My mom sent me this recipe from a NY Times magazine. She'd made it for friends and they all agreed it was the best lemon tart they'd tasted (and they've tasted many, many lemon tarts over the years!). It even trumps the one I always ask my mom to bake for me when I visit my parents in the USA. I made it last week for our Ottolenghi class as a treat at the end and we all agreed it was a keeper!
Adapted from “Paris Sweets,” by Dorie Greenspan.
Yield 8 servings
Time 1 hour, plus cooling
1 partly baked 9-to-9 1/2-inch tart crust in a pan with a removable bottom (recipe below)
1 lemon, scrubbed and dried
1 ½ cups/300 grams sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3 tablespoons/24 grams cornstarch
4 ounces/113 grams unsalted butter (1 stick), melted and cooled
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Sweet Tart Crust
Yield One 9-to-9 1/2-inch crust
Time 45 minutes, plus chilling and cooling
This recipe, a trusted go-to, is sweet, golden and more crisp than flaky. Typically French — it’s a pâte sablée — I use the recipe for my whole lemon tart as well as for the less French bakewell tart. I make the dough in a food processor using very cold butter, and while it sounds like culinary heresy, I roll it out as soon as it’s made. Sandwiched between parchment or wax paper, the dough is a cinch to roll at this point — just make sure to chill it before you bake it (better yet, freeze it once it’s in the pan). I also like to partly bake the crust before I fill it, a step you can skip, but prebaking will give you a crisper bottom crust.
1 ½ cups/204 grams all-purpose flour
½ cup/60 grams confectioners’ sugar
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
4 ½ ounces/128 grams very cold unsalted butter (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon), cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
Put the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor, and pulse to blend. Scatter in the butter, and pulse about a dozen times, until the butter is cut in — you’ll have pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and others the size of peas. Stir the yolk to break it up and add it in 3 additions, pulsing after each. Pulse until the dough has curds and clumps; it should hold together when you pinch it.
Turn it out onto a counter, knead it into a compact ball and flatten it into a disk.
Roll the dough into an 11-inch circle between layers of parchment (or wax) paper. If it’s cold enough, fit it into a 9-to-9½-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, trimming the top even with the pan’s edges; if it’s not, chill it until you can work with it. Refrigerate the crust (in the pan) for at least 1 hour (or cover and freeze for up to 2 months).
Heat the oven to 400F. Place the pan on a baking sheet, and cover with a piece of buttered foil or parchment, pressing it lightly to cover the crust’s bottom and sides; fill with rice.
Bake for 20 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and rice. If you're going to bake the tart again with a filling, bake it uncovered for 5 minutes more. Cool for at least 30 minutes before filling.
Method for tart:
Cut the lemon into thin slices, and discard the seeds. Toss the slices and sugar into the bowl of a food processor, and whir for 3 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed, until smooth. With the machine running, add the eggs, one at a time, and then, when they’re incorporated, the cornstarch followed by the melted butter. Remove the bowl, and rap it against the counter a few times to pop some of the bubbles in the mixture. Pour the batter into the pre-cooked crust.
Bake the tart for 45 to 55 minutes, until the filling is puffed and lightly browned — don’t be concerned if the top cracks. If you tap the side of the pan, the filling should seem firm; if it jiggles just the least bit in the center, that’s fine. A toothpick poked into the center — be gentle — will come out clean. Transfer the tart on the baking sheet to a cooling rack. Leave until it reaches room temperature. The tart can be served now or chilled (it will keep in the refrigerator overnight).
Just before serving, dust the top with confectioners’ sugar, if desired.