I was recently sent a newspaper clipping with ‘useful’ tips for gin (thanks Kath). Some of the tips were a bit silly, “why not use gin as an air-freshener?” Because I don’t want my house to smell like a 18th century tavern. “Why not use it as an aftershave?” Because I don’t want my husband to smell like an 18th century tavern. “Why not use gin as a mouthwash?” Because I don’t want to get pulled over on my drive to the gym every morning.
One of the tips, however, did make a lot of sense to me. “Why not use gin in pastry?” The chemists daughter in me thinks this actually makes a lot of sense, not just from a flavour point of view, but because the alcohol will evaporate at a different rate to water, therefore giving you a lighter, flakier crust. That has to be worth a try. I’ve developed a bit of a reputation for sticking booze in my food so why stop now? I think it worked too, the crust on this is rich and buttery but also very crisp and delicate.
I like a creamy, custardy filling in a lemon tart, rather than the lemon meringue pie curd type. This one is very softly set and extremely tangy with a little warmth from the gin at the end. The booze also adds some very subtle botanical undertones so make sure that you pick a really nice quality gin.
I’m not sure that I could think of a better summer dessert than this!
170g plain flour
100g cold butter
50g icing sugar
1 egg yolk
25ml citrusy gin (I used Green Hat spring/summer edition)
150g icing sugar
2 eggs + 2 egg yolks
zest and juice of 2 lemons
200g sour cream
50ml of the same gin you used in the pastry
Mix together the flour and icing sugar, ensuring that they are well blended. Cut the butter into small pieces and then lightly rub this into the flour mixture, until it looks like breadcrumbs.
Beat together the egg yolk and the gin and use this to bring the dry mixture together to form a nice soft dough, you might not need all of the liquid so add it a bit at a time. If you need more liquid then add a tiny splash more gin. As always, when making pastry, you want to keep the mixing and handling to the bare minimum so that it doesn’t become tough. Wrap the ball of dough in cling film, flatten it a little and pop it in the fridge for 30 minutes to relax. Grease a 23cm, loose bottomed tart tin.
After the dough has done relaxing, roll it out so that it is big enough to fill the tin. I do this between pieces of cling film so that I don’t work any extra flour into it but by all means use a lightly floured surface if you prefer that. Line the tin with the pastry, gently pushing it into all the nooks and crannies. I also tend to leave a little overhang (you can trim it after it’s cooked) to allow for any shrinkage during baking. Recover the pastry case and put it back in the fridge to relax again for 20 minutes whilst the oven pre-heats to 190°c.
Prick the pastry base with a fork and cover it with a piece of grease-proof paper and then pile on some baking beans. Bake the pastry case for 20 minutes, then remove the beans and uncover it before returning it to the oven for a further 10 minutes. Once it is fully baked take the pastry case out and turn the oven down to 150°c.
At this point you can start on the filling. Mix together the icing sugar and lemon zest in a jug, then beat in the eggs and finally the lemon juice. Leave this to stand in the fridge whilst the oven cools down (for 10-15 minutes) so that the flavours can develop. when you are ready beat in the sour cream and finally the gin, making sure the filling is very smooth.
Put the pastry case in the oven and carefully pour then filling into it in there, it’s much easier than trying to fill it and then transfer it to the oven, there’s no way my hands are that steady.
Bake the tart for 30 minutes. It should have a little wobble to it, like a cheesecake, when it’s ready. Turn the oven off and open the door but leave that tart in there to cool down before putting it in the fridge to chill before serving.
I’ve garnished mine with a couple of leaves that I made from some leftover pastry (which got a bit too brown!), a caramelised lemon slice and a dusting of icing sugar.