a few days into the new year, hubs and i wandered over to compose restaurant (opened by a noma alum) in tribeca to check-out its bar menu. to say that we were delightfully surprised would be an understatement. we enjoyed our experience at the bar so much, that we made a reservation at the end of our meal to have the full ten-course experience in mid-february. the much anticipated meal is finally coming up next week, and i’ll give a full download on the restaurant then.
i mention compose because it was there, where i first encountered the incomparable lebne tart. the barman explained to us that lebne is a type of middle eastern yogurt. with the help of some light googling, i later learned that lebne goes by many names throughout the middle east and mediterranean region. it is sometimes spelled lebni or labneh or laban or kefir cheese. i don’t yet know what the regional differences are beyond the nomenclature. the stuff itself has the consistency of sour cream or a strained greek yogurt — in fact, if you can’t find lebne in your supermarket, you can just buy greek yogurt, and let it strain overnight. lebne tart is similar in flavour to new york cheesecake, however, there are a few differences which earn it a gold star in my book. the easiest difference to spot is that the ratio of crust to baked yogurt/cheese is considerably higher for the lebne tart. i tend to like my crust, especially a buttery and crumbly crust like that of the lebne tart. secondly, the texture of the lebne tart is much more delicate, smooth and denser than that of cheesecake. it also doesn’t have the gumminess that cheesecake can sometimes have. lastly, the lebne tart is less sweet than the average cheese cake and has a really great tang — something else that is also often missing from the average cheesecake. don’t get me wrong, i love cheesecake, but the lebne tart is just better in my book.
and oh yes, one more thing, the lebne tart is much easier to bake. i was able to make it from scratch in under 45 minutes including baking time. unlike cheesecake, the lebne doesn’t need to rest overnight in the refrigerator to reach optimal tastiness. there’s also no need to muck around with a water bath. i suppose, in that sense, the lebne is more similar to a cheesecake bar in construction — but, it’s much prettier, in my humble opinion.
after a bit more digging around, i was able to locate a lebne tart recipe from Alice Medrich’s book Pure Dessert. her version of the tart is very similar to that of compose, although i would say that the one at the restaurant is a bit tangier and the colour of the baked custard is a bit more white (or perhaps it was just the restaurant’s lighting that did that?)
allright, enough with my prelude…here’s the recipe:
(makes one 9.5″ fluted tart — yes you may use a round fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. i got a square one for Christmas and decided to test it out; adapted from Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert)
|Butter||1 stick melted|
|Vanilla extract||¼ tsp|
|Eggs||3 large ones|
|Vanilla extract||¼ tsp|
|Lebni||1 ½ cups (12 oz) – I found the Greek Gods brand at WF, located next to the sour cream. If you can’t find Lebni, just buy greek yogurt and strain it overnight.|
- Pre-heat oven to 350ºF.
- Pour all crust ingredients, except the flour, into the bowl of your standmixer with the paddle attachment. Mix for about 30 seconds on high.
- Add flour until a dough just starts to come together. It will be very crumbly.
- Pour the crumbly dough and bits into the tart pan. Press the dough into the tart pan until it is evenly spread out. (This is the trickiest step in the recipe. I found that the easiest way to do this is to place a piece of plastic on top of the dough, and then to use a small rolling pin to roll the dough on top of the plastic. You have to push the dough gently, so that it covers the sides of the tart pan.)
- Bake the tart for 20 minutes until it is a golden brown. Make the filling (see step 6) while you are waiting for the tart to bake. When the tart is golden brown, remove it from the oven and brush on egg whites. The egg whites will make the tart more water-proof. Return to oven and bake for 5 more minutes.
- Place the eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla extract into the bowl of your standmixer with the whisk attachment. Whip on high for about 30 seconds, or until the eggs are bubbly. Then, whisk in the lebni.
- Pour the filling into the tart shell (you don’t have to wait for the shell to cool). Then, set the tart pan into a baking sheet.
- Turn the oven down to 300ºF. When the oven has cooled down, gently place the tart (with the baking sheet) into the oven. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until the center of the tart just quivers like jello. Alice says the secret to the tart is to not overbake the filling because it destroys the silky texture. That said, if you do leave it a bit more underbaked, be careful when you store the tart. Plastic will stick to the custard center and a bit of it will tear away. Probably best to store the tart in a box. The tart should be kept in the refrigerator and will keep for about 1 week.