I’m always wary of posting classic recipes; everyone has strong opinions of what makes “the perfect xxxx”. I have seen a few posts from different people on roast potatoes/mayonnaise/bread and so on that left me infuriated and the last thing I want to do is offend anyone with a classic recipe they don’t agree with.
But still, I do believe I can make a perfect lemon tart so I will throw my lemon and pastry hat in the ring and hope I live up to the challenge.
For the pastry:
- 250g plain flour
- 80g icing sugar
- 125g cold butter in cubes
- zest of 2 un-waxed lemons
- 1tsp lemon juice
- 1 egg yolk
- half tsp salt
- some ice water
For the pie filling:
- 8 eggs
- 375g sugar not too important, but caster dissolves easier
- 250ml fresh squeezed lemon juice (from about 5 lemons)
- 220ml single cream
- Optional: you can add more zest to the filling but i hate finding bits in my lemon custard.
This recipe uses a 24cm thin metal tart case, the thin metal one I’ve started using recently in place of the 28cm le creuset since it seems to blind bake the pastry much quicker without the edges getting over colored.
To make the pastry; You can either painstakingly rub the butter into the flour and salt to the consistency of breadcrumbs, or like me be a deviant and use a Kitchen Aid. I used to use my Kenwood blender for this, but I recently discovered the kitchen aid can do it better! In any case, once the flour, salt and butter are combined, add the egg yolk, lemon zest, lemon juice, and as much water as is required to help the mixture transform into a soft dough. Take the dough out and press into a rough oval, wrap in cling film and chill for around 45 mins.
When ready, lightly butter your tart case and place on a baking tray. Roll the pastry out to a thickness of around 4mm and carefully maneuver into the tin, rolling it around the rolling pin to help lift. Use a spare piece of dough to push the pastry into the gaps at the edge of the tin, let the edges hang over to stop shrinking; DON”T trim the pastry at this point, let it sit happily hanging over the edge onto the tray. Carefully prick the base all over with a fork; try not to go all the way through the base or you may get a damp bottom.
Line this with baking paper, baking beans or normal beans, and bake for 12 mins on 180 degrees. When ready, remove the paper and beans and bake for a further 10 minutes.
During this final 10 minute period, prepare the filling. Whisk the eggs with the sugar. Then, switching to a wooden spoon, briskly fold in the lemon juice, as soon as its combined start pouring in the cream, folding and stirring all the time. This process needs to be completed quickly; the mixture performs some strange textural changes during this time and although I’ve never seen it, I’m convinced it could split/curdle horribly at any second. Once the ingredients are well combined, it becomes a kind of thick, velvety raw custard. Transfer to a jug.
When the pastry is cooked, gently ease the shelf halfway out of the oven and pour in the lemon mixture up the very edge of the tart case. Slide the shelf back into the oven, close the door and turn it down to 115 degrees. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes until there remains only the slightest wobble in the center of the tart. Over-baking at this time turns it into a kind of curd cheese cake.
When it comes out of the oven, neatly trim off the overhang with a bread knife; then allow to cool, but not all the way; Marco Pierre White would bake 2 lemon tarts per day, just before lunch service and just before dinner service. This way they were slightly above room temperature and fresh and fragrant by the time came to serve them. If you have a blow torch you can dust with icing sugar and flame, but I always think this changes the texture and over cooks it (don’t hate me). Serve with a glass of 12 year old Chateau de Monbazillac.