Hello. My name is Andrea. I write this food blog, Bella Eats. You may remember me, or due to my long absence you may not. I’m sorry about that, truly I am. I miss this space! Life has been busy. So so so busy. I started teaching architectural design at the University of Virginia. Teaching. At a University. !!! And before that teaching officially began there was training for teaching. And in the middle of all of that I photographed the wedding of a dear friend I’ve known since the fifth grade. Fifth grade! She was such a beautiful bride, and if you’re interested in seeing some of those images please check out the AHPhoto blog.
Oh, and I started a photography business. Because I love taking pictures of people. And buildings. And food. So if you know anybody who needs somebody to take pictures of people, or buildings, or food...feel free to send them my way. I’d appreciate it so so much. And thank you, all of you, who have commented and tweeted and emailed your support. You’re the best, truly.
And yes, I am still working for an architecture firm here in Charlottesville. So...yeah. Busy.
It feels as though summer has completely passed by Bella Eats. Since June I’ve posted about cherries, blackberries, and blueberries. There have been no luscious heirloom tomatoes, no juice-laden peaches, no golden ears of corn. I even have a new trick for releasing kernels from their cob without making a complete mess of the kitchen counter and floor, and I haven’t had the opportunity to share it with you. That is sad my friends, because this trick is a good one. It will change the way you view corn entirely. Soon, I hope.
Way back in the middle of July our dear friend Kristin celebrated her birthday. She celebrated with us, and with this lime tart topped with blackberries from our garden. Blackberry season is just about over, a sign that summer is drawing to a quick close. Our bush has shed it’s bounty completely, leaving only the tiny shriveled berries that didn’t ever come to full ripeness. Our freezer is packed full of quart-size bags of the frozen fruit, our pantry shelf stocked with various forms of blackberry jam. This tart was one of the last recipes made this summer using berries fresh from the garden, and looking at these pictures already has me feeling nostalgic.
What is it about food that stirs memories stronger than those evoked by any other sense? While blackberries don't take me back to any point of my childhood, they do plop me down solidly in our backyard here in Charlottesville. For the past 4 years we've spent countless July and August evenings standing in our garden, bowls in hand, fingers stained purple, arms eaten by mosquitos, quietly and contently plucking berries one-by-one from a bush WE planted. I know that forever, no matter where we are, when I pop a freshly picked blackberry into my mouth I will be transported back to this place. I love that.
If you’re lucky you can still find pints of deep purple blackberries at your local farmers’ market, and if you do, I recommend you make this dessert before summer's end. The crust is quite perfect, nearly the consistency and flavor of a shortbread cookie. It doesn't flake and melt in your mouth like many pastry shells, but instead offers a firm vessel on which to carry a scoop of zippy lime curd. And scoop you will, because this tart never really sets up to a solid, sliceable state. Which is fine by me. The delightful combination of sweet shortbread, tart curd, and fresh blackberries had us all going back for seconds, despite our use of a spoon rather than a fork.
For the record, I am so unhappy with the spacing that this new Wordpress theme defaults too, but I just haven't had the time/energy to dig into the CSS code to fix it. And, we're working on a redesign of Bella Eats to be launched right around the two year (two years!) anniversary of this site at the end of October. So, please bear with me and the awkward/awful spacing of the text in my recipes... Thank you.
Lime Tart with Blackberries
from bon appetit, June 2010Ingredients
for the lime curd:
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup fresh lime juice
6 tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
for the topping:
(3) 6-ounce containers fresh blackberries
1 tbsp blackberry jam
for the crust:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 large pinch of salt
for the lime curd:
Set a fine metal strainer over a medium bowl and set aside. Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar in another medium metal bowl to blend. Whisk in lime juice.
Set bowl over large saucepan of gently simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water). Whisk constantly until curd thickens and an instant-read thermometer inserted into curd registers 178ºF to 180ºF, about 6 minutes. Immediately pour curd through prepared strainer set over bowl.
Add butter to warm strained curd; let stand 1 minute, then whisk until blended and smooth. Press plastic wrap directly onto surface of curd, covering completely. Refrigerate until cold, about 4 hours.*
*Lime curd can be made up to 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.
for the crust:
Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar in a medium bowl until well blended, 1 to 2 minutes. Add egg yolk; beat to blend. Add flour and salt and mix on low speed until mixture resembles large peas. Using hands, knead in bowl just until dough comes together.
Transfer dough to a 9-inch diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Break dough into pieces, then press dough evenly up sides and onto bottom of pan. Cover and chill 1 hour.**
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Uncover crust and bake until golden brown, about 35 minutes. Cool completely in pan on rack.
**Dough can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.
Remove sides from tart pan and place crust on plate. Spread lime curd evenly in baked crust. Arrange blackberries in concentric circles on top of tart.
Place am in small microwave-safe bowl. Heat in microwave until jam is melted, about 15 seconds. Whisk to loosen and blend, adding water by teaspoonfuls if thick. Brush jam over berries.*** (I only brushed jam over the outer ring, because I liked how they looked without the glaze.)
***Tart can be made up to 8 hours ahead. Chill uncovered.
Here we are at the end of March. Spring has claimed her space and unpacked her bags, kicked off her shoes and accepted a glass of lemony iced tea. She's fully settled in and ready to chat for awhile, her pony-tail bobbing enthusiastically as she shows you what's in store for the next few months.
There are predictions of 83* sunny days in Charlottesville this weekend...83*! That is shorts weather, my friends, and tank tops and strappy sandals and [eek!] swim suits weather. It was all very exciting until I pulled out a pair of those shorts last night and realized that this month coming to an end, the month full of birthdays and cake and cocktails, has done a number on certain, *ahem*, areas. Those well-intentioned New Year’s resolutions set in January were shaken with the arrival of Brian’s birthday 29 days ago, and continued to slowly slip away as we celebrated our way through March.
This last weekend was the culmination of all of that good cheer. With my Daddy in town for four days spoiling us rotten, there were indulgent meals shared at favoriterestaurants and bottles of wine Brian and I could never justify buying ourselves. As a “thank you!” for all of that generosity we had a little barbeque Saturday afternoon, complete with Double H Farm baby back ribs smoked on the Big Green Egg, the best baked beans I’ve ever had, salad with a hearty base of [local!] emerald green spinach and a delightfully moist lemon mousse cake. Although the air was a crisp 50*, we had a cloudless Caribbean-blue sky and a brilliantly radiant sun to warm our skin and confirm the departure of [old man] Winter.
And now today, with all of those birthdays behind us and the very last of that lemon mousse cake tossed away in the trash (but not before a bite or two passed my lips to verify its staleness) it is time to think of April, the second to last month before the water flowing steadily through our surrounding rivers warms to a point that justifies the loading up of kayaks and the donning of swim suits. It’s time to welcome the farmers back to downtown Charlottesville, to our Saturday morning City Market that starts this weekend(!), and to embrace the first gifts of Spring. It’s time to lighten up and brighten up, to take a break from all the sugary-sweet goodness of March and indulge in the green that comes with April.
But first, I want to give you more cake.
With a buoyant crumb that bounces back at the poke of a finger and an airy, lemon-tinted mousse so cool and refreshing you'll have to fight yourself not to finish the entire bowl in one sitting, this cake seems to be the perfect welcome for Spring. It's a persuasive cake, the kind that you want to always have under a dome on your counter, ready to share with important guests while sitting on the front porch drinking a tall glass of iced tea. It seems that, when being offered a cake like this one, it would be impossible for those guests to leave.
That's my hope anyway, as I embrace Spring and ask her to stick around for awhile.
This is a very long recipe, but is actually very simple. Especially if you divide the tasks between two days - the cake and lemon curd on the first, the mousse, frosting and assembly on the second.
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup milk
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups sugar
2-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 fresh lemon, seeds discarded
for the lemon curd
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 medium lemons)
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
for the lemon mousse
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup lemon curd
for the lemon buttercream frosting
6 tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
3 tbsp heavy cream
1-1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon extract
make the cake (up to one day ahead)
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350*. Grease and flour two 8" round cake pans and line the pan bottoms with parchment rounds.
In a small bowl, combine the egg yolks, butter, milk and vanilla. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, 1 cup of sugar, baking powder and salt to blend. Add the egg yolk mixture and stir until well combined. Set aside.
In a clean dry bowl, using clean dry beaters, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until they hold soft peaks. Lower the mixer speed to medium and gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, beating the whites until they hold stiff peaks. Stir about one-third of the egg whites into the batter to lighten. Gently fold the remaining whites into the batter, in two batches, to blend thoroughly.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pans, filling them equally. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sides of the cakes begin to pull away slightly from the pans and a wooden skewer inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean.
Set the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes to cool. Turn the cakes out onto the rack and carefully remove the parchment. Reinvert the cakes and allow them to cool completely on wire racks.
If making the cakes the night before (as I did), wrap them tightly with plastic wrap once entirely cool and keep at room temperature.
make the lemon curd (up to one week ahead)
In a small saucepan set over medium-low heat, whisk the eggs and egg yolk with the sugar, lemon juice and salt. Continue to cook, whisking constantly, for 10 minutes or until thickened.
Remove the curd from the heat and add the butter, stirring until melted. Strain the mixture through a mesh sieve into a small bowl. Stir in the lemon zest.
Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic directly on the entire surface of the lemon curd to prevent a skin from forming. Chill the curd in the refrigerator until firm.
make the lemon mousse
In the bowl of an electric mixer set on medium-high speed, beat the cream until it holds soft peaks. Working in three batches, gently fold the cream into the lemon curd. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before using.
make the lemon buttercream frosting
In a clean bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter, sugar, cream, vanilla and lemon extract. Mix on medium-low speed until well combined.
assemble the cake
With a long serrated knife, trim the rounded top off each cake layer to create a flat surface.
Squeeze half of the juice from the lemon over the cut side of one layer of cake. Place that layer, cut side up, on a serving plate. Spread the lemon mousse evenly on top.
Carefully place the next layer, cut side down, on top of the first layer. Squeeze the rest of the juice from the lemon on top. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the lemon buttercream frosting. Place the cake in the refrigerator for at least an hour to set. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.