use for lemon curds and custards but just didn't have the stamina barely 24 hours after the grand cannoli cake to stand whisking over a double boiler. I decided to try a simpler recipe with a cream cheese based custard and shortbread crust. After an intense day of work and the first night of my Communication Strategy class, I wandered the aisles of Whole Foods, slightly dazed and unable to fully remember what I needed. Several impulse buys later (did I really need the Value Pack size of Emergen-C????) I was on my way home. By the time I walked through the door my body refused to measure flour or squeeze lemon juice or even open the cabinet where the food processor was. A night of sleep and then I'd get up early and make the tart in the morning.
At 6:30 the alarm went off. At 6:31 I threw the clock across the room. Finally, at 6:47 I dragged myself to the kitchen. Yowls from hungry felines filled the air but I knew I could not afford any delays. So I shoved the furry feeding machines aside and set to work. Measure one cup of flour, 1/3 cup powdered sugar, 1/8 tsp salt and give it a spin in the food processor. Add one stick cold cut up butter and pulse until it starts to form clumps. Press this into your tart pan and freeze for 15 minutes. Prick the bottom and bake at 425 for 14-15 minutes. While crust bakes take a perfectly timed shower (or as I did slightly overbake the crust).
When the crust is out of the oven and cooling and your all dried and dressed from the shower, combine 5 oz. cream cheese with 1/2 cup of white sugar in the food processor and process till combined. Add two eggs, one at a time and process well after each. Add 2/3 cup fresh lemon juice and 1 heaping tbsp grated lemon zest and process again. Pour into the prepared tart shell and bake at 350 for 28 minutes (or until custard is set).
Top with lightly sweetened whipped cream (this is even more fun if you whisk it fresh in the office before serving it to really show your coworkers how much you love them.) Serve cold.
Of course, by the time the tart was done I was running late so I pulled it out of the oven and put it by an open window to start cooling. I gave it about 3 minutes and then wrapped it in a towel so I could hold it (it was hot!) and headed out the door. On the subway I got a few looks as I knew you could smell the warm buttery crust and the sweet scent of lemon in the air. A cute little old man sitting next to me asked what I was carrying and when I said "a lemon tart" he suggested I let him hold it for a while. Thanks - buuuttt...no thanks. :)
Happy 25th Alice!
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