Lemon Tarts


I first had lemon tarts in Paris, and I have loved them ever since. Whenever I go to a bakery, it’s hard for me to choose something other than the lemon tarts. I’ve made them once before, but after having the lemon meringue tart at Bouchon Bakery, I wanted to try Thomas Keller’s version.

Given how complex Thomas Keller’s recipes are, though, I wasn’t ready to go full bore. I decided to just focus on the basic lemon tart recipe, without the meringue topping. They turned out pretty great, and I look forward to the next time, when I go for the meringue, too!

One of the most amazing things about this recipe was the pate sucree (sweet pastry dough). I was surprised by the fact that the directions did not call for any flour on the work surface to roll them out, but I figured that Thomas Keller knows what he’s doing, so I didn’t add any flour. It was the perfect consistency; it didn’t stick at all.  Thomas Keller uses almond flour in his pate sucres to add different flavor and texture to the dough. It’s a fantastic addition.

My biggest difficulty was with lining the tart tins (I used individual ones).  When I tried to remove the parchment paper, the dough stuck to the paper and tore in the tins. I had to add extra pieces and smooth them in, so I’m going to have to figure that out for next time. I recommend making the lemon tart and the pastry dough first, letting both refrigerate for several hours (or overnight), and then baking the tart shells and assembling later.

Lemon Curd

1.8 g silver leaf gelatin (3/4 sheet)
108 g eggs (1/4 cup + 3 tbsp)
108 g granulated sugar (1/2 cup + 2 tsp)
108 g strained fresh lemon juice (1/4 cup + 3 tbsp)
140 g unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, at room temperature (5 ounces)
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon (optional)

Place the gelatin into a bowl of ice water to soften.  Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and sugar together in a medium saucepan.  Slowly whisk in the lemon juice.  Place the pan over medium heat and whisk slowly, until the mixture begins to simmer.  Simmer for 3-5 minutes, whisking constantly, until thickened. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk gently for 1 to 2 minutes to release steam and cool the curd slightly.

Remove the gelatin from the water, squeezing out excess water, and whisk it into the hot curd. Strain the curd through a fine-mesh strainer set over the container of a blender and blend on low speed for a few seconds, then add the butter 2 or 3 pieces at a time, blending until incorporated. Add the zest, if using, and blend to incorporate.  Let the curd cool to room temperature.

The curd can be used at this point or transferred to a covered container.  Place a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate for up to 4 days.  If the curd has been refrigerated and has stiffened, transfer it to a stand mixer with a paddle attachment and mix slowly until it regains a creamy consistency.

Pate Sucree

375 g all-purpose flour (2 2/3 cups)
46 g powdered sugar (1/2 cup  + 2 1/2 tbsp)
94 g powdered sugar (3/4 cup + 1 tbsp)
47 g almond flour/meal  (1/4 cup + 3 tbsp)
225 g unsalted butter (8 ounces)
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
56 g eggs (3 1/2 tbsp)

Place the all-purpose flour into a medium bowl.  Sift in the 46 g powdered sugar and the almond flour into the bowl, and whisk to combine.

Place the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and cream on medium-low speed until the butter is the consistency of mayonnaise and holds a peak when the paddle is lifted. Sift in the remaining 94 g powdered sugar and pulse to incorporate. Increase mixer speed to medium-low and mix for about 1 minute until the mixture is fluffy.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean, add them to the butter mixture, and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds to distribute evenly.

Add the dry ingredients in 2 parts, mixing for 15 to 30 seconds after each, or until just combined.  Scrape the bottom of the bowl to incorporate any dry ingredients that have settled.  Add the eggs and mix on low speed until just combined, about 15 to 30 seconds.

Transfer the dough to a work surface.  Use the heel of your hand to smear the dough and work it together.  Divide the dough in half and form each half into a 4-by-6-inch rectangle, about 3/4 inch thick. Wrap each pice in a double layer of plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, about to hours, but preferably overnight. The dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen up to 1 month.

To roll out the dough, unwrap it and place it between two large pieces of parchment or plastic wrap. With a rolling pin, pound the top of the dough, working from one side of the dough to the other, to flatten the dough.  Turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat (this helps to prevent the dough from cracking while it is rolled).  Roll out the dough in the parchment, from the center outward, rotating and flipping the dough over frequently, to the dimensions needed for your tart pans. [For an 8-by-3/4-inch tart ring, roll to a round about 11 inches in diameter and 1/8 inch thick.  For six 3-by-3/4 inch individual tart rings, roll to an 11-by-16 inch rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick, remove the top piece of plastic wrap, and cut six 5-inch circles right through the bottom piece of plastic wrap.]

If your dough edges crack, tap them with the rolling pan to bring it back together. If it softens, refrigerate it for a few minutes before placing it into the rings. Remove the top piece of parchment, invert the dough over the ring(s) along with the bottom piece of parchment, and carefully lower it into the ring(s), pressing it gently against the sides and into the bottom edges.  Run your hands over the parchment to smooth the dough and force out any air bubbles, then remove the parchment.  Fold the excess dough outwards over the rim of the ring(s). Repair any cracks in the dough. Run your rolling pin over the ring(s) to remove the excess dough. Freeze the dough for about 30 minutes, or refrigerate for an hour.

Now you need to blind bake the tart shells. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Line the tart shell(s) with parchment paper or a large coffee filter, letting it extend over the top of the ring(s). Fill the shells with raw rice, gently guiding it into the corner of the shell(s). Place the tarts on a sheet pan lined with Silat or parchment paper. Bake for 8 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake for 8 more minutes or until the dough is set and no longer sticks to the parchment. Remove the parchment and rice (you can save the rice and reuse it for future blind baking!), return the pan to the oven, and bake for 12 more minutes, or until the dough is cooked through and golden brown.  Set the pan on a cooling rack and cool completely.  Run a paring knife between the top of the crust and the ring to loosen the crust, then lift off the ring.



Fill a pastry bag with a 1/2-inch plain tip with the lemon curd.  Fill the tart shells with curd to 1/2 inch from the rim of the shells. The tarts are best the same day they are assembled.  They can be refrigerated for 4 to 6 hours; remove them from the refrigerator 20 minutes before serving.


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