Friday, June 3, 2011

The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart

Happy Friday everyone!  Boy, have I got a good one for you today.  I know I am a little late to the game and a lot of people have probably seen this recipe before, but I am still plowing my way through my beloved cookbook, Baking: From My Home To Yours by Dorie Greenspan, and this is one I just had to share.  This tart uses the same Sweet Tart Dough as the Spring Berry Tart I posted a few weeks ago, but instead of a pastry cream filling, it is loaded with buttery, lemony goodness. 
I seem to learn something new every time I'm in the kitchen and today was no different - the lesson of the day: When life gives you lemons, get a great arm workout from squeezing them and then stirring them into a deliciously light, creamy lemon curd! 
Lemon Cream Tart
from Baking: From My Home To Yours

1 cup sugar
Grated zest of 3 lemons
4 large eggs
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 4 to 5 lemons) (Tip: I have found I get more juice out of a lemon if I let it come to room temperature and roll it firmly over the counter before cutting and squeezing.  It seems to "loosen up" the juices.)
2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons (10 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
1 fully-baked 9-inch tart shell (see below)

Getting ready: Have a thermometer, preferably an instant-read, a strainer and a blender (first choice) or food processor ready. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.

Put the sugar and zest in a large heatproof bowl that can be set over 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.

Set the bowl over the pan and start whisking as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch.  Cook until it reaches 180°F, whisking continually to prevent eggs from scrambling. You will 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. The tracks mean the cream is almost ready. Don’t stop whisking or checking the temperature.  This part can take up to 10 minutes. 

As soon as it reaches 180°F, remove the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of a blender (or food processor); discard the zest. Let the cream stand, 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 a container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal and chill the cream for at least 4 hours or overnight. (Cream will keep in the fridge for 4 days or, tightly sealed, in the freezer for up to 2 months; thaw it overnight in the refrigerator.) 
When you are ready to make the tart, just whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell.  Best served chilled on the day you assemble.

Sweet Tart Dough
Makes 1 9" Crust

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick plus 1 TBSP (9 TBSP) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Put the flour, confectioners sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in - you should have some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses - about 10 seconds each- until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change- heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

Butter a 9" fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. (If you don't have a tart pan a pie pan would probably work too)  Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan.  Don't be too heavy-handed - press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

Preheat the oven to 375. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. (Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights.) Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon.

Bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. Transfer the tart pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature before filling.  
I wanted to make this tart in its most pure and simple form this time since it was my first time making it.  Dorie suggests layering with fruit or adding a dollop of whipped cream if you want to make it fancier.  What would you add to this recipe to give it a special touch?  I was considering a drizzle of raspberry sauce!

Hope you all have a great weekend - see ya Monday!


  1. This looks delicious! If I didn't already have a lemon dessert planned for this weekend, I'd be tempted to make this tomorrow.

  2. Lucy, I love that shot of the lemons. Thanks again for the award. I have had the craziest few weeks. Finally, finally, I have posted and passed on the honor. Thanks again.

  3. Gorgeous pictures. This is a perfect springtime and summer dessert!

  4. This looks excellent with just a handful of ingredients. Relatively light also, great for summer

  5. I love a good tangy lemon tart! This looks absolutely scrumptious.

  6. Love this recipe - it looks so refreshing.

  7. yep- that pretty much looks EXTRAORDINARY! Wow- so lemony and I love the crust. my dad would flip if I made this for him. might just do it for father day!

  8. this looks amazing.
    so refreshing and perfect for summer.
    beautiful photos!

  9. lovely cake, i love everything with lemons, it look delicious cheers from london

  10. What a beautiful, delicate tart. Love it!

  11. i love lemons and tarts are one of my mom's favorites. I am bookmarking this for when she comes for a visit next week. I am going to rest my arms for this one, lol

    have a great week

  12. Absolutely beautiful photography, and that looks like an AMAZING lemon tart. I love lemon desserts so much!

  13. i made a lemon tart last year that ryan went CRAZY for...this looks similar! yum!

  14. This really does look like a fabulous pie. I really need to get Dorie's cookbook.

  15. Looks so good!!!! I've never made a lemon cream tart before but you've made it a priority. Looks awesome! :)