This is my interpretation of the classic French ‘tarte au citron’ or better known as a lemon tart. A relatively easy tart to make ingredient and method wise but oh so difficult to get everything perfect.
There are a couple of things which make the tart tricky:
1. The short-crust pastry used for this tart, is very short – meaning it will shrink, so plan for it.
2. The custard filling needs to be cooked low and slow, so it remains yellow and vibrant – not really that difficult.
It is ideal at this time of year to awaken the senses after the dark, gloomy months of winter and best of all there should be hundreds of lemons ripe for the picking all over Australia at this time of year. I’m sure if you don’t have a lemon tree, one of your neighbours is certain to and won’t mind giving you a few to make this delicious tart.
Make 8 – 12 serves (depending on slice width)
Ingredients – pastry
1 cup plain flour (sifted)
75 grams butter (cut into cubes)
20 grams sugar
zest of one lemon
juice of half a lemon
Ingredients – filling
250 grams sugar
200 ml cream (I prefer thickened, but standard is fine)
200 ml lemon juice
1. Place flour, butter and sugar into a food processor and blitz for a few seconds so it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
2. Add the egg and the lemon zest and blitz again.
3. Then add the lemon juice, a little at a time until the mixture comes together.
You need to be careful, depending on the size of the lemon you may been more or less than the juice of half a lemon. You want the mixture to come together but not be too wet.
4. Bring the dough together and form into a flat disc. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
5. Grease a 25 cm flan tin (one with a removable bottom) with some butter and dust with some plain flour. Once pastry is chilled, remove from the fridge and place on a lightly floured surface. Gently roll the pastry with a rolling pin, turning it as you go both clockwise as well as upside down, so you get an even 1 to 2 mm thick sheet of pastry formed into a rough circle.
6. Using the rolling pin, if necessary, lift the pastry over the flan tin and centre it roughly.
7. Gently, push the pastry into the base of the tin as well as the fluted sides, be sure to leave excess pastry over the edge of the flan case.
I never cut the pastry flush with the edge of the flan case, when making this tart, instead I let the excess pastry overhang the flan tin so as to compensate for the shrinking that will occur, whilst baking. Then simple trim the edge after baking.
8. Place the flan onto a baking tray and return it to the refrigerator to chill for at least 1 hour.
9. When ready to bake the shell pre-heat an oven to 180° C. Prick the base of the tart pastry with a fork and then cover with a sheet of baking paper which you then weigh down with baking beads, weights or even some rice.
10. Place into the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Then remove from oven and remove the baking weights used to hold the pastry base flat. Return to the oven and bake for a further 10 – 15 minutes until it is lightly golden brown all over.
If the base is not lightly golden then your final tart will have a soggy bottom.
11. Remove from the heat and then brush the surface of the pastry with a little whisked egg white before returning it to the oven for 1-2 minutes of further cooking. The egg white will help seal the pastry and keep it crisp once the custard filling is added.
12. For the filling, whisk the eggs and sugar together for 2-3 minutes, then add the cream and whisk again before adding the lemon juice and whisking for one final time.
13. Turn the oven down to 140° C and then strain the custard mixture through a fine sieve to remove any large particles.
14. Pour the custard gently into the par-baked flan shell and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes. The tart is cooked when the surface seems solid and especially at its most central point.
15. Once cooked remove the tart from heat and allow it to cool in the flan tin for 1 hour before attempting to remove the outer metal case. Then place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to chill before serving.
16. To serve dust the tart surface with icing sugar, cut into slices and serve with some Chantilly cream.