Feb 24, 2011

Gluten-Free Meyer Lemon Curd Tartelettes

This is the time of year in Austin when Spring is on our doorstep. While we may still get a few nights around freezing in March, we're also having lots of bright, sunny days near 80 degrees and the trees are starting to bud out. It's time to start thinking about what's going into the garden in the next few weeks. But if you don't live in Texas, you might still be facing that last bit of chill. This little tart will give you a taste of Spring with its bright, sunny flavors.

Last weekend at the farmers market, I spotted Meyer Lemon Curd at the Confituras booth. They had mentioned it was coming weeks before and so I'd been keeping an eye out. I'm so glad I didn't miss it. I tried a sample... not because I questioned whether or not to get some, but because I couldn't wait to taste it. It knocked my socks off. A Meyer lemon is a cross between a lemon and an orange, with a sweeter, less acidic, rounder flavor than an ordinary lemon. It is one of my favorite flavors. Like most citrus, you'll usually find them in season in late winter. But they taste like bright sunshine to me. Just the antidote to too many chilly winter days. I have to say, I've had lemon curd before, even Meyer lemon curd. But none has come close to Confituras. It is the perfect balance of tangy, bright and sweet. This is the standard by which all other lemon curds will be measured in my book from now on.

Citrus curd is made by combining egg yolks, sugar, juice and sometimes butter. Sort of a custard. It's the perfect filling for a tart or to use as a custard in the layers of a trifle with pound cake or angel food cake and whipped cream.

Confituras is a small, local, preserve maker run by Stephanie McClenny. She recently won a Good Food Award in San Francisco for her Texas Fig Preserves with honey, balsamic and bay leaves. Her Salted Caramel Pear Butter is another one of my favorites. I sent jars of her treats to friends over the holidays as gifts. In Austin, you can find Confituras at the Saturday farmers markets and at Breeds, Antonelli's cheese shop, and Con'Olio. Outside the Austin area, you can order online.

I managed to snag two of the last jars of Meyer Lemon Curd at the farmers market last Saturday. (If I hadn't already blown most of my wad of cash on veggies and steak, I would have bought more.) I haven't gotten far enough into the world of gluten-free baking to find a favorite pie or tart crust recipe yet. So I did a little research online and decided to try this recipe for Cannelle et Vanille's shortbread crust. Her photographs are so breathtaking and inspiring. And she's a great source for gluten-free recipes now too. I can't wait for her cookbook to come out.

I haven't yet tried making my own curd (maybe one day Confituras will teach a class???), but here is one I'd like to try, if you want to make your own.

One ingredient note: I've been experimenting with different gluten-free flours for baking. And like many gluten-free bakers, I like Authentic Foods superfine brown rice flour because it's so much smoother and finer than others. But I tried one batch of this shortbread crust with their superfine flour and another batch with the heartier Bob's Red Mill stone ground brown rice flour. I liked the stone ground batch better for this shortbread because it actually enhances the sandiness in the texture. It came the closest to replicating the flavor of my old favorite traditional shortbread recipe. I was afraid that I would never be able to have a gluten-free version of that crumbly, sandy, flaky, vanilla shortbread flavor with gluten-free flours, but I was wrong. All the satisfaction, but none of the gluten. This will be my go to recipe when it's time to start making (gluten-free) holiday shortbread this year.

Equipment note: I tried these little tarts with individual 5-inch tart pans and also with these tiny, two-bite tart pans. For a very rich filling or in this case, a tart filling, I preferred the tiny tarts. The larger size were too big for one person to finish on your own.

Be sure to remove your butter ahead of time to allow it to soften a bit on the counter before mixing.

And look for Meyer Lemon Curd again this weekend from Confituras. I'm already craving more.

Meyer Lemon Curd Tartelettes with Gluten-Free Shortbread Crust

2 8-ounce jars Confituras Meyer Lemon Curd

8 ounces heavy whipping cream
1-2 tablespoons powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla

gluten-free shortbread crust:
2 sticks (225 grams) butter, softened
1 1/2 cups (110 grams) powdered sugar, sifted
zest of one organic Meyer lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 cups + 1 tablespoon (170 grams) Bobs Red Mill stone ground brown rice flour
1 cup (110 grams) cornstarch
1/4 cup (30 grams) tapioca starch
pinch of salt

Measure out your brown rice flour, cornstarch, tapioca starch and salt and whisk together in a bowl. Set aside.

Mix together the softened butter and powdered sugar until the butter is light and fluffy.

Add the lemon zest and vanilla. Mix again to incorporate.

Add the flour mixture half at a time and mix until it comes together. Form the dough into a ball with your hands. Break off pieces (between one and two tablespoons for the tiny tart pans) and press into your tart pans. Place tart pans on a baking sheet and cover with foil or plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least one hour.

To bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove tart pans from the fridge and prick each crust with a fork to allow steam to vent. (The tarts may still puff up while baking. You can remove them from the oven mid-way through baking and prick them again. They will lay down again after cooling. But be sure to pre-bake them like this before filling if you're using a light filling. If you're making them for a heavier fruit filling, they should be fine baking with the fruit.)

While these are baking, prepare your whipped cream topping. Whip cream (with a whisk for a little workout or a mixer) with powdered sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form. Cover and refrigerate.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until the edges begin to get a little golden. Remove from oven and let cool. (Note: these can be made a day ahead and then filled just before serving. I actually preferred them that way.)

Just before serving, fill tarts with cold Meyer Lemon Curd. Top with a spoonful of whipped cream and serve immediately.

Yield: 20 tiny tarts or 6 to 8 5-inch tarts

Adapted from shortbread crust recipe by Cannelle et Vanille.

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