Tarte au citron is one of my favorite desserts and I’ve been looking for a good recipe to satisfy my cravings for a long time. This combination recipe turned out pretty well and is better than previous versions I’ve tried (E.g. Smittenkitchen’s tart shell + David Lebovitz’s lemon curd).
The french sweet pastry (or pate sucree) is very different in texture from the regular flaky pie crust and is definitely the pastry of choice for tarte au citron (and any creamy tart). Thekitchn’s method of rolling the dough between two wax paper is ingenious and a lot less messy. It is important to bake the tart shell with some kind of weight on top. I used a cake tin on top of the tart shell as weight. Cover with foil if the edges are browning too quickly before the center is cooked.
I adapted Pierre Herme’s lemon curd recipe and reduced the amount of sugar and butter. I will further reduce the amount of butter next time, and definitely use good butter. The fatty buttery taste is too rich and greasy-tasting for my liking.
French sweet pastry from http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-pate-sablee-for-classic-tarts-and-pastries-222311
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cream or milk, if needed
- Beat the butter and powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer until creamy.Since the butter is softened, it should combine easily with the powdered sugar to create a creamy, homogeneous mixture.
- Beat in the egg yolk. Keep mixing until the egg yolk is fully combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
- Add the flour: With the mixer on low speed, beat in the salt and flour — just until the dough comes together and there is no more visible flour. Like most batters and doughs, be careful not to overmix. The dough should be able to be pressed together between your fingertips and hold when done. If the dough appears dry or doesn’t hold together at this point, lightly mix in up to 1 tablespoon cream or milk.
- Chill the dough before rolling: Dump the contents of the mixer bowl on a piece of plastic wrap. Gather the dough together and press it into a round disk. This will make rolling it out into a circle easier. Wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 1 hour, or up to 2 days.
- When ready to roll, remove the dough from fridge and let soften on the counter. Now the butter in the dough has chilled and firmed up enough to hold together when you roll it, but it’s probably actually a bit too firm. Let it warm up on the counter just enough so it’s still cool to the touch, but starting to feel pliable.
- Roll the dough out to an 11-inch circle between two sheets of wax paper. To prevent sticking or adding more flour, roll the dough between two pieces of wax paper. Be sure not to press too hard at the edges or thin them out; rotate the dough to keep its round shape.
- Transfer the dough to the tart pan: Peel away the top layer of wax paper, and invert the crust into the tart pan. Peel away the top layer and fit the tart into the pan. Gently lift the edges and then press the dough down into the shape of the pan. Continue around until the dough is snug in the bottom and sides of the pan. Trim the edges by simply running a paring knife around the top edge of the pan. Save any scraps to repair cracks that may occur during baking.
- Wrap the pan loosely in plastic and chill 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Blind-bake the tart, about 30 minutes*: Line the chilled dough with parchment paper or foil. Fill the inside with pie weights or beans and bake until the edges just begin to brown. Remove the pie weights.
- Fully bake the tart, if needed: To fully bake, continue baking the tart crust without the pie weights for 5 to 10 more minutes, until the center of the crust is golden.
*31/12/2018: I recently baked this again (with cake tin and foil as weight) and my tart shell was burnt at 30minutes. Make sure to check at around 15mins.
Lemon filling adapted from Pierre Herme’s recipe
- 1/2 cup sugar
- Finely grated zest of 3 lemons
- 4 large eggs (I accidentally used 5 but it turned out fine)
- 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 4 to 5 lemons)
- 227g unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
- 1 fully-baked 9-inch tart shell
- Have a thermometer, preferably an instant-read and a blender (first choice) or food processor at the ready. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.
- Put the sugar and zest in a large metal bowl that can be fitted into the pan of simmering water. Off heat, work the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic. Whisk in the eggs followed by the lemon juice.
- Fit the bowl into the pan (make certain the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl) and cook, stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch. You want to cook the cream until it reaches 180°F. As you whisk the cream over heat—and you must whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling—you’ll see that the cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then, as the cream is getting closer to 180°F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks. Heads up at this point—the tracks mean the cream is almost ready. Don’t stop whisking and don’t stop checking the temperature. And have patience—depending on how much heat you’re giving the cream, getting to temp can take as long as 10 minutes.
- As soon as you reach 180°F, pull the cream from the heat and strain it (optional) into the container of a blender (or food processor); discard the zest. Let the cream rest at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until it cools to 140°F, about 10 minutes.
- Turn the blender to high and, with the machine going, add about 5 pieces of butter at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed while you’re incorporating the butter. Once the butter is in, keep the machine going—to get the perfect light, airy texture of lemon-cream dreams, you must continue to beat the cream for another 3 minutes. If your machine protests and gets a bit too hot, work in 1-minute intervals, giving the machine a little rest between beats.
- Pour the cream into the tart shell and let set in the fridge.