This story is part of our Best Pastry Chefs of 2013 feature.
Jesmary Sbraga was lured to a career in pastry by a love of precision. “Desserts are all about exactness to me. Everything is a recipe; everything is a science to master,” she says.
This outlook might limit others, but for Sbraga, who works alongside her husband, Kevin, at their eponymous Philadelphia restaurant, it's the key to creativity. Birthday cake, for example, is frozen and pulverized before coming to the table, a cloud of sugary, brain-freezing granules served with chocolate ice cream.
Sbraga’s dessert pays due diligence to the “tart” in lemon tart: The citrus’ acidity is played against the tart angles of cultured cream; blueberries keep the opposing pucker-worthy flavors in check.
Yield: 4 lemon tarts, plus leftover blueberry compote
1½ tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small sprig fresh thyme
3⅓ cup fresh blueberries, divided
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, divided
¾ teaspoon pectin
¾ teaspoon sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon water
½ teaspoon granulated gelatin
1 large egg
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Peel and juice of 1 lemon
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
½ cup heavy cream
One 14-ounce sheet puff pastry (thawed if frozen)
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
⅓ cup crème fraîche
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon granulated sugar