I like to play around with recipes. I don’t usually make drastic changes, but I also seldom follow a recipe exactly to the letter. And it’s not just a case of substituting for or eliminating things that I don’t like--though I do that sometimes, especially if there’s coconut involved. =) I take things I learn from making one thing and apply it to others. The TWD raisin bread is a good example--I mostly followed the recipe, but I chose to incorporate the raisins into the dough instead of just putting them in the swirl. It didn’t work exactly the way I wanted--I think they contributed to the crumb being a bit dry (dried fruit tends to suck moisture from the dough). I did soak them beforehand, but I probably should have done it farther ahead and let them absorb more moisture before adding them to the dough.
Okay, by now you’re probably wondering why I’m going on about raisin bread when this is obviously a post about something else... My point is, I like to learn new things, and I like to tweak recipes. It doesn't always work out the way I expect or hope, but it's fun to experiment. But sometimes you have a recipe that’s really simple and straightforward, and there isn’t much to play with. A lot of the recipes in Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert are like that. The cover says it well--"true flavors, inspiring ingredients, and simple recipes." Each chapter focuses on an ingredient flavor (e.g. milk or fruit or chocolate) and consists of recipes that really highlight that one thing. Several of us have baked together via Twitter to make a number of the recipes, including Kamut Poundcake, Lemon Bars and Cocoa Wafers. Recently, Nancy, Wendy and I decided to try the Lebni Tart. The recipe has intrigued me ever since I got the book--the picture is lovely, and I’d never heard of lebni before reading this recipe. It’s made from yogurt, and is kind of like thick sour cream. I know Nancy made her own by draining yogurt to remove moisture and thicken it. But don’t get it confused with most of the Greek yogurts that are popular right now--this isn’t non-fat or even lowfat, by any means!
Nancy, Wendy and I made plans to bake the tart on Sunday afternoon, but I ended up getting a later start than I hoped. Fortunately, when I reread the recipe, I was encouraged to go ahead and do it even though it was getting late. Unlike a lot of tart crust recipes I’ve made, this one doesn’t require any advanced planning. It uses melted butter. You whisk sugar, salt and vanilla into the butter, then stir in the flour and you’re done. You simply press the dough into a tart pan and put it in the oven. While the crust is baking, you mix up the filling. Alice does strongly recommend doing it in order without changes to get the best texture--start by whisking the eggs (mine were from my local farmers market), then whisk in sugar, salt, vanilla, and the lebni. The filling is poured into the hot crust and baked. You just need to check early and often, because you don’t want to overbake the filling--it should be set around the edges but still jiggly in the middle, since it will continue to set once it’s out of the oven. I did goof a bit--the crust is baked at 350F, then you’re supposed to turn the temp down to 300F to bake the filling. I missed that direction. Fortunately, I checked on my tart after 15 minutes (it was supposed to bake 20-25) and it was just right. Whew. =) I let my tart cool to room temperature, then stuck it in the fridge because it was bedtime.
The verdict? I love this tart. It looks so unassuming. I started to dress it up with some raspberry sauce for pictures, but I actually prefer the tart plain. The pictures could be better, but I really wanted to share my thoughts on this recipe, so I'm using them anyway. =) I can’t even tell you exactly why I love it so much. One reason is the crust. Browned butter is such a great flavor, and the bit of vanilla in the crust is perfect. And the filling is smooth and tangy and delicious. I'll definite be stealing ideas from this recipe to use in others. I'm sure this crust will be great as a base other things, and I’m already trying to think of other uses for lebni.
All of the recipes I’ve tried so far from Pure Dessert are very good, and I’m sure I’ll be baking more. I highly recommend this cookbook. But for now, if you'd like to try this tart for yourself, you can find the recipe on Google Books. And watch for more reviews of this recipe on Nancy's blog and Wendy's blog.