Lemon Olive Oil Tart – creamy, tangy lemon curd with a crunchy olive oil crust, soft whipped cream, and fresh fennel pollen. A refreshing summer treat!
Sometimes, I actually get sick of cake. I still make some, but mostly just because I want to decorate it. I want to spend the better portion of my day, lost in my own world in the kitchen. My heart needs to fold ingredients gently together, to toss soft butter into warm meringue as it spins, and to lose track of time arranging tiny flowers in perfect places. But at the end of it all, I’m left with a cake that I don’t really even want to eat. Not because it isn’t delicious, but because I just don’t feel like it. Sometimes, I want to make cake and just have somebody take it off my hands. I guess that’s what you might call “opening a bakery”.
But I don’t want to open a bakery. It’s too much stuff that I don’t want to deal with. Some people in my life have told me that it seems like I want to have my cake and eat it too (not even in an attempt at a pun). I always thought, “well, why can’t I?”. Why is that what we’ve always been taught? We can’t have it all – that wouldn’t be fair. That’s not the way things work. Well, I’m going to go ahead and boldly disagree. Let me be the first to say that if we really want to have our cake and eat it, too, we will find a way to make it happen.
Maybe you’re not here for my philosophies on life. Maybe you just want to know about this lemon olive oil tart, which is not a cake at all.
It’s something perfect for a hot summer day. Fresh lemon juice gives it a bright tang and inviting color. Fruity olive oil creates a unique, crunchy crust. But the real star of the show here is the fennel pollen. If you’ve never tried fennel pollen before, I bet it’s easier to find than you might think. Wild fennel grows all over the place, and can be found on roadsides, open pastures, and rocky hillsides. Or, you could simply grow some fennel in your garden and allow it to go to flower.
I’m not really even a fan of fennel. The black licorice taste is not my favorite. But there’s something about this golden dust that got me excited, and I wanted to make something special with it. In Italy, fennel is often eaten raw with a little olive oil, so this lemon olive oil tart is a play off of that. I mashed the pollen up with sugar to help release the essential oils before whipping it up into soft cream. The pollen has a taste similar to the bulb, but somehow brighter, cleaner, more exotic.
To collect fennel pollen, snip several heads from your chosen fennel plant. Make sure to choose umbels that are fully developed, with dark yellow flowers formed. Place a container under the umbel and snip it in, so as not to lose any precious pollen. When you get your flowers home, rub them gently between your thumb and forefinger to release pollen from flowers.
I encourage you to go out and try to hunt down some wild fennel. It’s pretty delightful harvesting little golden umbels that stand five or six feet tall. I can’t think of a better way to spend a summer afternoon than collecting brightly-scented flowers and eating a lemon olive oil tart on the front porch.
Lemon Olive Oil Tart with Fennel Pollen Cream
olive oil crust
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 4 tbsp high-quality olive oil
- 1/2 cup cold water
lemon olive oil curd
- 3 eggs
- 3 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (2-3 lemons)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 ounces cold unsalted butter cubed
- 4 tbsp high-quality olive oil
fennel pollen cream
- 1 tsp fennel pollen (3-4 fennel umbels)
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 cup heavy cream
for the crust:
Butter a 9" tart pan with removable bottom.
Whisk dry ingredients together. Add olive oil and mix until evenly distributed and mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add about half of the water and toss with a fork to combine. Continue to add more water, a tablespoon or so at a time, until mix almost comes together (you may not need all the water). Knead lightly just until dough comes together. Wrap in plastic and chill about 30 minutes.
On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a round, about 1/4" thick. Lay dough into prepared pan, trimming off any excess. Allow to chill another 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 425 F while resting.
Line with parchment and fill dough with pie weights or beans. Bake about 15 minutes; remove weights. Poke dough all over with a fork and bake an additional 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown and thoroughly cooked through. Allow to cool and remove from pan.
for the lemon curd:
Place eggs, yolks, lemon juice, and sugar in a stainless steel bowl. Place on top of a sauce pot filled with an inch or two of water. Bring water to a simmer. Cook, whisking frequently, until mixture has thickened, about 5 minutes. Add butter and olive oil; whisk. Strain through a fine sieve into a clean bowl. Allow to chill completely.
When curd and tart crust are cooled, pour lemon curd into prepared crust and smooth out with a spoon or offset spatula.
for fennel pollen cream:
Roll fennel flowers in between your fingers to help release the pollen. Once you have collected about 1 tsp of pollen, crush with a mortar and pestle along with 1 tbsp of sugar. Or, use a small bowl and the back of a spoon. Sugar should turn yellow and become fragrant.
Add fennel sugar to heavy cream in a medium bowl and whisk just until very soft peaks form.
Serve the tart cold with dollops of fresh fennel pollen cream and sprinkles of additional fennel pollen.
Keep refrigerated and eat within 5 days for best flavor and texture.