There are many types of crushes.
There’s a music crush, where you admire someone’s virtuosity so that you look at them in a way you never would were they not a phenomenally talented singer/guitarist/glockenspiel player. There are teacher crushes, where you adore your teacher’s bass playing/dancing/asanas so much that you just want to be teacher’s pet. There are dance crushes (see: music crushes). There are blog crushes, where, though you have never met the person, yet you feel like you are best friends/soul mates. (David L – call me!)
And of course, there are celebrity crushes.
I was never particularly star struck as a young’un (though I did think that TV star Jonathon Taylor-Thomas and I would make an adorable couple, mostly because we could give our kids the last name ‘Taylor-Tobin-Taylor-Thomas’).
But the day I discovered Jamie Oliver on the Food Network, a decade or so ago, I was practically reduced to a shrieking/fainting Beatles-type fan. I squealed all through the opening credits of The Naked Chef (especially the part where Jamie would mutter coyly, ‘It’s not me, it’s the food that’s naked!’) and simpered when he would describe ‘blitzing’ food in the Cuisinart. His blue eyes, red lips, blond hair, and British accent all did me in.
I was smitten.
It’s no surprise, then, that when I noticed an issue of Jamie Magazine on the rack at my local coffee shop, I snapped it up. While there weren’t nearly enough shots of the blond chef for my liking, the fun layout, handsome photos and intriguing recipes held my interest (and I did get a bit pink-cheeked whenever they’d refer to ‘plastic wrap’ as ‘clingfilm’).
I may be a one-British-chef-woman, but when it comes to recipes, I’m a bit of a floozy. Reading through the magazine, I gave my heart away to cassoulet, apple cider flan, double choc brownies, and buckwheat crepes with poached apple and pear. But most of all, I fell hard for this lemon mascarpone tart. The photo caught my eye first, but as I read through the ingredient list, the lemon verbena steeped in the creamy mascarpone custard sealed the deal. I decided to make it for a potluck bar-be-que, garnished with the first strawberries of the season and some slivered apple mint, compliments of my green-thumbed and infinitely talented friend Jessa.
Though my love for Jamie hardly wavered while making this tart, I did have a bit of a wrestling match with the pate sucree, which practically disintegrated when I tried to lift the rolled-out dough into the pan. Next time, I’d probably use this press-in crust, with the seeds from half a vanilla been rubbed in, which, besides being infinitely more tender, and saving you hours of chilling, rolling, pressing, and re-chilling, will also leave you with one less lonely egg white to use up.
No matter about the crust, a taste of the meyer lemon/verbena/vanilla-infused cream erased any memory of difficult times. And at the party, when the tart had finally cooled (finally!), and the grilled steak, tofu, salmon, potatoes, artichokes, asparagus, 2 salads, 3 cheeses and 1 multi-grain batard were all distant memories, a bite of the quivering custard left me, and apparently the guests, too, more smitten than ever.
The tart’s silky texture is similar to a lemon curd tart, but less eggy, and with a rich tang from the heavy cream and mascarpone; like a cross between a lemon tart and a cheesecake. The macerated strawberries and slivered mint make a fine accompaniment.
I hope you’ll find this tart as crush-worthy as I did.
But keep your man-stealing mitts off Jamie.
Lemon Mascarpone Tart
Adapted from Jamie Magazine
One 9″ tart (10 – 12 servings)
I used the original tart shell recipe (adapted, below), but if I made this again, I would go with this press-in crust, with the seeds from half a vanilla been rubbed in, as I found it both easier and tastier. The choice is yours.
While delicious plain, this tart would make a handsome foil for any number of fruits: poached rhubarb, blueberry coulis, blood orange supremes, or poached sour cherries would all be divine in place of the minted strawberries. I loved the fruity undertones of the apple mint, but spearmint, lemon balm or basil would all go nicely with the berries as well.
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (5 1/2 ounces, 165 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (65 grams) powdered sugar (sifted if lumpy)
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 1/2 tablespoons (2 3/4 ounces, 75 grams) cold, unsalted butter, in 1/4″ dice
seeds from 1/2 a vanilla bean (pod reserved for filling, below)
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
1 whole egg, beaten well (for brushing the tart, the remainder reserved for the tart filling)
The mascarpone filling:
zest of 1 (meyer) lemon
1/2 cup (4 ounces, 110 grams) sugar
1 cup (250mL) heavy cream
15 lemon verbena leaves (fresh or dried)
1/2 vanilla pod (left over from crust, above)
4 egg yolks
remainder of egg from washing crust (above)
8 ounces (about 250mL) mascarpone
2 pints strawberries, rinsed, hulled and sliced
1 – 2 tablespoons sugar
a handful of mint leaves
Make and blind-bake the crust:
In a large bowl, combine the flour, powdered sugar, and salt. Rub in the butter and vanilla bean seeds until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Sprinkle over the egg yolk/water mixture and continue working the dough with your fingertips until it begins to clump together. Press the clumps into a ball, flatten into a 6″ disc, and slip into a plastic bag. Let rest in the fridge for at least 40 minutes.
Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out between two pieces of parchment paper into a 12″ round, turning and flouring the parchment as needed. Lift the dough into a 9″ tart pan with removable bottom (mine cracked and split a whole lot) and ease into the corners of the pan. Trim the overhang to 1″, then fold over the edge and press to form a double layer. Trim the crust flush with (or a tad higher than) the pan sides. (Wrap up and save any dough scraps in case you need to patch a hole in the bottom of the crust after baking.) Cover the tart with plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes, then freeze for 20 minutes until firm.
While the dough is chilling, position a rack in the lower third of your oven and preheat to 375ºF (190ºC). Line the frozen tart shell with parchment paper, then with pie weights (or dried beans or clean pennies). Bake the shell in the oven until set, and the sides are beginning to color, 25 – 30 minutes. Remove the weights and parchment, and bake the tart until the bottom turns golden, 5 – 10 more minutes. Remove the shell, brush with the egg wash, and bake another minute to set the egg wash (this creates a barrier between shell and custard filling, preventing the shell from softening). Remove the shell. Patch any holes with a bit of reserved dough scraps if necessary.
While the tart shell is baking, make the filling:
In a small saucepan, rub the lemon zest into the sugar. Add the cream, and place over medium heat, swirling occasionally, until the cream is warm and steamy (don’t boil). Remove from the heat, add the lemon verbena leaves and vanilla bean, and steep for 20-30 minutes.
Combine the egg yolks and remainder of the egg from washing the crust in a large bowl. Slowly pour in the warm cream mixture, whisking constantly. Pour the egg/cream mixture through a strainer back into the saucepan. Place the mascarpone in the large bowl, then pour in few tablespoons of the cream mixture, and whisk smooth. Continue like this, adding the cream mixture to the mascarpone bit by bit and whisking smooth after each addition, until is it all combined.
Bake the tart:
Reduce the oven temperature to 325ºF (162ºC). Place the baked and washed tart shell on a rimmed baking sheet (to catch any drips) and set on the rack in the oven towards the front. Carefully pour in the filling, slide the pan back into the middle of the oven, and close the door. Bake the tart until the filling is lightly puffed and wobbles when shaken gently (but doesn’t appear wet or watery), about 30 – 35 minutes (check at 20 minutes, then every 5 minutes after).
Remove the tart from the oven and let cool completely at room temperature, 1 – 2 hours. Remove the sides of the pan (easily accomplished by setting the tart on a large can and letting the sides fall away) and slice the tart into wedges.
Toss the strawberries in a bowl with sugar to taste, and let sit to macerate for 15 minutes. Stack the mint leaves, roll up lengthwise, then slice thinly crosswise. Toss into the berries.
Serve slices of the tart with the minted berries. The tart tastes best the day that it is baked, at room temperature, but it will keep for up to 4 days in the fridge.