Lime Basil Tart

I am not sure when I first became aware of Julia Child.  Most likely when I was living in Massachusetts.  Her TV shows would regularly air on public television, and she was a well known personality around Boston (due to her connection with Cambridge, bien sûr).

My first impression was of an incredibly large woman – both in height and zeal!  I was astounded by her wealth of knowledge and passion for French cooking.  I devoured My Life in France that was co-written with her grandnephew, Alex Prud’homme. I was eager to understand what motivated this remarkable lady. 

What stood out for me was how a simple meal in Rouen, France changed her entire attitude towards food.  One simple event.  On top of that, how her dogged determination helped her attain the necessary culinary skills to become one of the most beloved celebrity chefs. It seems extraordinary to me how much she achieved.

Julia was persistent, motivated, enthusiastic, passionate and determined.

I try to emulate these characteristics with my baking ventures.  In terms of channeling Julia in other ways?  Well, I already share the same name.  So what else?  Hopefully my partner will also be posted to a Government position in Paris for a few years?  Then I too can enrol at Le Cordon Bleu(Quelle joie!)

But for now, this Julia is working her way through pastry month.  To honour Julia Child (and the launch today of the movie Julie & Julia), my first recipe is using her Pâte Sucrée recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cookery.

I have paired this buttery, light pastry with a zesty lime-basil curd.  The idea for the curd came from a wedding macaron recommendation.  I was intrigued by the flavour combination and knew it must be tested, and soon.  To create the curd, I simply made a basic lime curd and finished with a delicate whisk of some thinly sliced basil. 

I was very happy with the result.  The tart curd is a perfect complement to the sweet pastry.

{ Lime-Basil Curd }

* Ingredients *
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Finely grated zest of 2 limes
10 basil leaves, chiffonade

* Directions *
Prepare an ice water bath; set aside. Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a medium heatproof bowl. Add the lime juice, butter, and zest. Place over a pan of simmering water and cook, whisking occasionally, until thick, about 15 minutes. Transfer bowl to ice water bath and let stand, stirring occasionally, until cool. Wisk in the basil.  Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd. Transfer to refrigerator until completely cold, at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

{ Pâte Sucrée } Recipe by Julia Child

* Ingredients *
1 cup flour
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons or ¾ stick of chilled butter
2 tablespoons chilled vegetable shortening
4 to 4 1/2 tablespoons cold water

* Directions *
Measure the dry ingredients to the bowl of a food processor.  Add the chilled butter along with the chilled shortening.  Pulse a few times.  Pour in the water and pulse again.  The dough should begin to collect on the blade.  If not, dribble in a little more water and repeat, repeating again if necessary. Dough is done when it has begun to mass; do not overmix it.  Scrape the dough out and place on a lightly floured pastry board.  With the heel of one hand, press the pastry away from you.

With a scraper or spatula, gather the dough again into a mass; knead it briefly into a fairly smooth round ball.  Sprinkle it lightly with flour and wrap it in waxed paper. Either place the dough in the freezing compartment of the refrigerator for about 1 hour until it is firm but not congealed, or refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight. (Uncooked pastry dough will keep for 2 to 3 days under refrigeration, or may be frozen for several weeks. Always wrap it airtight in waxed paper and a plastic bag.)

Roll out the dough as quickly as possible, so that it will not soften and become difficult to handle. Place the dough on a lightly floured board or marble. If the dough is hard, beat it with the rolling pin to soften it. Then knead it briefly into a fairly flat circle. It should be just malleable enough to roll out without cracking.

Lightly flour the top of the dough. Place rolling pin across centre and roll the pin back and forth with firm but gentle pressure to start the dough moving. Then, with a firm, even stroke, and always rolling away from you, start just below the centre of the dough and roll to within an inch of the far edge.  Lift dough and turn it at a slight angle.

Give it another roll. Continue lifting, turning and rolling and, as necessary, sprinkle the board and top of dough lightly with flour to prevent sticking. Roll it out slightly larger than your pie pan or flan ring.  The dough should be used as soon as it has been rolled out, so that it will not soften.  Mold your pastry into your pie pan or flan ring and refrigerate.

Partial baking sets the dough and is a safeguard against soggy bottom crusts. Line the pastry with buttered lightweight foil or buttered brown paper, press it will against the sides of the pastry and fill it with dried beans.  The weight of the beans will hold the pastry against the mold during the baking.  Bake at the middle of a preheated 200C or 400F degree oven for 8 to 9 minutes until pastry is set.  Remove mold or foil and beans. Prick bottom of pastry with a fork to keep it from rising.  Return to oven for 2 to 3 minutes more.  When the shell is starting to colour and just beginning to shrink from sides of mold, remove it from the oven.

Pastry makes an 8-inch or 20cm shell.