This recipe came about while we were looking for a perfect citrus dessert to complement a series of Spanish menus. Craig Sutter, our pastry chef at the time, took that old favorite lemon pie and added the almonds and the flaky crust to create one of our favorite desserts.
The crust is made with a combination of butter and shortening; shortening for flakiness and butter for good flavor and a golden brown color. Salted butter is used because it has a higher water content than unsalted; water creates steam during cooking and steam makes a flaky crust. Some people have said the crust has a richer, more buttery flavor than others.
For the pie pastry, combine the flour and sugar in a mixing bowl or in the bowl of a food processor. Cut or process in the butter and shortening with on/off pulses until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Mix the ice water and lemon juice and gradually work it into the flour mixture with your fingers. Or pour it through the feed tube of the processor with the motor running and process just until the dough barely holds together. Do not overwork the dough or it will be tough. It should look marbled or streaky where the butter is incompletely blended with the dry ingredients; when baked, these streaky areas will create the desired flakiness. Divide the dough in half and shape into 2 thick disks. Let rest a few minutes to allow the flour to absorb the liquid. Then wrap in a damp towel or plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
For the filling,
Dissolve the cornstarch in the milk in a heavy medium saucepan. Add the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice and zest, and butters. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the custard is thick and coats the back of a spoon, 7 to 10 minutes. Strain the filling into a bowl and stir in the chopped nuts, almond extract, and amaretto. Cool over ice water, stirring occasionally. Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until ready to assemble the tart. (The filling can be refrigerated up to 2 days, but stir in the nuts just before assembling the tart.)
Lightly beat the egg yolk and cream together and brush over the pastry, then sprinkle with the sugar.
© 1998 Joyce Goldstein. All rights reserved.