Lebni Tart = I still ♥ Alice Medrich

Okay, I know what you are thinking, here he goes again with another difficult-to-locate ingredient. Lebneh (or Lebni, Lebne) cheese is made from Kefir (fermented milk—sort of like yogurt) and is available at well-stocked grocery stores or middle-eastern markets. It is very delicious—like a saltier, firmer sour cream. Smooth and creamy. It is the key ingredient in Alice Medrich’s Lebni Tart, which is another great recipe from her most recent cookbook.

This tart is light and refreshing and would be the perfect ending to a meal. It has all of the tart creaminess of a cheesecake without the heaviness. I know obscure ingredients are a challenge, but they are worth it. In addition to educating yourself, you are able to teach others about food and enjoy a delicious tart in the process. I found Lebneh at Fox and Obel in Chicago, but I bet Treasure Island might also carry it. For everyone outside of Chicago, do some research and try to locate it—you’ll be glad you did.

Lebni Tart

Crust:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

Filling:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups lebni (kefir cheese)
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten with a pinch of salt

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350° F. In a medium bowl, combine the butter with the sugar, vanilla, and salt. Add the flour and mix just until well blended. If the dough seems too soft and gooey, let it stand for a few minutes to firm up.

Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up sides of a 9 1/2-inch tart pan with a removable bottom to make a very thin, even layer. This takes a little patience, as there is just enough dough; to avoid ending up with extra-thick edges, press the dough squarely into the corners of the pan. Place the pan on a cookie sheet.

Bake until the crust is a deep, golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes, checking after about 15 minutes to see if the dough has puffed up from the bottom of the pan. If it has, lift and gently slam the cookie sheet down to settle the dough, or press the dough down with the back of a fork and prick it a few times.

Meanwhile, make the filling (at this point, Alice Medrich points out the importance of following the order in which these ingredients are mixed—so pay careful attention!): In a medium bowl whisk the eggs with the sugar, salt, and vanilla. Whisk in the cheese.

When the crust is ready, remove it from the oven and turn the temperature down to 300° F. Brush the bottom of the crust with a thin layer of the beaten egg yolk to moisture-proof it. Return the crust to the oven for 1 minute to set the yolk.

Pour the filling into the hot crust and spread it evenly. Return the tart to the oven and bake until the filling is set around the edges but, when the pan is nudged, quivers like very soft Jell-O in the center, about 15 to 20 minutes. Check often in the last few minutes as overbaking will detroy the silky-smooth texture of the filling. Cool the tart completely on a rack. Refrigerate if not serving within 3 hours.

17 comments to “Lebni Tart = I still ♥ Alice Medrich”

  1. hi Tim,

    i love your blog!

    i’m also mightily attracted to the Lebni tart recipe. have you ever made yogurt cheese where you drain the yogurt and end up with cheese? i’ve been wondering if one might use that to make the tart. i’m going to try it and let you know. if you think it’s a bad idea, i probably won’t be doing it for a while so STOP me before i make a nasty tart. (that sounds somewhat salacious, i may not mean it that way.)

    i miss you!
    Maura

    ps. i make the rosemary cashews with mixed nuts (but not peanuts or Brazil nuts. also yummy.

  2. I miss you!
    I think the yogurt cheese might be nice here and it is definitely worth a try. let me know what happens.
    Brazil nuts are so gross, so I am glad you don’t use them.
    Ha.

  3. I’ve had lebni before but never in a tart like this. I will definitely have to try this, it sounds delicious.

  4. Hi Tim,
    I stumbled upon your blog through tastespotting and what a treat. Really interesting posts with a great style. I’ll be definetly coming back. I’ve popped you on my blogroll. Keep up the good work!

  5. Thanks R khooks! I really appreciate the feedback.

  6. Hi,
    I love the tart and have some questions, after you bake the crust do you remove it from the tart pan then bake with the filling? just curious how you manage to remove from the pan?
    Looks delicious and I will give a try.

  7. Hi Cicada:
    The tart should be baked in a pan with a removable bottom. Once you remove the finished tart from the oven you can let it cool a bit and then carefully remove the sides of the pan. Let the tart cool completely on the pan bottom and then slide onto serving dish when ready to serve. Does that make sense?

  8. David Bingell says:

    February 13th, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    It was easy finding about 3 or 4 shops with lebni in Phoenix. Just a suggestion for others on where to locate this tasty luxury. Russian, Israeli, Middle Eastern Markets, Health Food Stores that are run by militant purists … the other “chain style” Health Food Stores have lost the sight, and no longer live for the revolution.

    Anyway; I take Zergut current syrup, about 1/4 cup and mix it with 1 cup of lebni. Interesting flavor, easy way out of getting rid of some of the old before I take cover and enter the Health Food Store again.

  9. Gorgeous shots of the lebni tart. I’m so glad to find someone who shares my love for Alice Medrich. Pure Dessert is my absolute favorite baking book, and this one of my all-time favorite desserts.
    I recently found your blog, and though I try to limit which blogs I bookmark (otherwise it’ll be food porn overload), I couldn’t resist adding yours to the list. Just gorgeous!

  10. hi tim,
    my lebni tart is baking as i type this note. i used drained whole milk yogurt instead and made a few slight alterations to alice medrich’s recipe. with fingers crossed and bated breath, i wait to see and taste the outcome. will keep u updated on success/failure.
    your tart looks absolutely splendid!

  11. my homemade lebni worked!

  12. This is the most amazing recipe, quite possibly, in the history of the universe. I’ve been the biggest fan of lebne, ever since I was a kid. It has always been a staple in my home — I’d put it on eggs, in sandwiches, have it with honey, what-have-you, but I’ve never thought to do something like This with it, and for that: THANK YOU. Seriously.

  13. This is the most amazing recipe, quite possibly, in the history of the universe. I’ve been the biggest fan of lebne, ever since I was a kid. It has always been a staple in my home — I’d put it on eggs, in sandwiches, have it with honey, what-have-you, but I’ve never thought to do something like This with it, and for that: THANK YOU. Seriously.

  14. Aw, Sara! I am so glad you like Lebne as much as I do! The tart is one of my favorites.

  15. I love your site and I love Alice Medrich so this recipe just makes me love you’ll even more! Have to find this strange cheese you speak of.

  16. I found it! now am off to make it, and will also swirl some lemon curd around for a “marbelling” effect
    Oh and then I just found that you can make lebneh at home. With yogurt! Just after I spent months rummaging through several grocery stores!

    It’s basically just slightly salted yogurt strained. So apparently, just pour regular whole milk yogurt mixed with a little salt over a cheese cloth or even a paper towel put in a seive, which is placed over a dish kept in your fridge overnight.

  17. I just purchased Pure Dessert per your recommending, and this was the first recipe I zeroed in on. Lo’ and behold you’ve made it of course! Glad to hear that it’s delicious. I might try serving it with her suggestion of caramelized nuts or a seed brittle. Can’t wait! And thanks as always for sharing.

What do you think?