Sunday, 4 August 2013

D.H. Lawrence | Moonshine Lemon Tart

Lawrence's travel to northern Italy, at a time when the threat of war loomed heavily over Europe, lent itself to a poignant study of the destiny and history of man.
"I went into the lemon house, where the poor trees seem to mope in the darkness. It is an immense an immense, dark, cold place. Tall lemon trees, heavy with half-visible fruit, crowd together, and rise in the gloom. They look like ghosts in the darkness of the underworld, stately, and as if in life, but only grand shadows of themselves. And lurking here and there, I see one of the pillars. Here we are trees, men, pillars, the dark earth, the sad black paths, shut in in this enormous box.
Bartolomeo Bimbi, Large Citron in a Landscape 
"Looking down the Hades of the lemon-house, the many ruddy-clustered oranges beside the path remind me of the lights of a village along the lake at night, while the pale lemons above are the stars. There is a subtle, exquisite scent of lemon flowers. Then I notice a citron. He hangs heavy and bloated upon so small a tree, that he seems a dark green enormity. There is a great host of lemons overhead, half-visible, a swarm of ruddy oranges by the paths, and here and there a fat citron. It is almost like being under the sea.
"I sat and looked at the lake. It was beautiful as paradise, as the first creation. On the shores were the ruined lemon-pillars standing out in melancholy, the clumsy, enclosed lemon-houses seemed ramshackle, bulging among vine stocks and olive trees. The villages, too, clustered upon their churches, seemed to belong to the past. They seemed to be lingering in bygone centuries.
"I sat on the roof of the lemon-house, with the lake below and the snowy mountain opposite, and looked at the ruins on the old, olive-fuming shores, at all the peace of the ancient world still covered in sunshine, and the past seemed to me so lovely that one must look towards it, backwards, only backwards, where there is peace and beauty and no more dissonance.
     I thought of England, the great mass of London, and the black, fuming, laborious Midlands and north-country. It seemed horrible. And yet, it was better than the padrone, this old, monkey-like cunning of fatality. It is better to go forward into error than to stay fixed inextricably in the past.
      Yet what should become of the world? There was London and the industrial counties spreading like a blackness over all the world, horrible, in the end destructive. And the Garda was so lovely under the sky of sunshine, it was intolerable."
D.H. Lawrence, Twilight in Italy
The once paradisal lemon gardens, which had originally brought wealth and stability, were now in a state of decline. For Lawrence, this image of ruin and dilapidation is suggestive of man's descent into mechanisation and the destruction of natural life. And yet, despite his critique of the forces of modernity, which is mingled with a lingering sense of nostalgia for bygone times, Lawrence is affirming that it is better to go forward than remain trapped in the past.

~ Moonshine Lemon Tart ~

A luscious tart with a sharp lemon filling that allows the citrus flavour to come through in every mouthful. The moonshine in the name comes from the addition of alcohol in the glaze which enhances the flavour. 

I find the sugar amount in most lemon tart recipes impossibly high and also I prefer to taste the lemon. But if you like a sweeter tart with just a hint of tanginess, you can increase the sugar up to 130g.

Serves 6-8

1 quantity pâte sablée (for 21 cm tart tin)

finely grated zest of 3 large lemons
120 ml lemon juice (2-3 lemons)
1 tsp lemon extract (optional)
120 ml double cream
100 g caster sugar
3 large eggs

juice of 1½ lemon, strained
1½ tsp icing sugar
1 tsp arrowroot
2 tbsp limoncello or gin (optional)

Prepare the pâte sablée according to directions in the recipe but substitute 30 g ground almonds for an equal amount of flour and add the grated zest of 1 lemon to the dough.

Lightly butter and line a 21cm round fluted, loose-bottom flan tin with the pastry, prick the bottom with a fork, cover with clingfilm and put back in the fridge for another 30 minutes. To bake blind, cover the sides with foil and place baking parchment on top. Fill this with baking beans and bake on the lower rack of a pre-heated oven at 185 C for 12-15 minutes. Remove the paper and beans, but keep the sides covered with foil, and bake in the oven for a further 5-8 minutes until dry and lightly golden. Remove from the oven and seal with a little beaten egg white while it's still hot.

Lower the oven temperature to 170 C.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together until just combined but not foamy. Carefully whisk in the lemon zest, double cream and finally the lemon juice with the lemon extract (if using). Pour the mixture into a jug.

Place the blind-baked tart case on a baking pan and put it back into the oven as far forward as possible without the pan falling off the oven rack. Pour the filling slowly into the tart case until it comes just under the rim. Carefully pull the tart further into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until the filling is almost set but still wobbles slightly.

Take the tart out of the oven and let it cool before removing it from the tin. As it cools, the filling will set. Once it has cooled, apply the glaze.

Prepare the glaze: Mix the lemon juice, icing sugar and  arrowroot together and cook in a small pan over a gentle heat until thickened. You know it's thickened when tiny bubbles begin to appear on the surface. Remove from the heat immediately. Be careful not to let it thicken too much or it will be difficult to spread. Stir the limoncello or gin into the glaze and spoon over the tart. Leave to cool and set, then decorate with physalis.

The glaze gives the tart a nice shine but you can decorate with raspberries, blueberries or sliced peaches instead and dust with icing sugar once it has cooled.

Note 1: To make a tart for a 23cm tin, use the finely grated zest of 4-5 lemons, 160 ml lemon juice,  130 g caster sugar, 160 g double cream and 4 large eggs.

Note 2: I have since made the tart with a limoncello glaze and I must say the limoncello intensifies the lemon flavour. Limoncello it is, then! 

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