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.
- 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
- 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.