french lemon tart
a sweet/tart tart for your sweetheart?
Sicily, the biggest of my littles, and I have been enjoying baking dates together since her birthday more than a year ago. We finished up our “series” last night with a lemon tart. Sicily’s pretty crazy about anything lemon, and so am I, which resulted in a pretty clear winner for our final project.
It all begins with the best of lemons. Carefully chosen organic lemons for this tart, especially since we’d be using some of the peel for zesting.
We start with a 9-inch tart pan, fill it with a very buttery cookie-like shell, bake it; pour in a glossy, lemony yellow, sweet-tart custard, spun through with spoonfuls of satiny crème fraîche. Can’t you just imagine? If you’re with me so far, top with a slightly sweetened dollop of freshly-whipped and vanillaed-cream…because sometimes that’s just the stuff love’s made of…
For this you’ll need a 9-inch tart pan and several cups of dried beans and parchment paper. The beans keep the shell stable during the initial baking time. I keep mine in a jar, mixed odds and ends of beans, reserved just for this purpose.
- 1½ cups flour (185 g)
- ½ cup (110 g) OR ¾ cup (170 g) cold butter, cut into pieces (see NOTE on the Pastry)
- ¼ cup sugar (55 g)
- 2 egg yolks
- ½ teaspoon vanilla (optional)
NOTE on the Pastry: Two options are given for the quantity of butter to be used. The lesser amount will result in a shortbread-like pastry that rolls out cooperatively and forms nice smooth sides. The option using more butter results in a much more fragile and delicate crust (one that absolutely melts in the mouth) but is more difficult to handle and will need to be patched in places and pressed into the pan. (Sicily loves butter.)
Mix the flour and butter with your fingers, or in the food processor, until it resembles fine crumbs. Mix in the sugar. Using your fingers, now blend in the two egg yolks and vanilla (if using) just long enough for it to come together into a ball. Flatten the ball into a disk about 5 or 6 inches across. Wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 30 minutes or overnight. (If overnight, allow it to sit on the counter for 20 to 30 minutes before rolling.)
Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Roll out on a floured surface. (A bench scrape or long off-set spatula will help you to “unlock” it from the board if it gets stuck.) Roll it to a diameter of 2½ inches beyond the size of your tart pan.
Gently fold in half, place in tart pan, then unfold and press in place. Trim the top “waste” and make repairs where necessary. Chill for 30 minutes. (Important to do this.) Then line the chilled crust with parchment paper cut to several inches larger than pan. Fill to brimming with dried beans.
Place the shell in its pan atop a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place in the oven and bake for 12 minutes at 400°F (200°C). Remove from the oven, and lifting the parchment by the 4 corners, lift the beans from the shell. Return the shell to the oven, reduce temperature to 350°F (180°C) for 15 minutes or until it’s a golden brown and smells like heaven.
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There was some waiting involved for Sicily and me, and as has become our tradition, we talk a lot and always play a game of LIFE. I’ve loved this time with her!
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Lemon Filling for the French Lemon Tart
- 2 whole eggs + 4 egg yolks
- ¾ cup (155 g) sugar
- ¾ cup (175 mL) lemon juice (about 3-4 lemons, depending on size)
- zest from 2 lemons (optional)
- 2/3 cup (150 mL) crème fraîche (or heavy cream)
- 1 baked 9-inch cookie pastry tart shell (above)
Heat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Beat together the eggs, yolks, and sugar. Whisk in the lemon juice then whisk in the crème fraîche or cream. Strain into a jug (or quart jar – something with fairly narrow sides and decent height.) Stir in the lemon zest. (In order for the zest to not alter the creamy texture of the filling, I finely grated the zest from two lemon, and then, using a sharp chef’s knife, I chopped it as finely as I could, until it was almost lemon dust.) Let the mixture sit for a few minutes to allow any bubbles to subside.
Skim any foam from the top of the lemon filling. Set the tart shell onto a baking sheet lined with parchment in the oven, then carefully pour in the filling. Bake the tart until set but still slightly jiggling in the center, about 25 minutes. The tart will continue to set as it cools. Serve at cool room temperature. With lightly whipped cream if you choose.
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This recipe comes from one of my favorite books,
French Taste by Laura Calder
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