I've made all kinds of lemon tarts before. If you've by chance landed on this blog looking for a lemon tart recipe, please kindly disregard those and fast-forward straight to this guy. Fair warning, this takes a while and may not be for the faint of heart (see the novel-length recipes below); I tried and failed to make it during naptime. It's worth every extra second, though. The end result is the perfect lemon dessert. Velvety, tangy, smooth, and everything a lemon lover could dream of. I'm not a huge shortbread fan and the crust was very shortbread-y, so I might try a different crust recipe next time.
Other Lemon Tart recipes!
Lemon Almond Meringue Tart
Lemon Cream Tart
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours
1 cup sugar
Finely grated zest of 3 lemons
4 large eggs
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 4 - 5 lemons)
2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons (21 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)
1. Have a thermometer, preferably an instant-read, a strainer and a blender (first choice) or food processor at the ready. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.
2. Put the sugar and zest in a large heatproof 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.
3. 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 at least 160 degrees F. (If you can get it up to 180 degrees F, which is what professional pastry chefs do, great; if not – don’t worry, it will still thicken.) 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 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.
4. As soon as you reach the right temperature, pull the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of a blender (or food processor). Let the cream rest at room temperature, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
5. 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.
6. 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. When you are ready to construct the tart, just whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell.
Storing: While you can make the lemon cream ahead (it will keep in the fridge for 4 days and in the freezer for up to 2 months), once the tart is constructed, it’s best to eat it the day it is made.
Sweet Tart Crust
Adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (4 1/2 ounces) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
1. To make the dough: Put the flour, confectioners' sugar and salt in the workbowl of 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 cut in coarsely - you'll have pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and pea-size pieces and that's just fine. Stir the egg, 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 your reaches this clumpy stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change - heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface.
2. Very lightly and sparingly knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.
3. Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan and press the dough evenly along the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Don't be stingy - you want a crust with a little heft because you want to be able to both taste and feel it. Also, don't be too heavy-handed - you want to press the crust in so that the pieces cling to one another and knit together when baked, but you don't want to press so hard that the crust loses its crumbly shortbreadish texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.