Lemon Crème Brûlée Tart and Malta’s Mdina Glass
by eat in my kitchen
My mother completely falls for design, be it in the form of furniture, porcelain, cutlery or architecture, she and the rest of my family are quite obsessed with pleasing the eye. In her house you find far more than one set of plates, she has them in bulk, in all forms, materials and colours used for different occasions and needs. She can talk about miniature porcelain birds and vase collections with such passion that even I (only sometimes) believe I might need an elegant sparrow on my table. We have a lot in common, but here we’re different, I’m a bit more of a minimalist and prefer my home clear and – compared to hers – empty; but our minds meet when it comes to handcrafted products. The art of dedicating a lifetime to a material and shaping it with respect to the highest standards of quality is more than just fascinating, it’s admirable.
When my mother came to visit us in Malta this summer we obviously had to hop into the little Mdina Glass shop in the country’s former capital. The glassware manufacturer offers different design series, as bright and colourful as the land they are made in, we loved it! We also spotted a collection that was new to me, textured glass in vibrant shades of green, blue, yellow and red. It was love at first sight when I saw the turquoise coloured bowls and glasses. So I made a decision, I wanted to go back to visit the company’s manufacturing halls. Last week, I had the chance to meet Mark at the Ta’ Qali Crafts village close to the city of Mdina and I had an insight into the beautiful art of making glassware.
Founded in 1968, Mdina Glass is a relatively young family run business. Although the actual craft seems like quite a male domain – there were only men at the 1400°C (2550°F ) oven – production and product development is in the hands of one of the daughters. It’s a story of success built on respect for the artisans who create the fragile products with their hands and mouth. Mdina Glass calls it the freedom of expression that can be found in every single piece – handmade and unique.
Inspired by such vibrancy, the hot oven’s fire and – of course – Malta, the land of the best lemons, I felt like a lemon crème brûlée tart. A smooth but slightly sour filling refined with cardamom and made with lots of citrus juice and zest, eggs and cream sits on a buttery shortcrust. Caramelized lemon slices made it look pretty before my blowtorch turned the sugar sprinkled on top into a thin, blistered crust. Heavenly!
A quick note: to save time, I didn’t prepare a crème brûlée that has to cool for hours, I mixed heavy cream with crème fraîche and eggs and baked the filling right on top of the pastry instead.
Lemon Crème Brûlée Tart
It’s easiest to bake the tart in a loose-bottom tart pan. You will need a blowtorch for the topping.
For a 23cm / 9″ tart pan you need
For the short crust base
flour 200g / 1 1/2 cups
granulated sugar 65g / 1/3 cup
a pinch of salt
butter, cold, 110g / 4 ounces
organic egg yolks 2
For the filling
organic eggs 2
organic egg yolks 2
heavy cream 100ml / 1/3 cup and 2 tablespoons
crème fraîche or sour cream 3 tablespoons
granulated sugar 100g / 1/2 cup
a pinch of salt
a pinch of cardamom
freshly squeezed lemon juice 3 tablespoons
lemon zest 2 1/2 tablespoons
For the topping
small organic lemon, very thinly sliced
granulated sugar 4 tablespoons plus a few spoonfuls for the burnt topping
water 4 tablespoons
For the pastry, combine the flour with the sugar and salt. Cut the butter with a knife into the flour until there are just little pieces of butter left. Continue with your fingers and rub the butter into the flour until combined. Add the egg yolks and continue mixing with the hooks of your mixer until you have a crumbly mixture. Form a thick disc, wrap in cling film and put in the freezer for 12 minutes.
Set the oven to 200°C / 390°F (top/ bottom heat).
Roll the dough out between cling film and line the tart pan with the flat pastry. Prick with a fork and bake in the oven for 10 minutes or until golden and crisp. Take the pan out of the oven and set aside.
Turn the oven down to 180°C / 355°F and prepare the filling.
In a large bowl, mix the eggs, egg yolks, heavy cream, crème fraîche, sugar, salt and cardamom with an electric mixer until fluffy. Stir in the lemon juice and zest and continue mixing until well combined. Place the tart pan with the pre-baked pastry back into the oven and pour the lemon filling on top. Bake for about 25 minutes or until just set.
Prepare the caramelized lemon sliced while the tart is in the oven. In a wide pan, bring the sliced lemon, sugar and water to the boil and cook until soft and golden brown. This can take 6-10 minutes depending on the thickness of the lemon and the temperature, mind that it doesn’t burn. Pull the pan off the heat and arrange the caramelized fruit on top of the tart. Sprinkle with 1-3 tablespoons of sugar (depending on the desired sweetness) and brown the top gently with a blowtorch.