When life gives you lemons you might make lemonade. I will always make a French lemon tart instead. I have always been an optimistic kind of person. I definitely see the glass as half full rather than half empty. A silent enemy we cannot see is lurking about. Most of the world’s population is living in some form of quarantine as we search for a solution. And while though we are living in an unprecedented time of fear, I see the opportunity, hope, and resilience. Everyone I know has dug deep into their pantries and old recipe books and begun cooking fabulous meals. An explosion of just-baked loaves of bread, cookies of every kind, and other sweets have filled my social media feeds. Stressful times bring out the very best in people. Make this tart and join the covid-19 resistance.
The other day I sat in my house and noticed I had a bowl full of lemons looking for a new home. Normally they turn into preserved lemons; Greek lemon and egg soup; or as the acid for family favorite chickpea salads and bowls of hummus. Today I added my voice to the choir on social media. (ps – please watch my silly movie on how to make lemon tart at home on YouTube and subscribe while you are there)
Make The Dough
The first step in making a Lemon Tart is to make the dough. Generally, most people opt towards a pate sucree, or sweet pastry dough in plain English. If you are unfamiliar, think of pate sucree as a slightly sweeter shortbread that when made right gives the same kind of crisp, crumbly bite. I offer 2 recipes, firstly a quick one from my new cookbook ‘French Cooking For Beginners‘ and then a gluten-free version from Beatrice Peltre’s amazing cookbook ‘La Tartine Gourmande’.
Too Many Flours?
Yesterday I posted on my FaceBook page this comment with the following photo: Impressed or appalled: I finally sorted all of my flours and realized that I am a hoarder. Chestnut, buckwheat, red fife, white rice, brown rice, almond, chickpea, oat, semolina, wheat germ, rye, teff, quinoa, pastry, 00, amaranth, gf flour, and a few others. How about you? Are you a flour-collector?
Sweet Pastry Dough (Pate Sucree)
A quick version of the classic French tart dough Pate Sucree
- 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar (10X)
- 1/2 stick unsalted butter (2 ounces)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean scraped
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1 cup all-purpose flour you may need up to 1/4 cup more
To make the dough, in a food processor, combine the confectioners’ sugar, butter, and vanilla extract and process until well mixed. Add the egg yolks and process until blended. Add the flour and pulse several times. Do not worry if the dough does not form a ball. Press the dough together and cover it with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or, even better, overnight.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to an 11-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Wrap the dough around the rolling pin and unwind it over a 9-inch tart pan. Press the dough deep down into the corners, letting 1/4 inch hang over the edges. Crimp the edges tightly, and then let the dough relax for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bake the tart shell until very lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
Yes, that's right. I do not use baking beans or other weights to hold the crust in place when I bake a tart shell blind (empty). Crimping the edges tightly holds the dough in place and then later I roll a rolling pin over to cut the edges clean.
Beatrice Peltre's GF Pate Sucree
Beatrice Peltre is an amazing cook and photographer who taught me to love gluten-free not because it was gluten-free, but because it tasted better.
- 1/3 cup white rice flour (60 grams)
- 1/3 cup quinoa flour (40 grams)
- 1/3 cup cornstarch (40 grams)
- 1.5 tsp xanthan gum
- 1/3 cup confectioners' sugar (40 grams)
- 7 tbsp unsalted butter (100 grams) cubed
- 1 small egg
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flours, cornstarch, xanthan gum, and sugar. Work on medium speed to obtain a fine mixture. Add the butter and work again until crumbles form. Add the egg and work until the dough detached from the bowl and forms a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 3 hours. Bring to room temperature before using it.
Make the Filling
The second step in making lemon tarts is deciding your approach to the filling. The more complicated version involves 2 steps, first making lemon curd and then finally a lemon mousse. Neither of the steps are particularly technical, they just are more involved. This recipe comes from one of Pierre Herme and Dorie Greenspan’s amazing collaborative cookbooks. However, I strongly recommend that beginners start with my quick version as it is far easier and less time-consuming.
This is the beginner's version of a quick and easy filling that will satisfy everyone in your family.
- 3 large eggs
- 3 large egg yolks
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 3 lemons)
- 2 grated zest from 2 lemons zest lemons then juice the same lemons.
- 3 tbsp melted butter
- 1 pinch sea salt
To make the filling, in a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, yolks, granulated sugar, lemon juice and zest, butter, and salt until smooth. Pour the filling into a pre-baked tart shell and bake at 375 F until just set, 30 to 35 minutes. Let the tart cool to room temperature before slicing.
A delicious lemon curd that tastes great on its own or made into a variety of different desserts
- 3 lemons zest and juice
- 4 large eggs
- 1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 6 ounces unsalted butter
Combine zest, juice, eggs, and sugar in a stainless pot and whisk together over a low flame. Cook, whisking constantly, until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in butter. Cool.
If you accidentally scrambled the eggs simply put the whole mixture into a blender and puree for about 10 seconds.
A delicious lemon mousse that will leave your family wondering when you ran off to Paris to study pastries.
- 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 3 tbsp 30-degree syrup (see notes)
- 1.5 tsp gelatin
- 1 cup lemon curd see the previous recipe
- 2.25 cups heavy cream
Combine juice, syrup, and gelatin in a stainless steel pot. Heat very gently until gelatin melts. Put into a stainless steel bowl then add lemon curd and whipped cream. Put filling into a fully cooked tart shell.
30-degree syrup sounds very technical. It's not - it actually is ridiculously easy to make. Take 2x sugar for every 1 x of water and boil until sugar dissolves.
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