Tarte citron et de fromage blanc (Lemon and fresh cheese Tart)

Besides a sauce pan, colander, cheesecloth, spatula, and tart pan, you know the usual; there are what some would consider “specialty” equipment items that are needed for this recipe. One is a calibrated thermometer and the other is a kitchen scale – one that can weigh in ounces and grams. My theory is to always invest in quality tools and they should last you a lifetime. They will also make your baking life much easier.

I tested the fromage blanc recipe at least a 1/2 dozen times sometimes with cream and other times without, adding more or less vinegar, as well as adding salt or eliminating salt.  The recipe below is the result of all the testing and what I consider just the right amount of creaminess and salinity.

For the tart shell, I also tested several dough recipes. So far this one from BakeWise seems to hold up the best after baking, especially if transporting. Be sure that the prepared tart shell is well chilled and that the oven is preheated. Otherwise, when it starts to bake the butter melts out before the dough sets.

David Schmit was the photographer.  Check out his work at David Paul Schmit Photography.

061215_GreatBowls_B6566 (1)For the tart dough:
Pâte Sablée* (adapted from BakeWise, by Shirley Corriher)

1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon cold water (original recipe suggested apple cider vinegar), plus additional cold water if needed
½ cup plus 5 tablespoons (184 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 ½ cups (187 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (38 g) confectioner’s sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt

In a small bowl beat together the egg yolk, cream, and water. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.  Cut the butter into pieces, set them on a plate, and place in the refrigerator as well, until ready to use.

In the bowl of a food processor using the metal “S” blade, pour in the flour, sugar, and salt. Pulse to evenly distribute the dry ingredients.

Scatter the pieces of butter on top of the flour mixture. Pulse until each piece of butter is about the size of a pea. Don’t get caught up that every piece has to be exactly the size of a pea.  It’s okay that some are larger or smaller in size.

Remove the lid and pour the egg mixture over the flour/butter mixture. (I found that when pouring the egg mixture while the motor is running, the liquid tends to collect under the blade.) Pulse until the dough just begins to come together. Remove the lid and (being careful of the blade) press a bit of the dough with your fingers to determine if it will stick together.  If not, sprinkle a teaspoon of cold water over the mixture, return the lid and pulse again to further combine the dough.

When the dough comes together remove it from the processor bowl onto a clean counter. With the palm of your hand smear the dough away from you to incorporate. With a bench knife gather up the pieces and smear again until incorporated. This simple technique is called fraisage.  It allows the dough to come together without using an excessive amount of liquid. Once the dough is in one mass form it into a disk. Wrap it in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour and up to 24 hours.

When ready to finish making the tart preheat oven to 400°F. On a lightly floured board roll the pastry dough into a circle about 13-inches in diameter. Line a 10-inch removable bottom tart pan with it. Prick the bottom of the pastry shell all over with a fork and chill for at least 30 minutes or until the dough is firm. Remove from the refrigerator, line with parchment paper, add pie weights and bake for about 30 minutes.  Check for doneness and continue until the crust is beginning to brown.

For the filling:
1 pound (500 g) fromage blanc* or ricotta cheese, drained
1/3 cup (1 dl) heavy cream or crème fraiche
3 large eggs, room temperature and separated
2/3 cup (135 g) granulated sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons (40 g) corn starch
zest of 2 lemons, organic if possible
¼ teaspoon pure lemon extract
pinch of kosher salt

About 10 minutes prior to the tart shell having finished baking, using the metal “S” blade, mix together in the bowl of a food processor the drained cheese, cream, egg yolks, sugar, corn starch, zest, extract, and salt. Set aside.

In a clean bowl beat the egg whites (either with the whisk attachment using a stand mixer, with a hand mixer, or like I do with a balloon whisk and a copper bowl) with a pinch of salt to the soft-peak stage.  With a large spatula quickly stir 1/3 of the egg whites into the cheese mixture to lighten it.  Then gently fold in the remaining 2/3 of the egg whites. (Don’t dilly-dally when folding as you don’t want to deflate the air that you just beat into the egg whites.)

As soon at the tart shell is out of the oven and the weights are removed, pour the filling into the shell and smooth the surface with a spatula. Bake for about 40 minutes or until the filling is puffed and golden. Let the tart cool, dust with powdered sugar and serve.  I imagine it would be great with sliced seasonal fruit.

For the fromage blanc:

1 gallon whole milk, not ultra-pasteurized and preferably organic
1 pint heavy cream, not ultra-pasteurized and preferably organic
1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon white vinegar, separated, preferably organic
pinch of kosher salt

Line a colander with 4 single layers of cheesecloth.  Place over a large bowl and set aside.

In a large saucepan add the milk and cream.  Slowly bring the mixture up to 190°F stirring constantly.  Once the mixture has reached the temperature remove from the heat and stir in 1/4 cup of white vinegar. Almost immediately, the curds should begin to separate from the whey. If the curds seem slow to separate, stir in the remaining tablespoon of vinegar.  Allow the mixture to sit for about 10 minutes.

Pour the mixture over the cheesecloth lined colander.  Sprinkle with salt and carefully mix into the cheese. Bring the four corners of the cheesecloth over the handle of a wooden spoon and tie off to create a bundle thus allowing the cheese to drain.  Draining for about an hour should result in a pound of cheese. Reserve some of the whey so that if the final weight of the cheese does not equal a pound, add enough whey back in to do so.

061215_GreatBowls_B6569 (3)

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