What gives this Lemon Tart its exceptional quality? It’s the lemon curd filling. It strikes a harmonious balance between sweetness and tartness, and its custard-like texture effortlessly dissolves in your mouth. This timeless French tart is both elegant and visually appealing, yet its filling is incredibly uncomplicated, consisting solely of eggs, sugar, butter, and fresh lemon!
The Lemon Tart recipe we have for you today is a traditional French pastry known as “Tarte au Citron.” It enjoys enduring popularity, gracing the display cases of patisseries throughout France and holding a special place as a beloved dessert in French bistros and even upscale dining establishments. With its tangy, rejuvenating, and airy qualities, this tart serves as the ideal dessert to complement indulgent and opulent French main courses!
About this French Lemon Tart
The Lemon Tart’s filling boasts a vibrant yellow hue, featuring a flawlessly smooth lemon curd that strikes a perfect balance. It achieves a desirable level of firmness, allowing you to effortlessly slice neat portions, as showcased throughout this post, while retaining a delightful softness that luxuriously dissolves in your mouth, reminiscent of custard.
In terms of flavor, it hits the mark like Goldilocks’s perfect porridge: not overly sweet, not excessively sour, but just right. I’ve found that some of the other Lemon Tart recipes I’ve experimented with tend to veer to one extreme or the other. My preference leans towards a flawless equilibrium between these two elements.
The crust utilized here is a sweet French Tart Crust known as Pâte Sucrée, an exceptional foundational pastry for a variety of sweet tart creations. It boasts a buttery essence without excessive sweetness, and its flakiness strikes a delightful balance, ensuring it remains coherent without crumbling into an unwieldy mess when enjoyed with a fork. As an added bonus, the dough is remarkably easy to handle – even simpler than working with Shortcrust Pastry.
Should you prefer sweet shortcrust pastry or find yourself short on time, feel free to opt for a pre-made pastry case. After all, who would be the wiser?
Ingredients in French Lemon Tart filling
Here are the ingredients required to prepare the lemon curd filling for this tart:
- Lemons – For this recipe, we incorporate both lemon zest and juice. You will need 2 regular-sized lemons or 3 smaller ones.
- Butter – Use unsalted butter, cut into cubes for more even melting.
- Eggs – Eggs play a crucial role in setting the lemon curd filling into a custard-like consistency. We utilize both whole eggs and egg yolks. The yolks contribute richness, enhancing the filling’s smooth and creamy texture.
- Leftover egg whites – You might be wondering what to do with any remaining egg whites. You can find a variety of recipes for using them in this collection.
- Sugar – Ideally, use caster or superfine white sugar for easier dissolving. However, regular white sugar can also be used effectively in this recipe.
How to make the Lemon Tart filling
It’s incredibly straightforward: simply combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and whisk them together over low heat until the mixture thickens!
Here’s the step-by-step process:
- Combine ingredients: Place all the ingredients in a saucepan and whisk them together. Set the stove to low to medium-low heat. Don’t worry about the possibility of the eggs curdling – the lemon juice and sugar help dilute the eggs enough to prevent them from easily setting.
- Whisk over low heat: As the butter melts, the mixture will become relatively thin and smooth. Keep whisking continuously to prevent any sticking to the base, and continue until the mixture thickens into a pourable custard, which should take about 5 minutes.
- Check thickness: The images above and below depict the desired thickness you’re aiming for. To test it, use a spoon or spatula to place a dollop of custard on the surface. It should briefly hold its shape before gradually disappearing. You could further thicken it on the stove, but it’s not necessary. We’ll be baking the tart briefly to set it, allowing us to slice it neatly.
- Strain: Pour the custard through a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl, and use a rubber spatula to push it through. This step ensures the filling is entirely smooth while removing any zest, stray lemon seeds, or any bits of filling that might have solidified at the base of the saucepan.
FILLING AND BAKING
Moving on, let’s proceed with filling and baking the tart.
- Fill the pastry case: Carefully pour the prepared filling into the tart crust of your choice. (For reference, I’ve used the pictured French Sweet Tart Crust.) Shortcrust pastry is another excellent alternative, or you can opt to purchase a pre-made pastry case, either a single large one or 12 to 15 small individual tart cases.
- Smooth the surface: To achieve a uniform appearance, it’s best to use a small offset spatula to gently smooth the surface of the filling.
- Bake: Place the tart in the oven and bake for just 5 minutes. There’s no actual cooking required here; this step is solely to complete the setting of the custard without allowing any browning on the surface. It’s crucial not to overbake, as this could result in the filling becoming curdled and dry instead of maintaining its desired soft and custardy texture.
- Decorate to your liking: You have the creative freedom to decorate the tart as you see fit. In this instance, I’ve adorned it with lemon slices, raspberries, and mint leaves. Below, I’ve provided additional decorating ideas for you to explore.
Lemon Tart decoration suggestions
A plain Lemon Tart might look a bit unadorned, so it’s delightful to add a final touch, even if it’s just a delicate dusting of icing sugar or powdered sugar. However, here are some other creative ideas, and you’re welcome to mix and match:
- Lemon slices
- Raspberries, strawberry slices, or other vibrant berries – perfect for adding bursts of color!
- Mint leaves and edible flowers
- Cream – create decorative piped swirls around the edges.
- Melted chocolate – let your inner artist shine with a gracefully drizzled pattern of melted dark chocolate. Embrace your inner Jackson Pollock! Alternatively, you could use melted chocolate to craft a handwritten message if the occasion calls for it.
These options allow you to personalize and enhance the appearance of your Lemon Tart, making it even more enticing and visually appealing.
What to serve with Lemon Tart
This tart is absolutely delightful on its own. (In fact, mere seconds after taking the photos above, I found myself multitasking—cleaning up the photography area with one hand while savoring the slice in the picture with the other!) However, when serving this tart to guests, it’s a lovely touch to include a dollop of something extra on the side to complete the plate.
Here are some excellent accompaniments that pair well with this Lemon Tart:
- Crème fraîche – As featured in the post, this incredibly rich cream beautifully complements the lively tartness of the lemon.
- Whipped cream – Lightly sweetened with a hint of sugar and vanilla (exercise moderation, as the Lemon Tart is the star here!).
- Vanilla ice cream
And with that, French Bistro Week has come to a close! 🇫🇷 I hope you derived as much enjoyment from it as I did while crafting, photographing, filming, and writing about these dishes. And, naturally, savoring every single bite!