Recipe: Tarte au Citron (Lemon Tart)

I'm guessing the main purpose of this tart is "to delight". And it does just that. 
I've always been a fan of lemon pastries. They're sweet, tart, and it instantly brightens any mood. They remind me of perfect afternoons, sitting in a cafe in a European city, enjoying tea and gossiping over people walking about. They're also pretty. I just find tarts very pretty. They just look so delicate and dainty and you just want to grab some flowers, put on a dress, and twirl about.

Finally!!! This dish really does originate from France. The Tarte au Citron, or Lemon Tart. It was said to have originated in the city of Menton in France (specifically the French Riviera) where the climate was suitable to growing lemons. This city was actually likened to be the "most Italian French city". And of course, because their main produce were lemons, there would be a wide array of products and even festivals dedicated to this. Yup, lemon festivals! The FΓͺte du Citron! Whattajoy!

The traditional way of making the Tarte au Citron is actually making a sabayon (which is making a custard or curd over heat with eggs and sugar, and butter is slowly incorporated in then flavoured with whatever flavour you want). To my surprise, AGAIN, I realized I didn't even have glass bowls to do the double-boiler method (YES, I DON'T... WHY?!!?πŸ™„) to make the sabayon. I swear, how do I function in my kitchen?! Anyways, I was determined to make this because I've been craving for it for a really long time. And for some reason, every time I bought a slice from a patisserie or cafe, it just didn't hit the right spot. Some were too grainy and sugary, some weren't tart enough, and some just tasted like egg. So I wanted to make one that I could really taste the lemon and have a nice sweet and durable crust.

So, I tried another method. An easier way. And the end product? Gift-able and "woah"-worthy. As my husband would say, "IG worthy".

Tarte au Citron (Lemon Tart)
This makes an 11-inch tart. If you wanted more individual tarts, you can probably make 4 pieces of 4-inch tarts or about a dozen of the mini tarts, if you wanted to serve these as a sharable dessert (as a petit four or part of a high tea arrangement).

You will need the following: an 11-inch tart pan (removable bottom), a food processor (I used my Ninja and it worked fine πŸ˜‰), plastic/saran wrap, a rolling pin, a cooling rack, a strainer/sieve, foil or parchment paper, a bowl, a whisk, and a spatula.

Pastry Dough/Crust (Tart Shell) Ingredients
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, cold and cubed
1 egg, large
1 tsp vanilla extract
extra flour for dusting
*rice or beans for blind baking (a method to bake the crust before hand so it doesn't go soggy by lining the crust with foil or parchment paper and filling it with dry weights such as rice, beans, lentils, or metal baking beads)

Lemon Filling Ingredients
4 eggs, large
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
lemon zest of 2 lemons
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup heavy cream

powdered sugar for dusting

1. To make the pastry crust, blitz the dry ingredients first in the food processor. Add the butter cubes and pulse until crumbled. Add the egg and vanilla and pulse only until the dough forms.
2. Transfer the dough on the counter lined with saran wrap and ball it up to make a dough. Wrap it in plastic wrap and chill for 30-45 mins.
3. Preheat your oven to 350℉. Dust some flour on your counter or a surface and roll the dough into a circle. Transfer this to the tart pan and trim the edges with a knife or a rolling pin. Tuck in the corners inside the tart pan. Don't worry if it breaks up, you can always use some dough to patch up some holes. Use a fork to puncture the bottom of the dough and bake this for 15 mins. Place the foil and rice and blind bake for another 15 mins.
4. While the pastry crust is baking, let's make the filling! In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and salt. Add the lemon zest and lemon juice and lastly, add the cream. Pass through a strainer (I only do this because there might be some whole lemon pulp in the custard mixture.
5. Lower the oven to 300℉. Pour the custard mixture on the baked pastry crust/tart shell and bake for 27 minutes. It will be ready when you jiggle it a bit and it stays firm but still wiggles.
6. This is the hard part... waiting. Let this cool on a wire rack for 1 hour and transfer to the chiller (fridge) and let this set for another 2 hours.
7. I use this technique when I work with removable bottom pans. Use some ramekins and place the tart pan on it so it's lifted out of the pan's edge/shell. You can then slide the whole tart to a serving plate or a cake stand.
8. Dust some powdered sugar on the tart. Slice and....
9. ENJOY!!! I highly recommend brewing some nice black sweet tea to fully enjoy this. Pick an outfit too and play "La Vie En Rose" in the background for full effect!

Keep this chilled and covered, you don't want to dry it out and this contains eggs. This should keep in the chiller for 4-5 days. Just always dust a fresh layer of powdered sugar; and you can even jazz it up with some cream or berries before serving!
*A Petit Four is  a small, bite-sized confection or sweet pastry enjoyed at the end of a meal. Usually in assorted variations, they could be part of a pastry buffet, afternoon tea, or served as a tasting plate of various pastries. They literally mean "small oven" in French.

**Now that you know how to make a basic pastry crust, you're tart world has now opened up to so many other possibilities! You can use this base for just about any tart recipe you want to try. Try making some pastry cream and top with fruit. Or even a simple ganache with toasted hazelnuts! Hmmm....

***The filling recipe can also be used as a base - just replace the lemon juice and zest with alternate flavours. A nice key lime tart, calamansi, or even a mango tart perhaps? Don't be afraid to try out new recipes. Even if you fail. It's a skill and it takes practice. Don't be too hard on yourself. I'm sure even professional chefs have their stories of burned dishes or dishes gone wrong. 

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