My father and I have been experimenting with lemon tart recipes for a year, without much success, by the way (until now). First there was the disastrous lemon tart from the New York Times, described so well by Deb of Smitten Kitchen; we had a similar inedible result. Then there were my several attempts to make a Meyer lemon confit over pastry dough crust, still way too tart. We finally chanced upon a Charlie Palmer recipe with a fabulous lemon curd filling, but his cornmeal crust tasted like baked polenta. Just didn’t work with the lemon curd. So, we took the fabulous filling and put it in a tried and true shortbread-ish crust. Dad even made a batch of candied citrus peel (you can easily skip this step) days in advance. And voilá, a truly delectable lemon tart.
Garnish with fresh mint and sneak some bites of the mint in between bites of the tart for even more fun with the flavors.
- 1 cup lemon zest, julienned
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick, or 1/4 pound) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup creme fraiche
- 2 large eggs
- 3 large egg yolks
- 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
- 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom
- Pastry blender or two blunt dinner knives
- Double boiler and several metal mixing bowls
Candied Citrus Zest
1 Place lemon zest in a saucepan and cover with water by 1/2 inch. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat, drain the water. Fill up with water again and repeat. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, then drain. Add water again, this time adding the sugar as well. Simmer for 30 minutes, drain.
2 Spread the zest out on a sheet of parchment paper. Let dry overnight at room temperature (do not put in the refrigerator). The next day toss the zest with a little more sugar.
Make the Crust
3 Combine flour, salt, butter, and sugar in a bowl. Use a pastry blender, or two blunt dinner knives, to cut the butter into the flour until the dough forms flaky crumbs and lumps. You can also just mix with your fingers. With a wooden spoon, mix in the egg, almond extract, and lemon juice. Continue to mix until the dough clumps; at first it may seem very dry. Shape into a ball, flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic, refrigerate at least an hour.
4 Pre-heat oven to 350°F.
5 Let the dough sit at temperature for at least 10-15 minutes before attempting to work with it. Allow the dough to relax enough to become somewhat pliable before rolling out. Roll out the disk between two sheets of parchment paper (or wax paper), to a circle 2 inches larger in diameter than your tart pan (about a 12-inch round).
6 Press the dough into the tart pan. Use your rolling pin to level the dough along the edges of the pan. Place aluminum foil over the foil and gently mold it to the dough in the pan. Add pie weights (dried beans work well, though after you use them once for pie weights, keep them as your pie weight beans and don't try to cook with them.) Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
7 Melt butter and creme fraiche together over a double boiler, stirring to combine. (If you don't have a double boiler, bring a couple inches of water to simmer in a saucepan, place a stainless steel bowl on top of the saucepan, making sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the simmering water.) Remove top pan from heat and set aside.
8 In a bowl over a double boiler, whisk the eggs and egg yolks just long enough to warm them. Remove from heat and beat in the butter mixture, then the lemon juice. Strain the mixture through a sieve into a clean bowl and place over the simmering water. Add the sugar and zest and whisk until warm to touch, about 4 minutes.
Assemble the Tart
9 Pour the lemon curd into the crust and bake at 350°F for 25 minutes or until set in the middle. Let cool on a rack. Chill in the refrigerator. When ready to serve, top the tart with candied lemon zest. Garnish with fresh mint.