pastry sitting on a plate with whipped cream and blackberries on top

A Summertime Tart Close to My Heart

By Pastry Chef Cecilia Gaudioso, on

Even though summertime is quickly coming to a close, there’s still plenty of time to savor the freshness of the season. As the pastry chef here at Longwood—and someone who grew up in a family serious about their sweets—making and enjoying a dessert is a perfect way to soak up the last weeks of summer, together. Follow along as I craft the perfect summertime dessert—crafted with tangy lemon, savory thyme, fluffy meringue, and sweet blackberries—that holds a special place in my heart.

In a May blog post, we shared Chef Amanda Clarke’s insight about participating in Restaurant Associates’ newly launched APT (Aptitude, Potential, Training) program. Along with Amanda, I was also selected for the inaugural APT program, a six-week training program designed for high-potential women in the culinary field, in preparation for management roles. Through this amazing program, we took part in hands-on and online training in leadership development, menu creation, and more, designed to provide participants with culinary knowledge and career advancement opportunities. We delved into leadership to communication skills, met so many fantastic chefs, and had so much fun doing it. Among the highlights of the experience for me was working with my mentor Stefanie Ellis, the Executive Chef at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Boston, as well as preparing a tasting menu for Restaurant Associates’ senior management at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC.  

person in a black hat in a white shirt holding a spoon covered in whipped cream

I’ve been the pastry chef here at Longwood for about seven years now. Photo by Carol Gross.

Amanda shared the garlic and herb naan and golden goddess hummus recipes she created for her Kennedy Center tasting menu in her May blog post , and we thought we’d follow her delicious selections up with a refreshing dessert perfect for summertime—really anytime for that matter—that I created during that same tasting menu event: a lemon curd tart with lemon thyme cookies and toasted meringue, garnished with blackberries and bachelor’s button.

Lemon Thyme Cookies

Lemon is such a versatile ingredient that can be used year-round and pairs so nicely with a variety of other flavors. Thyme’s subtle yet distinct flavor, for one, is a perfect complement to lemon.

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces butter
  • 4.6 ounces sugar
  • 1 tablespoon chopped thyme
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 ½ egg yolks
  • 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 13 ounces all-purpose flour
  • 2.5 ounces lemon concentrate
  • 2.5 ounces water

Yield: Approximately 1 dozen cookies, based on desired shape

First, using a mixer with the paddle attachment in place, cream together butter, sugar, chopped thyme, and lemon zest. Paddle until smooth. Next, add yolks and vanilla to the mixer, followed by salt and flour, and lemon juice and water.

close up image of a automatic mixer and someone pouring in ingredients

It’s best to alternate adding your dry and wet ingredients, as doing so helps your dough blend easier. To that end, I recommend adding a bit of our salt and flour, followed by a bit of lemon juice and water, then more salt and flour, and so on. Photo by Carol Gross.

After a thorough mix, place your dough in a bowl then cover with plastic wrap, and chill for 4 hours to overnight. I like to make this dough the day before I bake the cookies. The colder the butter is in the dough, the easier it is to roll out it out.

dough resting in a metal bowl
Tip: Add some dry flour to the bottom of the bowl before placing your dough in it to prevent sticking. Photo by Carol Gross.

Once you’re ready to bake the cookies, roll the dough to ¼-inch thick and cut into your desired shape.

circles of dough on a baking sheet

I like to cut the dough into a circular-donut like shape so there’s plenty of room for the blackberries when we get to assembling the tart. Photo by Carol Gross.

Sprinkle the shapes with sugar and bake cold—meaning there’s no need to preheat the oven—at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10 minutes.

Lemon Curd

I have such fond memories of lemon curd, as my grandmother would often make it. In my family, dessert is taken very seriously, right down to my great-grandparents owning a bakery in Upper Darby. We had dessert with every dinner and I often made those desserts with my mom and grandmother. I recall having a homemade dessert in my school lunch every single day.

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 11.4 ounces sugar
  • 9 ounces lemon juice
  • 6 ounces butter
  • 2 sheets gelatin

Yield: 1 ½ quarts

First, whisk together eggs, yolks, and sugar in a bowl over a double boiler. Once combined, add lemon juice and whisk together. Next, bloom the gelatin sheets—meaning make the sheets cold, which activates the gelatin—in an ice water bath and set aside.

a person with plastic gloves on holding a sheet of gelatin

A look at a gelatin sheet before it goes in the ice bath. Photo by Carol Gross.

person in plastic gloves holding bloomed gelatin
The bloomed gelatin will come out of the ice bath very easily. Photo by Carol Gross.

While the gelatin is set aside, cook the lemon juice, egg, and sugar mixture over the double boiler until there are no more bubbles and the custard has thickened. Remove the bloomed gelatin from the ice bath—it will lift right out—and add it to the mixture over the double boiler. Whisk until combined. Place your butter in a separate bowl.

Strain the mixture into a bowl over your butter and whisk until combined. Cover the curd with plastic wrap and let it set in the refrigerator for four hours.

person holding a metal bowl of lemon curd

The curd will have a lovely, vibrant yellow color courtesy of the plentiful egg yolks and lemon juice. Photo by Carol Gross.

Meringue

Meringue is the sugar on top for our lemon curd tart. I like to pipe the meringue on top to give the tart a nice fluffy look.

Ingredients

  • 6.5 ounces egg whites
  • 10 ounces sugar

Yield: 2 quarts

Mix egg whites and sugar in a mixer bowl. Then, heat the mixture over a double boiler until it’s hot to the touch and all sugar has dissolved; it will take on a syrupy texture. Place the mixture into a mixing bowl and use the whip attachment until the meringue is cool with stiff peaks. Fill a pastry bag with the meringue.

person holding a whisk with meringue on it

The meringue should have nice stiff peaks before placing it in the pastry bag. Photo by Carol Gross.

Tart Assembly

Additional Ingredients

  • Blackberries
  • Bachelor’s button

To assemble the tart, I start with a lemon thyme cookie at the bottom, topped with lemon curd, and then a second cookie, followed by a second layer of lemon curd.

someone piping lemon curd onto two stacked circle cookies

A double layer of cookies and lemon curd awaits the meringue. Photo by Carol Gross.

someone toasting white meringue with a torch

I then pipe the meringue on top and then quickly toast the meringue with a torch. Photo by Carol Gross.

someone placing blackberries around a lemon meringue cookie tart

From there, I fill the middle of the tart with blackberries, which are not only a delicious complement to the lemon, but lend some more color to the tart. If you want to try something other than blackberries, you can replace them with other berries or even sliced candied almonds. Photo by Carol Gross.

a lemon curd and meringue tart sitting on a white plate

I then sprinkle some bachelor’s button petals throughout for more color and interest. Photo by Carol Gross.

Cheers to a refreshing, fun-to-make sweet treat!

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