There's a place in the Hudson Valley where I like to go. It's on the river, just down the road from Bard College-- a stretch of rolling land with a sprawling old house in various states of repair and disrepair. There's a barn full of giant paper mâché puppets, a medicine wheel in the garden, and a small organic farm with chickens and geese and a flower labyrinth where you can pick-your-own bouquet. It's a place for summer square dances, fall cider pressing parties, any-season friend rendez-vous, and is a little haven of refuge for me and many other friends.
Rokeby is the family home of my friends Marina and Louis, and the sometimes home of their family's relatives and friends, tenants and guests. You never quite know what or who you'll encounter there-- Icelandic experimental musicians, Greatful Dead spin-off band lyricists, Episcopagan ministers.
Despite this element of uncertainty (or perhaps because of it), it's a place where I feel at home, welcomed by Marina and Louis and whoever else is there to sit around the table, help pick beans on the farm, or take a twighlight walk to the river. It's always a special treat when my visit coincides with Marina's mother Rosalind's and her partner Dominick's. We make jokes around the big white farm table in the back kitchen, and have political discussions, a round of Madlibs or Bananagrams, and are treated to Dominick's delicious (and sometimes odd and gelatin-filled) British cooking. I always learn something after a chat with Rosalind, and I always laugh. She has a delightful sense of humor and is also one of the biggest proponents of my pie-making, always dropping not-so-subtle hints and suggesting flavors for what I might bake next and generously offering herself as a taste tester.
Though I wasn't able to make it up to Rokeby for Rosalind's last birthday party, Marina signed her mother up for a Pie CSA as a gift, so though I couldn't be there, at least my pie could. Rosalind, like me, suffers from migraines, so abstains (not like me, though I probably should) from chocolate. Since I was shipping the share, I wanted to make something that could hold up in the mail and as it was for a birthday, I wanted something a little special. I settled on a Lemon-Hazelnut Tart adapted from Smith & Ratliff. I swapped out the corn syrup for brown rice syrup (Rosalind is a nutritionist, and I also try to avoid corn syrup when I can).
The recipe is just perfect. You can't really go wrong with hazelnuts, and the addition of lemon adds a tartness that nut pies are often missing. It also just blows open a whole new category of fruit and nut pies and tarts...I've already tried this with oranges instead of lemons, and you could really use any nut and citrus (or other fruit for that matter) combination. The recipe can also make 5-6 4-inch tartlets instead of a full 8-inch tart. I actually had some filling leftover and extra crust dough in the fridge, so I made a few for tasting purposes (see below).
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
9 Tblsp. unsalted butter, cold & cubed
1 egg yolk
6 Tblsp. unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
3/4 c. light brown sugar , packed
1/2 c. brown rice syrup
1/4 c. lemon syrup (1 lemon + 1/2 c. sugar)
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tblsp. flour
2 c. hazelnuts, toasted, peeled and chopped
1. Combine flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the cubed butter and pulse to incorporate until the mixture resembles cornmeal and peas. Add the egg yolk and pulse until the dough begins to form together.
2. Roll out the dough and pat it into your greased and floured tart pan. Freeze the tart shell for about 30 minutes while you prepare the filling. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
1. First, prepare the lemon syrup by placing 1 c. water and 1/2 c. sugar in a medium saucepan and bringing to a boil over medium heat. Add 1 thinly sliced lemon, and let simmer for about 10 minutes until thick. Remove from heat and strain the syrup into a small bowl, reserving 7-8 of the lemon slices. Let cool.
2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl mix all the remaining ingredients, except for the hazelnuts. Spread the hazelnuts into the frozen tart shell and pour into the filling. Gently place the reserved lemon slices on top of the hazelnut filling.