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.
How to Make a Perfect Lemon Tart Recipe
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 voila! A truly delectable lemon tart.
- 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.
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Lemon Tart Variations to Try
- Skip the candied peel on top, and the tart will still be lovely and delicious.
- Dust the top with sprinklings of powdered sugar.
- Top with fresh berries.
- Substitute the lemon with lime, grapefruit, or other citrus.
- Use vanilla instead of almond extract if you don’t have any or just don’t like it.
What Is Blind Baking?
Blind baking is when you bake a pie crust empty before you fill it. The crust for this tart is prebaked so it doesn't get soggy when you pour in the lemon filling.
Why weigh down the crust before blind baking? Because the weights (or sugar or beans or rice) keep the sides from falling down and the bottom of the crust from billowing during prebaking. Here are detailed tips on How to Blind Bake a Pie Crust.
How to Prep Lemon Zest to Make Candied Peel
The recipe calls for a cup of julienned lemon zest. But how do you do that? Start with a sharp paring knife or a good vegetable peeler and peel strips of lemon zest as thin as you can. You'll want to avoid the white pith as much as possible since it tends to be bitter.
How to Store Lemon Tart
You can refrigerate your lemon tart for up to three days. Be sure to cover it well with parchment paper and then with plastic wrap to prevent moisture from building up.
For longer storage, you can freeze lemon tart, whole or in slices. Just be sure to thaw in the refrigerator at least 24 hours in advance before serving.
What to Serve With Lemon Tart
- Whipped Cream
- Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream
- Chamomile-Honey Hot Toddy
- Orange and Vanilla Hot Buttered Rum
- Winter Spiced Orange Mocktail
Lemon filling adapted from "Charlie Palmer's Practical Guide to the New American Kitchen."
For the optional candied zest:
1 cup lemon zest
1 cup granulated sugar
For the crust:
1 1/2 cups (200g) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (50g) powdered sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick, or 1/4 pound, 112g) 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 creme fraiche (can sub sour cream)
2 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
Make the candied citrus zest (optional):
Place lemon zest in a saucepan and cover with water by 1/2 inch. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and 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, then drain.
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.
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 a pastry blender to mix the butter into the flour until the dough forms flaky crumbs and lumps. Try to make sure all of the flour is coated with some butter.
With a wooden spoon, mix in the egg, 1/4 teaspoon almond extract, and 1 teaspoon lemon zest. Continue to mix until the dough clumps.
Chill the tart crust:
Shape into a ball and flatten into a disk. Wrap the disk in plastic, and refrigerate at least an hour or up to two days in advance.
Preheat the oven:
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Roll out the tart crust:
If the dough has chilled overnight, let it sit at room temperature for at least 10 to 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 the surface with a little flour, or you can roll the dough out between 2 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.
Prebake the tart crust:
Place aluminum foil over the crust and gently mold it to the dough in the pan. Add ceramic pie weights (or dried beans, sugar, or rice).
Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and lift the sides of the aluminum foil to remove the pie weights. Let the crust cool.
Make the lemon curd filling:
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, and 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 the 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 the touch, about 4 minutes.
Fill 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.
Chill before serving:
Let cool completely on a rack. Then, chill in the refrigerator. When ready to serve, top the tart with candied lemon zest, if you wish.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 6 to 8|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 31g||39%|
|Saturated Fat 18g||88%|
|Total Carbohydrate 46g||17%|
|Dietary Fiber 1g||3%|
|Total Sugars 26g|
|Vitamin C 10mg||48%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|