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Lemon Sabayon Tart

Lemon Sabayon Tart

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Serves 8 to 10.
By Dennis W. Viau; modified from a recipe in
The French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller.

Sabayon is the French word for the Italian dessert Zabaglione. It is a very light, fluffy dessert, almost like meringue. The original recipe called for pine nuts when making the tart pastry shell, but they are too expensive; so I substituted almonds. Although original zabaglione uses Marsala wine, both my recipe and the cookbook’s do not include it.


For the Pastry Shell:
2 cups (8 oz./227g) slivered (or other) almonds
¼ cup packed (45g) brown sugar
3 cups (15 oz./425g) all-purpose flour
16 tablespoons (8 oz./227g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Sabayon (Zabaglione):
3 large eggs, cold
3 large egg yolks, cold
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
¾ cup (180ml) fresh lemon juice
8 tablespoons (4 oz./113g) cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces


To prepare the pastry dough:

Place the almonds in a food processor and pulse a few times to reduce to a grainy texture. Add the brown sugar. Pulse until the nuts are finely ground.

Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl. Add the flour, butter, salt, egg, and vanilla extract. Mix to combine, then knead until smooth.

Divide the dough into three parts (9-inch (23cm) tart pan) or two parts (11-inch (28cm) pan). Wrap the one portion in plastic and refrigerate 10 minutes. Wrap the remaining portion well and freeze for use another day.

To prepare the pastry shell:

Heat the oven to 350°F (177°C).

Butter a fluted tar pan (9 to 11 in. / 23 to 28cm) and then dust with flour. (Or line the bottom with parchment paper and butter and flour again.) Refrigerate while the oven heats.

Using the refrigerated portion of the pastry dough, press the dough into the tart pan, distributing evenly along the bottom and up the sides, shaping the top edge flat with the top of the pan. Place on a baking sheet for safer handling.

Bake about 30 minutes, or until golden brown, rotating the baking sheet halfway through the baking time. Remove from the oven, handling by the baking sheet, and set aside to cool. (The tart shell will be very fragile when warm, but become more firm when cool.) Cracks in the shell will not affect the tart.

To prepare the lemon sabayon tart:

Bring about 1 inch (2.5cm) of water to a boil in a large saucepan.

In a medium saucepan whisk together the eggs, yolks, and sugar for about 1 minute, or until the mixture is smooth, light, and frothy.

Nest the medium saucepan inside the larger one and hold just above the boiling water. Whisk the egg mixture about 2 minutes, until the eggs are foamy and thickened.

Add one third of the lemon juice and continue to whisk vigorously until the mixture thickens. Add another third of the lemon juice and again whisk until the mixture thickens. Add the remaining lemon juice and continue whisking until the mixture is thick again. It should be light in color. Total cooking time will be 8 to 10 minutes.

Remove the larger saucepan from the heat, but leave the smaller pan in place over the hot water. Add the butter, one piece at a time, and whisk to blend thoroughly. If the mixture loosens, it will thicken later as it cools.

With the tart pan on a baking sheet, pour the sabayon mixture into the shell, using enough of the mixture to fill to the brim. Any remaining sabayon can be poured into custard cups and served as a separate dessert.

Heat the broiler to high. Place the tart pan under the broiler, leaving the door open, and watch closely. Brown the top evenly, rotating the pan as necessary.

Remove from under the broiler and let set for at least one hour before serving. Can be served at room temperature or cold.