I've been thinking about the gentle ways people in love treat each other: the way they light up quietly when the other walks in the room, or how they remember the other's coffee order.Where does it all go? If it isn't captured in a letter, or a song, or a hastily scribbled note left on the kitchen counter in the morning, it dissipates. You might never know how someone glances sideways at you during dinner or notices how you twist your fingers when you're nervous.
Wouldn't it be great if we could see or hear all of those little things? And if you could, how would you want someone to talk about you? What words would they say to their friends over dinner when they describe your first date? Luminous, unforgettable, smart, lovely.
Maybe you'd prefer a grander gesture: Would you want Ray LaMontagne to sing "You Are the Best Thing" on stage to you? Or Pablo Neruda to slip his poem "I Like for You to Be Still" on a ripped page under your door?
I would want someone to cook for me, and it's what I would do for them. Probably I would bake. I'd make this lemon tart. It's tangy and sweet. Elegant and sophisticated enough to hint at the effort you put into it, but simple enough to eat on a Tuesday night.
We should probably all exercise the option more often to express those good feelings: Write the note in the morning. Send the text message. Bake the tart.
Adapted from Baking Illustrated
For the crust
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups (6 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup (2 2/3 ounces) powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold butter, cubed
For the filling
7 large egg yolks, plus 2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 5 lemons)
1/4 cup lemon zest (from the lemons above)
4 tablespoons butter, cut into 4 pieces
3 tablespoons heavy cream
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons powdered sugar, for garnish
To make the crust: Whisk together the cream, egg yolk, and vanilla and set aside. Process the flour, sugar, and salt quickly in a food processor. Add the cubed cold butter to the food processor and pulse until the mixture is coarse and crumbly. Keep the machine running and slowly stream in the cream/egg mixture. Process until the dough pulls together (less than 20 seconds). Press the dough into a disc, cover it with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
When the dough has chilled, place it on a lightly floured surface and roll it out into a 13" circle. The dough shouldn't be too sticky -- if it is, chill it some more. It helps to roll the dough out between two sheets of parchment paper. Transfer the dough into a 9" tart pan and press gently but firmly to push the dough into place and even out the edges. The dough should line the pan evenly. Put the dough-lined pan into the freezer for 20-30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Remove the tart pan from the freezer and carefully cover the dough with a piece of foil and pie weights (or dried beans work well). Bake the tart for 30 minutes, then remove it from the oven and carefully take off the foil and weights. Return the tart to the oven and bake for another 5-8 minutes. The tart should be a dark golden brown. Let cool slightly. Keep the oven on.
To make the filling: While the tart shell bakes, whisk together the egg yolks and whole eggs in a stainless steel or glass bowl (do not use copper or aluminum!). Whisk in the sugar. Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, and salt and whisk briefly to just combine. Pour the mixture into a stainless steel saucepan (be sure your pan is non-reactive, meaning not copper or aluminum). Add the butter pieces and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. It should take about 5 minutes.
Strain the curd through a fine-mesh strainer to get rid of any small pieces of cooked egg (this can happen, but stirring the curd constantly helps prevent it), and then whisk in the cream. Pour the filling into the tart shell and place the tart back in the oven for 10-15 minutes. (I like to put my tart on a baking sheet to make it easier to take in and out of the oven.) The tart is ready when the surface looks shiny but still jiggles slightly when you shake it. Let cool for at least an hour, dust with powdered sugar, and then serve.