Lemon Tart

DessertBakingLemonTart

Lemon Tart, anyone? With a buttery crust and a zingy lemon filling, this tart is ready for the dessert table! Serve it for Easter, Mother's Day, or anytime you need a special treat.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Finding the Perfect Lemon Tart

My father and I searched high and low for a lemon tart that we would love.

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.

Finally we chanced upon a chef Charlie Palmer recipe with a fabulous lemon filling, but his cornmeal crust tasted like baked polenta. It just didn’t work with the lemon filling.

So, we took the fabulous filling and put it in a tried and true tart 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.

Lemon Tart

Make-Ahead Tips

  • Prep the candied citrus zest a few days in advance. (Or skip it!)
  • Make the tart dough up to two days in advance, and keep it well-wrapped in the fridge until ready to roll it out. Or freeze it, wrapped and in a freezer bag, for up to a month and thaw in the fridge before using.
  • Make the entire tart up to three days in advance. Keep it covered and refrigerated until ready to serve.

Love Lemon? Try These Recipes!

Updated April 19, 2019 : We made a few changes to the crust recipe to give more consistently good results.

Lemon Tart Recipe

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  • Prep time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
  • Cook time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 6 to 8 slices

Lemon filling adapted from Charlie Palmer's Practical Guide to the New American Kitchen.

Ingredients

For the candied zest:

  • 1 cup lemon zest, julienned
  • 1 cup granulated sugar

For the crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups (200 g) flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (50 g) powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick, or 1/4 pound, 112 g) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest

For the lemon filling:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup crème fraîche (can sub sour cream)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

Special equipment:

  • 10 x 1-inch tart pan with a removable bottom
  • Double boiler and several metal mixing bowls

Method

1 Make the candied citrus zest: 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.

lemon zest strips in boiling water

2 Dry the candied zest: Spread the zest out on a sheet of parchment paper. Let dry overnight at room temperature (do not put in the refrigerator). (Tip: if you wrap the zest strands around a chopstick and let them dry wrapped, then the next day when you unwrap them, they'll hold a curly form.)

The next day toss the zest with a little more sugar.

3 Make the tart dough: Whisk together the flour, salt, and powdered sugar in a bowl. Add the butter and either use your (clean) fingers, or use a pastry blender, to mix the butter into the flour until the dough forms flaky crumbs and lumps. Try to make sure that all of the flour is coated with some butter.

work butter into flour for lemon tart dough

With a wooden spoon, mix in the egg, 1/4 teaspoon almond extract, and 1 teaspoon of lemon zest. Continue to mix until the dough clumps.

mix lemon tart dough until it clumps together

4 Chill the tart crust: Shape into a ball, flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic, refrigerate at least an hour or up to 2 days in advance.

form dough into disk and wrap with plastic

5 Pre-heat oven to 350°F.

6 Roll out the tart crust: If the dough has chilled overnight, let it sit at temperature for at least 10-15 minutes before attempting to work with it. This allows the dough to relax enough to become somewhat pliable before rolling out.

Roll out the dough by either sprinkling the dough and rolling surface with little flour, or you can roll the dough out between two sheets of parchment paper. Roll the dough out to a circle 2 inches wider in diameter than your tart pan (about a 12-inch round).

Press the dough into the tart pan. Use your rolling pin to level the dough along the edges of the pan. Freeze for 30 minutes.

7 Pre-bake the tart crust: Place aluminum foil over the foil and gently mold it to the dough in the pan. Add pie weights (dried beans, sugar, rice, or ceramic pie weights).

Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, lift the sides of the aluminum foil to remove the pie weights, and let the crust cool.

beans in foil in lemon tart crust in pan

7 Make the lemon curd filling: Melt butter and crème fraîche 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 or pyrex 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.

In a second bowl over the 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.

8 Assemble and bake the tart Pour the lemon filling into the crust and bake at 350°F for 25 minutes or until set in the middle.

uncooked lemon tart cooked lemon tart

9 Chill before serving: Let cool on a rack. Chill in the refrigerator. When ready to serve, top the tart with candied lemon zest.

Hello! All photos and content are copyright protected. Please do not use our photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this recipe, please rewrite the recipe in your own unique words and link back to Lemon Tart on Simply Recipes. Thank you!

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Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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24 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Bhuvana

    Hi! Thanks for this wonderful recipe. I had a small problem with this. My lemon tart came out perfect except that when I was ready for serving there were water droplets on top of it. I had chilled the tart only after it completely cooled. I had to damp it with tissue before serving. Why do you think this happened?

    Show Replies (1)
  2. Melisa

    The lemon custard was too thin, cooked it longer, consistency was off. Tasted great. Too much work for the effort. Disappointed. Liked the crust

    xxxxxyyyyy

  3. Vitek Pazdera

    I’ve done this recipe a couple of times already (love the website by the way) but I still cannot wrap my head around the “3/4 cup of lemon juice” for the lemon curd. It is just too much! The sourness of the lemons is just too overpowering despite the sugar. I’m using the same cup for all the measurements in the recipe. Last time I just put in enough lemon for it to taste good (juice of approximately 1 lemon) and it worked. Has anybody had the same experience?

  4. Sarah

    Can the lemon curd mixture be left overnight in the refrigerator and baked the next day?

    Show Replies (1)
  5. Michelle

    I just made this yesterday for my bf’s bday (he loves lemon stuff) and it was phenomenal! I’m very very happy with the results, especially since I was a bit apprehensive since people seemed to have trouble with the crust. This is the best crust (lemony and almondy!) I’ve ever had. Here’s what I did:

    Crust: I was running low on time, so I chilled it for 1 hr 5min. I let it sit out for 8min. I also didn’t mix it a lot beforehand- as soon as it looked remotely dough-y I popped it in the fridge. I used a large egg and my butter was not very soft- it sat out for maybe 15 min. at 75F, so it was soft on the outside, but the inside was a bit hard still. I neglected pie weights and just poked a lot of holes. It still puffed up, but I poked more and it came down. Still, there was barely room for the curd, but the crust came out flaky and fluffy.

    For the curd I was 2 tbsp short of lemon juice, so I substituted some orange juice. I also might have started cooking the curd a bit (left it too long on the double boiler), so there were cooked bits, but it all got cooked in the oven anyway! Definitely put the tart pan on another pan, once the curd is in, it’s easy to spill!

    My candied zest was also last minute, but dried out enough after a couple hours to put on the tart and taste good.

    This tart was a tad sweet, but very professional tasting and looking (although I couldn’t get it out of the pan, despite greasing it generously). I would buy this in a store! The whole process took me two hours, fifteen minutes (I started with the crust and worked on the curd and candied zest while it was in the fridge). I didn’t notice the orange juice, by the way, and my bf said it was very lemony! thanks, Elise, for another fabulous recipe that is very accessible to an ordinary person! Oh yeah, and I didn’t have time to chill this, but it was still good. I set it out at room temp for two hours (while we went to dinner).

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