The Ultimate Lemon Tart

29.7.13





A big call no? The ultimate lemon tart? Well it isn't even in the oven yet and I am tempting fate monumentally by making this call, and yet I feel confidant. I have been cooking variations on a standard lemon tart for years making little tweaks and changes along the way, in fact I used to make it so often as a go-to dessert, I got bored with it (how is that even possible - it's lemon tart!?). Ayhoo, I am going to a friend's house for dinner tomorrow night and her lovely 16 year old son is a fan of my tarts (nothing euphemistic there whatsoever), so I thought, why not go for gold and make the ultimate? Here is why I have called it that, and let me start by telling you what disappoints me in a lemon tart - I mean I barely order them if I am going out for dinner because I hate a bad tart so much! So, what we don't want is thick, tough pastry, hard set, not lemony-enough custard with a miserable filling to pastry ratio - nope - what we want is crispy, light pastry with deep, thick, extra lemony, soft custard and, un-decided as yet, but possibly bruleed on top (you know - burny, caramelised sugar). Right then, so this is what I have done, and I am half-way through, so while my pastry chills and my filling sits, this is it:




Success!!! Check out the recipe below, and then come and say 'hi' at my Facebook page - I'd love to hear what you think :) Don't forget to have a good look around the blog while you're here, maybe check out the recipe index and don't miss my latest post if you are in need of a chocolate fix...



Pastry;
200g butter, out of the fridge for 20 minutes, just a bit soft, chopped into 3cm cubes
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 3/4 cups plain flour
the finely grated zest of 1 medium lemon
1 egg yolk (keep egg white)

Filling:
7 eggs
3 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
350ml cream
400ml freshly squeezed lemon juice


You will need a 5cm deep 26 1/2 cm tart tin with a removable base or a  2 1/2 cm deep 29cm tart tin for this recipe. (You will also need a food processor and a beater.) Pastry first - whiz butter, icing sugar flour and lemon zest just until it forms big clumpy breadcrumbs. Add yolk and pulse until it all comes together in a ball. Pat into a big fat disc, flour the top and bottom lightly, wrap in Gladwrap and chill in the fridge for 15 minutes. While it chills, prepare the filling. Beat eggs and yolks with sugar for 5 minutes, until sugar is dissolved (not gritty). Beat in cream, then whisk in lemon juice gently to combine. Pour into a big jug and leave to sit in the fridge while you finish the base. 

Remove the pastry from the fridge, sit for 5-10 minutes, then roll out on a floured surface, into a circle a little bigger than your tin. Use a big fish slice or similar if you need to, to unwedge it from the bench. (A wee tip here - when flouring the bench, flour an area as big as you want to roll your pastry...) Now this is a tricky bit - this a soft pastry, lots of butter will keep it short and crisp, but it also makes it a little less amenable when getting it into the tin. Gently roll up the pastry around your rolling pin, and un-roll it over the tin so that it flops roughly into position. (No-one is looking, and if they are shoo them out of the kitchen - this is private cooking business that does not like an audience). Gently squish the pastry into place up the sides of the tin and press gently into the base. Patch up any tears - you will never see them - but you do want to finish with an evenly distributed pastry base. Chill in the freezer for half an hour while  the oven preheats to 180˚C (350˚F). 

Now - do not fudge this bit - it makes all the difference, gently prick the base of the pastry with a fork and cut out a large circle of baking paper, it needs to come up the inside sides of the pastry. Put it in and fill it with baking beans or rice - it must come at least some way up the sides of the pastry, what you want is to pre-cook it so that it doesn't shrink, and provides firm, non collapsing sides to the tart. Cook for 12 minutes, carefully remove paper and beans/rice, brush with quickly whisked reserved egg white and cook a further 5-7 minutes, until lightly golden. Reduce oven temperature to 150˚C (300˚F) and skim the fluffy bubbly layer off the top of your filling. This gives your tart a very clean, deep yellow appearance like the beautiful tartes au citron you will find in France - you can stir the creamy bit in, and it will taste fabulous, but the top of your tart will have a slightly 'milkier' appearance. (I skimmed off at least 1 1/4 cups - it seems very wasteful, but you can bake it separately in a couple of ramekins at 150˚C (300˚F) for 25 minutes later to make baked lemon cream for 2) Pull base half way out of the oven and gently pour in the filling - by my calculations you should be just about spot on with the amount - you want it to come almost to the top. Gently push back into the oven and cook 45-50 minutes until set but still with a bit of wobble in the middle. Turn the oven off, open the door wide and let it sit there for 5 minutes before removing to cool on the bench, then in the fridge. 

This can be made the day before or in the morning of the day you want to serve it. Remove from the fridge half an hour before serving. I am still in two minds about whether I am going to do this, but you can easily sprinkle a quarter to a third of a cup of sugar evenly over the surface and blow-torch it brulee style for a bit of extra textural crunch if you wish...I am anticipating this will serve 8-10, we shall see!






OK - next day - it did indeed serve 8-10 (depending on the number of starving teenagers / hungry men) and as you can see I did not end up brulee-ing the top - but only because my blow-torch ran out of gas mid-shoot and my trusty back up cylinder didn't work - argh! It was lovely without, but if you fancy, you could still definitely 'gild the lily', (or dust with icing sugar, or enjoy just as it is) then serve with softly whipped cream.


24 comments :

  1. I just made this, but changed up a few things. Well, kinda a lot of things. I had gobs of limes and no lemons, so lime tart it is. I also have a neighbor that gives me goose and duck eggs, and for anyone that doesn't know, they are a dream to bake with. Much richer and tastier than chicken eggs. I usually save them for custards. Lastly, I had to do a pressed nut crust because of too many food allergies in my family. But I like a nut crust.

    The pie is for tomorrow, so I haven't tasted it yet. Looks lovely though. I'm going to serve it with a dollup of sweetened sour cream, and brulle it like you mentioned. I happen to have a torch around. Thanks for posting! My family does the best lemon bars and sour cream lemon pie (from my great grandma) I've ever had so I appreciate fellow lemonphiles.

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    1. Hi - yum lime tart would be delicious too - sometimes I also make a lemon/lime combo! Great tip about the duck and goose eggs, I'd love to give them a go :) Have a great time tomorrow, and I really hope you enjoy the tart!

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  2. This looks amazing! I love your comments! Can't wait to try it this weekend.

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    1. Thanks so much - I hope you enjoy it as much as we did! :)

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  3. This looks amazing! I didn't used to care for lemony desserts, but my husband loves lemons, so he got me hooked! Beautiful photos.

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    1. Hi Erica Lea - thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment - I really appreciate it! :)

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  4. I am, most definitely, trying this soon and if you don't mind, I'd love to blog the results. I have always had the worst luck with lemon tarts. They always turn into lemony scrambled eggs in a pastry shell or are not lemony enough. This looks like perfection and I hope with all my being that it turns out as velvety as yours! ;)

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    1. Hi Alida - yay, go for it! Two key things are making sure the shell is well cooked and lightly golden before you add the egg and lemon filling - don't forget to brush the base with whisked egg white to keep it crisp. With the filling, treat it gently, if you whisk it madly the frothy bit on top gets too big, sometimes I even pour it through a sieve, although I didn't need to with this one as I skimmed the top. The other key thing for silky texture is the addition of extra egg yolks and low cooking temperature. Good Luck - I can't wait to hear how you get on! :)

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  5. Thank you for sharing unbelievably easy recipe! I will be making these tonight, but with a digestive base, wish me luck!
    Em x

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    1. Good Luck Emine...how did you get on? :)

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    2. thank you! oh my, they are so tangy/fresh/amazing. thank you again for sharing! i shall be blogging the digestive base version soon, my pictures arent all that though, i was too excited about eating one of the darn things (all to myself, obviously) !

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    3. Yay - awesome - I am so glad you enjoyed them!!! :)

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    4. The post is now up on my blog :)

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    5. Hi Emine - they look awesome! I am so glad you enjoyed them, yay, you've made my day! :)

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  6. So excited to try this for my friend's birthday! Do you mind telling me what brand quiche tin you use?

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    1. Hi Madeleine, gosh I'm not sure - it is quite a generic tin, the most important thing is that it is the correct size - 5cm (2 inches) deep 26 1/2 cm (10.5 inches) tart tin with a removable base or a 2 1/2 cm (1 inch) deep 29cm (11 inches) tart tin. Hope you have a great time with your friend! :)

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  7. So I just decided I was going to learn to bake and decided this looked yummy so, in my usual fashion, I bought the ingredients and allotted a couple hours to create deliciousness. Two hours in (I had most of the lemons juiced at this point) I was thinking I'd bit off more than I could chew. To make a long story short, it turned out ok. I baked it much longer than it said and it still didn't "set" perfectly. I'm not sure I used the proper size pan. It was yummy, but very lemon-y! I decided it might be best with meringue or whip. Thanks for the recipe! I had fun and will continue to ignore the boxes of Betty Crocker in pursuit of my inner culinary goddess.

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    1. Well done! Using the correct size pan is really important as the cooking time depends on how thick the tart is, so best of luck with your cooking adventures, and I would really encourage you to follow the instructions exactly - baking is just like science, and you want your experiments to turn out perfectly! :)

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  8. Oh wow, this is so beautiful!

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  9. This is gorgeous! I'll definitely try this one - looks so easy too

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