A lemon tart is a classy and impressive dessert perfect for entertaining guests at afternoon tea. This easy recipe shows how to make every step from scratch, so you can bring a French patisserie right into your home.
An authentic lemon tart is comprised of two main components: a sweet dough crust, and a lemon custard filling. It is known as tarte au citron in France, where it originates, and can be made into a single large tart, or personal size tartelettes.
In this recipe I will show you how to make both the sweet dough crust, called pate sucree in French, as well as a very easy, fail-proof lemon custard filling. This custard can be adapted for a variety of other fruit flavors like my vibrantly purple blackcurrant tart.
How To Make A Sweet Tart Crust
Just like with pate brisee, this sweet version of a tart crust uses fairly simple ingredients. However as with most baking recipes I do recommend you follow the weights without deviation as baking is more a science than an art.
150 grams Flour – All Purpose flour works well here. If you use cake or bread flour the crust may have unfavorable results.
50 grams Sugar – white granulated sugar is best in this recipe.
110 grams Butter – Use a quality butter with a higher fat percentage than standard American butter if you can find it. I recommend something above 82% fat (I use 82.5% fat butter for both my sweet and savory tarts).
1 large Egg Yolk
1 tbsp Milk
5 grams Vanilla Powder – if you want to use vanilla extract instead then measure out just a teaspoon.
1/4 tsp Salt
How To Make Pate Sucree Dough
Add all your dry ingredients (flour, sugar, vanilla powder, salt) to the bowl of a stand mixer and let combine. You can also do this with a whisk as it all combines pretty easily.
Next add in the butter and let run until you have a crumbly, sandy mixture. If you squeeze the mix together with your fingers it will press together, but will fall apart quickly. You want your butter to be colder than room temperature, but it does not need to be super chilled like many American pie crust recipes.
Finally add in the egg yolk and milk. Run the machine until you have a clumpy, almost cookie-dough consistency mix. In fact, pate sucree does make pretty decent sugar cookies if you wanted to do cut-out shape cookies to decorate with kids.
Remove the pate sucree dough from the mixer and form into a ball. Place in a bowl and cover with a lid or plastic wrap. Then place the bowl in the fridge to chill for a couple hours.
Baking Tart or Tartelette Shells
When your dough is sufficiently chilled (cold but not rock hard) remove it from the bowl and place it on a floured surface. Use a rolling pin to flatten it out to about a third of a centimeter (about 3-4mm).
If you are making a large single tart you will want to make the entire sheet quite uniform with no cracks or lumps. However if you are making tartelettes then you can divide the dough into smaller pieces which are easier to roll out.
Press the dough into your tart mold so it is firmly compacted into shape. Then run a thin knife all along the edge to remove excess dough. I like to do this step already on my silicone baking mat so there is little movement.
Dock (poke holes) into the bottom of the tart and place the tray in the freezer for 15 minutes. Preheat your oven to 180C.
Place the tray in the oven and bake for 25 minutes. Because we froze the dough a bit before baking, you do not need to blind bake or use pie weights. Your crust should remain flat and even, and just barely pull away from the mold when it is done. Set aside and let come completely to room temperature before adding the filling.
While this pate sucree recipe is for a lemon tart, you can use the same shell for other pastries like a chocolate tart or fresh berry tartelettes.
Making The Lemon Tart Filling
A lemon tart is surprisingly easy to make, and it’s mostly because the filling can be done in one pan. After preparing all your ingredients, it is almost impossible to mess up.
Lemon Custard Ingredients
120 ml Lemon Juice – freshly squeezed
3 large Eggs
3 Egg Yolks – don’t throw away the whites if you are against food waste. You can use them in things like cocktails, or delicious amaretti cookies.
1 tbsp Lemon Zest – this is about the zest of one lemon.
150 grams Sugar – white, granulated sugar works fine here.
180 grams Butter – room temperature, cut into cubes.
The first thing to do is to preheat your oven to 175C or 350F. Then add all of your ingredients except the butter directly to a pan and whisk it all up into a runny paste/liquid.
Place the pan on medium-low heat and add the butter. Whisk constantly until the butter is melted and the consistency is that of a viscous liquid. This should take about 5 minutes, but be careful to not overcook the custard. Some small bubbles along the edge are fine as you whisk, but do not let it come to a heavy boil.
Pour the lemon custard filling directly into your pate sucree tart crust and put the entire tray in the oven. Then immediately turn off the oven and let the lemon tart sit there for about 10 minutes. Remove and let sit on the counter to cool to room temperature before placing in the fridge to set and chill.
Let the lemon tart chill completely in the fridge for a few hours so it sets nicely and is easier to cut. Then you can plate and serve it when ready. This homemade lemon tart will stay well in the refrigerator for up to 3 days – although it is unlikely to last that long if you have friends!
How To Serve A Homemade Lemon Tart
If you want to present and serve a lemon tart then you are in luck. It is one of the most simple desserts to beautifully decorate. I like to top mine with some fresh lemon slices, and a dusting of confectioner’s sugar right before serving.
Some other things you can use to decorate your homemade lemon tart are fresh berries like raspberries or blueberries. Mint leaves add a nice color contrast against the yellow. You can make candied lemon or preserved lemon peel to sprinkle on top if you want to be extra fancy as well!
What To Make With Extra Egg Whites?
Because this recipe calls for more egg yolks than the whites, you are sure to have some leftover whites you don’t know what to do with. Here are a few recipes that utilize those egg whites so nothing goes to waste!
Italian Amaretti Cookies – these almond flour and meringue based cookies are a delightful little Italian treat, which pairs perfectly with a shot of espresso.
Financiers – These French cakes go well with afternoon tea, and they use similar ingredients to the Amaretti mentioned above!
Cocktail Foam – Did you know that the foam in cocktails like a Summer on Corfu or the Treaty of Paris comes from an added egg white? Today you can sub in chickpea water or even artificial cocktail foamer, but for the original cocktail foam you’ll want an egg white.
Egg White Frittata – for a lower cholesterol version of a regular Italian frittata you can use only egg whites! In my opinion they make this baked egg dish even lighter than normal.
Pavlova – this traditional Australian dessert is essentially a baked meringue topped with fresh fruit and sometimes jam. The mini version makes a great party dessert to really impress your guests.
Lemon Tart / Tarte Au Citron
- 1 Tart Mold | if making a homemade tart crust
- 1 Baking Tray
- 1 Pan
Sweet Tart Crust
- 150 grams Flour All Purpose flour works well here. If you use cake or bread flour the crust may have unfavorable results.
- 50 grams Sugar white granulated sugar is best in this recipe.
- 110 grams Butter Use a quality butter with a higher fat percentage than standard American butter if you can find it. I recommend something above 82% fat I use 82.5% fat butter for both my sweet and savory tarts.
- 1 large Egg Yolk
- 1 tbsp Milk
- 5 grams Vanilla Powder if you want to use vanilla extract instead then measure out just a teaspoon.
- 1/4 tsp Salt
Lemon Custard Filling
- 120 ml Lemon Juice freshly squeezed
- 3 large Eggs
- 3 Egg Yolks don't throw away the whites if you are against food waste. You can use them in things like cocktails or delicious amaretti cookies.
- 1 tbsp Lemon Zest this is about the zest of one lemon.
- 150 grams Sugar white granulated sugar works fine here.
- 180 grams Butter room temperature cut into cubes.
Pate Sucree Tart Crust
- Add the flour, salt, sugar, and vanilla powder to the bowl of a stand mixer. Quickly whisk together.
- Add the butter and beat until you have a crumbly, sandy mixture.
- Add the eggs and milk and mix until you have a grainy, sugar cookie style dough. Remove from the mixer and place into the fridge to chill. Note: if your kitchen is very cold you might not need to chill the dough and you can go right on to the next step.
- Roll out your dough to about 1/3cm thickness. Drape it into your tart mold on a baking tray and press the dough into the sides so it is evenly shaped. Poke holes on the bottom with a fork. Place tray in the freezer for 15 minutes. Preheat your oven to 175C or 350F
- Place tray in the oven and bake for 25 minutes. Remove and let cool completely before adding any filling.
Lemon Tart Filling / Homemade Lemon Curd
- Preheat your oven to 175C or 350F
- Place all ingredients except butter in a pan and whisk together. Place pan on medium low heat and add the cubed butter. Whisk constantly until the butter is completely melted and incorporated and the mixture has thickened into a viscous liquid.
- Pour the mixture directly into the tart shell and place the tray into the oven. Immediately turn off the oven and let the tart sit there for 10 minutes. Remove and let come to room temperature before placing in the fridge to set and chill further.
- Do not cut into the lemon tart until it has chilled completely in the fridge. Then cut and dust a slice with powdered sugar before serving. Enjoy!
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