If I had to choose just one dessert to eat for the rest of my life, Tarte au Citron would be it. I think it is the most sublime of all French desserts.
My first introduction to the Lemon Tart came in 1994, when I was given a copy of Sheila Lukins' All Around the World Cookbook. This is the first recipe I cooked from the book and once I tried it, I was hooked. And so is everyone who has ever tasted it.
This version is perfect in its simplicity. It is tart and tangy and very, very lemony. The way a real Tarte au Citron should be.
Velvety Tarte au Citron
From All Around the World Cookbook by Sheila Lukins
Makes 1 9-inch tart, serves 8-10
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 2/3 cup fresh lemon juice, strained
- 2 tablespoons heavy (or whipping) cream
- 3 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
1. Place the butter in a food processor and process a few seconds, until creamy. Add 1/4 cup sugar and process until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 20 seconds, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl once or twice. Add the vanilla. Combine the flour and salt, then add to the food processor. Process until the dough comes together around the sides of the bowl; scrape the sides of the bowl and process for a few seconds more.
2. With lightly floured hands, press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. (Press around the bottom edge of the tart with your finger, making sure that the dough is not too thick.)
3. Trim any excess dough at the top of the tart pan with a knife. Lightly press the dough around the inside of the rim with your thumb so that it extends about 1/8 inch above the pan. Prick the bottom of the dough all over with a fork. Chill the dough in the freezer at least 30 minutes or overnight.
4. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
5. Bake the partially or fully frozen tart shell until fully baked and golden brown, about 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.
6. Whisk the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and the lemon juice together in a bowl. Gradually whisk in the heavy cream, then the eggs and the egg yolks. Combine thoroughly. Pour the mixture into a saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the filling thickens and the whisk leaves a trail, about 4 minutes.
7. Strain the filling into a bowl, then pour it into the baked tart shell. Bake for 4 minutes.
8. Cool thoroughly on a rack and serve at room temperature. Before serving, carefully remove the sides and bottom of the pan and carefully slide the tart onto a decorative plate.
*yes, I actually do make my own pastry for this tart. It requires nothing more than whipping it up in a food processor, which I don't mind doing.
(the photo above is not a Tarte au Citron from this recipe, but is a similar one made by a friend)