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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…

Pastry Shell

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.

~ ~ ~

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!

~ ~ ~

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.

~ ~ ~

This recipe comes from one of my favorite books,

French Taste by Laura Calder

~ ~ ~

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, click here

42 Comments Post a comment
  1. SALIVATION isn’t a very sexy word, but I am doing so at the thought of your French Lemon Tart. My son is coming home from Santa Fe next week, and wouldn’t this be a wonderful treat to serve him for dessert?

    Ronnie

    January 23, 2012
    • Personally, I can’t think of much better! (Give him some whipped cream too!) He’ll be salivating from ear to ear.

      January 23, 2012
  2. Lemon tart! I *am* going to make this!! Gorgeous, simply gorgeous.

    January 23, 2012
    • You don’t know how happy I am to hear that! You go Kathryn, make that tart!

      January 23, 2012
  3. gorgeous!!!

    January 23, 2012
  4. Okay, so I get home from work. I’m famished. And I find this post in my inbox. NOW WHAT? There’s no way the leftovers in the refrigerator are going to compare… (sniff).

    January 23, 2012
    • How heartless of me! I should have known! So sorry movita.

      January 23, 2012
  5. I love all things lemon, sweet and savory. I have made many lemon pies, breads, cakes, but nothing with creme fraiche in it — might have to remedy that soon — this looks like a real winner.

    January 23, 2012
  6. This brings my lemon chess pie to mind – and anything lemon is a winner in my book!

    January 23, 2012
    • Now I’ve no idea what lemon chess pie is but you can bet I’ll be checking your site to learn.

      January 23, 2012
      • Dog gone it! Now I’m going to have to post it! And I can’t bake one right now as we are fasting! You will be the first to know when I post it!

        January 23, 2012
  7. Sicily so loved these times with you. What a precious gift to have these occasions with her Nana. I had no idea about the beans! And by the way, I just love your water droplets on fruit.

    January 23, 2012
  8. I could go for a slice right about now – looks delicious:) Thanks for sharing!

    January 23, 2012
    • Thank you for stopping by! If lemon is your thing, this IS a tart worth your consideration. It’s at the top of my list for sure.

      January 23, 2012
  9. This is some tart you’ve created, Spree! It looks absolutely delicious and your photos, once again, are beautifully composed and well shot. They really do cast your dishes in the best light.

    January 23, 2012
    • Kind of you to say John! I’d like a better photo of the finished tart though – this is one of those desserts that deserves it! I’ll bring it when I come for dinner at your place, when, next week? 😉

      January 23, 2012
  10. Lemon is one of my favorite flavors. This looks so good!

    January 23, 2012
  11. Lemon tart is one of my “go to” special dessert recipes and yours is lovely (so too are the gorgeous photos). I expect it tastes even lovelier when made with someone you love…

    January 23, 2012
    • That’s always the truth isn’t it Tanya. And I can hardly imagine a dinner that lemon tart WOULDN’T favor, so I can see why it’d be your “go to”. (and you grow your own if I remember right…oh such heaven!)

      January 23, 2012
  12. Very beautiful looking post illustrating one of my favourite desserts – fabulous.

    January 23, 2012
    • Roger, I’m with you – this is one of my top 3 all-time favorites (and right now I’m hard-pressed to think of the other two!)…any time of year, after any meal, there’s always a bit of room for a good lemon tart.

      January 24, 2012
  13. Val #

    Did you leave the lemons out in the rain again? Looks lovely!

    January 24, 2012
    • Everything is wet here, Val, you might have heard…including our lemons!

      January 24, 2012
  14. Lovely luscious lemons, lush 🙂

    January 24, 2012
  15. Beautiful!

    January 24, 2012
  16. Lori #

    A lemon tart will be made this weekend for a special birthday dinner. I was planning to use lemon curd but this recipe has me intrigued….looks like it might be a bit more mild with added cream? Do you think Meyer lemons would work? The crust looks wonderful except I need to find a gluten-free recipe 😦 Beautiful pictures!

    January 25, 2012
    • I wish I could help you with the gluten-free crust, but sadly cannot. If what you’re looking for is milder I might try half Meyer lemon and half regular lemon and leave out (or cut in half the amount of) zest – that being said, I don’t find this TOO lemony – actually just right – and I think that’s partly due to the cream (or creme fraiche). This tart is very lemony in a “flavor sense” but not sour, nor is it too sweet. I guess by now it’s pretty obvious, I LOVE this tart. 🙂 thanks for stopping by and taking time to leave some words!

      January 25, 2012
  17. Beautifully created tart and wonderful blend of ingredients. I’m definitely putting this on my list to do!!

    January 25, 2012
    • You won’t be sorry you did! 🙂

      January 25, 2012
  18. I adore lemon tarts and it’s been far too long since I’ve made one. What a bright (in colour and flavour) treat for a dreary winter day. Your story of baking with your granddaughter has me eager for the day when mine are old enough to cook with me in the kitchen.

    January 26, 2012
    • Let me tell you, those will be GOOD days!

      January 26, 2012
  19. PS – scrolling through the comments just now, I see that you are “Nana” too. It’s a title that brings such joy, don’t you think?

    January 26, 2012
  20. I am in love with lemons too and I can’t wait to give your recipe a try. I have to say I am also in love with your photography, so delicate and unique

    January 26, 2012
    • Thank you so very much for your kind compliment! That really touches me! I do love your site as well. Get back to me too, will you?, after you’ve tried the tart. I want to hear your contented sighs! 😉

      January 26, 2012
  21. Now I’ve seen your lovely photos and recipe I’m craving lemon tart, it’s one of my all time favourites, so I’m bookmarking the page for when I can get hold of some great lemons. Thank you !

    January 26, 2012
    • Entirely my pleasure! Thanks for commenting! 🙂

      January 27, 2012
  22. One of my favorites! Beautifully done.

    January 27, 2012
    • Thanks so much, “savory” J. It’s at the top of my list too!

      January 27, 2012
  23. This looks like a keeper! I’ll be making this for sure – my husband loves lemon! Well, actually so do I! 🙂

    January 27, 2012
    • Oh I love lemons too, and for dessert nothing gets much better than a tart of them!

      January 27, 2012
  24. Awesome. So glad you used creme fraiche like I do in mine. This looks brilliant. My lemon tart is my most successful post and I hope this is yours. Yum. Also, thanks for that wonderful comment you posted on my blog the other day. 😀

    January 27, 2012
  25. love,love, love!

    June 10, 2012

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