Classic French Lemon Tart
Always a favourite of mine, this tasty, zingy tart makes for a posh pudding and isn’t hard to bake. Some recipes call for the tart to be baked blind (i.e. with no filling), filled with the half cooked mixture and then baked again, but the method I’m giving you is simpler and foolproof and needs only one baking. It also ensures that the filling stays perfectly yellow and not tinged with brown on the top. I can’t pretend it’s very light (or economical!), especially when you realise just how much butter goes into it, but a tiny slice goes a very long way so it’ll feed at least twelve people – or more.
You can of course make your own pastry, in which case any good recipe for sweet dessert pastry will be fine.
As you’ll see, I’ve used the same pretty wafer flowers to decorate it as I used for the Easter bonnet last month. They’re my favourite at the moment!
- 320g ready-made sweet pastry (ready-rolled or in a block)
- 4 unwaxed medium size lemons
- 225g caster sugar
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 1 egg, separated
- 250g butter (conventionally should be unsalted, but I like to use lightly salted)
- Wafer flowers and a little green roll out icing to decorate
- Berries or cream to serve
1. Preheat the oven to 190°C (175°C fan, gas mark 5). Roll out the pastry (even if using the ready-rolled I like to roll it a little more thinly) on a lightly floured surface. Grease and flour a loose bottomed 22cm flan tin and line it with the pastry, trimming away the surplus. Prick the bottom a few times with a fork, then cover with a circle of non stick baking parchment and add baking beans (or coins or something else to keep it weighed down). Bake blind for 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, separate one of the eggs and add the yolk to the others before beating them together. Break up the left over white with a fork.
3. Take the pastry shell out of the oven, then remove the paper and beans and brush the bottom with a little egg white (this will help it not to get soggy or leak when the filling is added).
4. Return it to the oven for another 5 minutes or so.
5. Zest the lemons into a heatproof bowl, then add the castor sugar and mix together with your fingers. Add the beaten egg and the juice of the lemons.
6. Put the bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir well, continuously, until the mixture thickens – be patient: it will take at least 15-20 minutes and needs to reach a texture like lemon curd.
7. Remove the pan from the heat, keeping the bowl over the hot water. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes, then cut the butter into the mixture in small pieces. Stir well until the butter is all melted and mixed in.
8. Scoop into the pastry case and smooth the top. Chill for an hour or two until firm. Meanwhile, roll out a little green icing and cut out some leaves, marking the veins with the back of a knife.
9. Once the tart is set, place the flowers and leaves lightly on top. Cut into wedges and serve with a few berries or a little lightly whipped cream or crème fraiche.