February 8th, 2011
We are officially less than a week away from Valentine’s Day and the onslaught of recipes featuring raspberry red, strawberry pink and chocolate — the colors and flavors of love and passion — has begun. Don’t get me wrong: I’ve been participating. Just check out my directory of Valentine’s Day recipes so far! I even have more coming your way later this week. But, before I (literally) hit you with pink frosting, I thought I’d take a moment to celebrate yellow, the color of friendship.
Oh so long ago, Valentine’s Day was about celebrating (or agonizing over the lack of) passion in my life. Things are different these days. I’ve come to appreciate friendship as the life force. Friendship with the Hungry Papa saves my marriage. Friendships with mama friends save my sanity. Friendships with work friends save my passion and drive, especially on days when both take a back seat to being a mom. And the burgeoning friendship between my Hungry Boys gives me an indescribable joy.
I’m sure this makes me sound like an old fuddy duddy. I’m okay with that. I have passion in spades, too. But, for now, in the thick of raising two very small, very active, very Hungry Boys, friendship keeps me going.
So, in honor of friendship on this coming Valentine’s Day, I made these ‘lil lemon bites of heaven. These mini tarts — buttery graham cracker crusts filled with frozen lemon custard and topped with fresh whipped cream — are a lot like a bouquet of yellow friendship roses: bright, sunny, fragrant treats that are sure to make you smile. A taste of sunshine perfect to share with your friends on a cold winter day set aside for loving the love that keeps us alive.
Oh, and for those of you asking: a frozen treat? In this weather?! YES is the answer. If we can have Christmas in July, I say that we can also have a bright taste of sunshine in the dead of winter. These are perfect for citrus season (I used Meyer Lemons—get ‘em while you can!) and, if you let the tarts sit on the counter for a few minutes before serving, they aren’t super cold. Freezing them is just a way to get the custard to set.
Happy Valentine’s Day, friends.
Mini Frozen Lemon Tarts, adapted from Martha Stewart
(can be shared with kids 12+ mos)*
makes 12 tarts
1 1/2 c graham cracker crumbs (about 12 homemade or HFCS-free crackers, as from a local bakery)
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 egg yolks
1/2 c lemon juice
1 can sweetened condensed milk
zest of 2 lemons
1 c cold heavy cream
3 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix cracker crumbs and butter in a bowl until all of the crumbs are moist. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners. Divide crumbs evenly among the liners. Press crumbs evenly in each liner, creating a crust. Bake for about 10-12 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove muffin tin from oven and allow crusts to cool completely.
2. In the meantime, whisk together the yolks and lemon juice in a heat-proof bowl. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is foamy and begins to thicken, about 4-6 minutes. If you have an instant-read thermometer, you want the mixture to register 160 degrees. (If the mixture begins to curdle, take it off the heat immediately, no matter how long it’s been on… and don’t worry. Keep whisking quickly and the texture should begin to even out. It will continue to even out through the next step.)
3. Remove the bowl from heat and whisk in condensed milk and zest until well combined. Pour the mixture into the cooled tart shells, diving among them equally, and smooth tops with a rubber spatula. Freeze until firm, 3 hours.
4. When ready to serve, make the whipped cream topping: Beat the heavy cream and sugar on high speed with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Add vanilla and continue beating until firm peaks form. Dollop whipped cream on top of each tart and serve. To make these extra pretty, garnish each with a twisted, very thin, half-moon shaped slice of lemon.
*Note: I recommend sharing this with kids 12+ mos due to the relatively high sugar content. If you decide to share this with little ones, be sure to serve age appropriate portions. Half of a tart is a satisfying treat to very little eaters!