I’m going to write about my mom again. Listen, I don’t have an unhealthy relationship with my mother. I don’t live at home. I’m married, even. But my mom and I spend lots of time together. Like, we hangsies at least once a week. I’m totally cool with that. I have real friends, too. Promise.
Anyway, it was my mom’s birthday on Saturday. Growing up, we were never the “make a cake for your birthday” type of family. More of a “buy a cake from Kroger” type of family. But now that I’m getting better at cake decorating (I will someday soon share a devastating early cake attempt), I was all excited to make a birthday cake for her. One problem: my mom cannot make decisions.
I actually think indecisiveness is something I inherited. I often rope various “others” into making my decisions for me.
I frequently grill my friends optometrist-style: A or B? B or C? 1 or 2? MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE OR I WILL BE BLIND.
I ask waiters which dish they think is best.
I may or may not have discussions with random strangers in the grocery store about which products they prefer and why.
So I get it. You can’t decide on ONE birthday cake. Because what if it’s the LAST birthday cake you eat? You just never know, guys. Do you really want your last thought to be, “I wish I’d picked the chocolate caramel cake!” (Actually, if that’s your last thought, you probably had a pretty good life.)
After I threatened my mother several times that she’d better make a decision or else, she indicated that she might not want cake at all. Because “cake is just cake” to her. (Tell that to the 100+ pins on my Pinterest “Cakes” board. But, fine.) She started listing off what she likes: crème brûlée (now I’ve spoiled her), lemon, pistachio.
The evil culinary genius in my brain started cackling at that point and I made the decision for her (the best birthday gift for an indecisive person). I would create something that had ALL of those things and it would be the most glorious birthday ever. Muahaha!
I started with this tart from Smitten Kitchen. I added roasted, ground pistachios to the tart dough. And it was amazing. The smell! I didn’t even wash my hands after handling it so I would smell like roasty, nutty, butteriness. And I kind of ate a bunch of raw dough scraps. Salmonella and morbid obesity be damned.
The cool thing about this recipe is that you get to use the whole lemon, so it requires no juicing or zesting. The one down side, if you are sensitive to this kind of thing, is that the rind leaves a little bit of a bitter aftertaste, even though I used Meyer lemons. It honestly didn’t bother me, and my sister said she got used to it after the first bite, but the birthday-girl noticed it more than we did. Just depends on your taste buds, I guess! The lemon filling is way more prominent than the baked pistachio crust, but you get the nuttiness here and there, and especially on the finish, when you break into that slab of crust in the back.
To finish off the tart, I sprinkled sugar over the top and torched it, so it had a nice brûléed top to crack into. I didn’t get close enough with the torch at first because I was afraid of ruining all my hard work, but I went back later and really burned the crap out of the other pieces. Don’t fear the fire. Embrace it.
My thoughts as I shoved the first bite into my mouth? IT’S… ALIIIIIVE!
- ½ cup (60 grams) unsalted, shelled pistachios
- 1½ cups (180 grams) all-purpose flour
- ½ cup (60 grams) confectioner's sugar
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 9 tablespoons (130 grams) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and frozen
- 1 large egg
- 1-2 Meyer lemons*, rinsed and dried
- 1½ cups (300 grams) sugar
- ½ cup (115 grams) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
- 4 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons (14 grams) cornstarch
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 1-2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- Heat oven to 350°F. Spread pistachios out on a baking sheet and roast in then oven for about 5-6 minutes or until fragrant. Pour into food processor and grind into a fine powder. Add flour, confectioner's sugar, and salt to the food processor and process with the nuts until thoroughly mixed.
- Sprinkle frozen butter cubes over the top of the flour mixture. Pulse until the largest butter chunks are the size of peas, 6-8 pulses. In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg with a fork to break the yolk, then pour into the food processor. Using long pulses, process until dough begins to clump together (the food processor will make a different noise when this happens).
- Dump out onto plastic wrap, gently gather into a ball, and wrap and chill for about 2 hours. Clean your food processor bowl and blade while the dough is chilling. You'll need it again for the filling!
- Once chilled, roll dough into a 12-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Transfer to a buttered 9-inch tart pan, pressing into the sides and corners of the pan. Trim dough so there is a ½-inch overhang, then fold the overhang in to make the sides thick. Trim anything stuck up above the pan with a knife so you have a flat edge. Poke the bottom and sides of the dough with a fork all over. Freeze for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter the shiny side of a piece of foil and press tightly against the crust. Place tart pan on a baking sheet and bake on the center rack of your oven for 20-25 minutes. Remove the foil, press down any bubbles with the back of a spoon, and bake for another 5 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack and let crust come to room temperature.
- Slice lemons into thin rounds, removing end pieces. Place 130 grams of slices (yield from about 1½ small Meyer lemons) into the bowl of your food processor. Add sugar and butter chunks, and process until the lemon is fully pureed. Add eggs, cornstarch, and salt and pulse until a smooth batter is formed.
- Pour into your tart shell until filling is level with the top of the crust (don't overfill). Bake, on the baking sheet, for 35-40 minutes, until the filling is set and just barely jiggles when you nudge the pan. The outer edges of the filling will be lightly brown.
- Let cool on a rack for 30 minutes, then fully chill in the refrigerator. Right before serving, sprinkle an even layer of granulated sugar across the top of the tart, then use a kitchen torch to caramelize the sugar, forming the brûléed top. Cut and serve immediately.
- *If you can't find Meyer lemons because they aren't in season or not available in your area, you can use regular lemons, but there will be more bitterness from the rind.