There are chocolate people, and there are vanilla people. I am a lemon person.
Show me a dessert menu, and I’ll choose whatever is flavored with puckery lemon or any of her citrus sisters — lime, tangerine, kumquat, yuzu. Even as a kid, I went for lemon sorbet over the mint chocolate-chip ice cream. The combination of sugar cut with enough acidic citrus juices to make my jaw ache is my confection perfection — mostly pleasure, pricked with pain.
Of all the lemony desserts one could make, I’ve always leaned hard on the classic, lemon curd tart. But there are times when it pays to branch out. This elegant tart, with tangerine, ginger and a little chocolate, is one of them.
I got the idea at my friend Shawn’s dinner party this past winter. Periodically throughout the meal of fried veal cutlets with capers and potato gratin, I’d turn to gaze at the lemon tart on the counter, glistening daisy bright.
When she sliced though it, there was a surprise: a thin layer of melted chocolate brushed over the crust. The recipe ensures crisp pastry by creating a chocolate barrier between liquid curd and the prebaked tart shell. The filling was softly gelled, sour and darkly complex from the bittersweet coating, and the crust crumbly and rich.
Even before I’d polished off my wedge, I was already adapting the recipe in my head. What would happen if I added tangerine to the lemon, since orange flavors work so well with chocolate?
A few weeks later, I tried it, and while I adored the way the tangerine and the chocolate got along, the tart was missing something — that intense lemony smack. The tangerine juice had dulled its bite.
Adding more lemon to the curd would have meant using less tangerine juice or compromising the texture. Any extra punch would have to come via the crust.
I briefly considered black pepper before settling on crystallized ginger, which has a sharpness equal to lemon, and a pleasingly chewy texture. Better yet, it turned the crust into a giant shortbread cookie. As a final touch, I spooned some tangy creme fraiche onto the top and sprinkled that with crystallized ginger, too.
The tart had brightness, depth and a hint of spice — a treat for lemon people and beyond.