French Lemon Tart Recipe or Tarte au Citron from Paris

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I recently returned from Paris.  Yes, I know that’s geographically boastful.  But I can’t help sharing some of my experiences with you. It was a quick trip — although  I was able to squeeze in a lot of great food and fun in just three days. Certainly, one of the highlights of my trip was the cooking class I took one afternoon at La Cuisine Paris.   I would highly recommend this quaint English-speaking school that sits across the Seine. There was just four of us in the hands-on French pastry class.  We made two classic French pastries:   Tarte au Citron Meringuee and Tarte Tatin. I’ll share the amazing Tarte Tatin another time.  Here’s how we made the lemon tarts.

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I’m convinced now that the best pie pastry is made with butter. My mom always used shortening when making pie crust, so that’s what I grew up doing as well.  But now I’m switching to unsalted butter (if only I could get that French butter!).  I also typically use my Kitchen Aid mixer.  But there’s something really nice about making the pie pastry by hand, especially on top of beautiful marble countertops.  All of the ingredients are listed below (in metric weights).  I don’t even own a digital scale.  I plan to buy one soon and make both recipes at home very soon, so I’ll share the conversions if you’d like.  Or if you’re a serious baker, then you’ve probably already switched to weighing instead of measuring.

So let’s get started.  Cut the chilled  butter into cubes to throughly mix it into the flour.

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Keep cutting until the butter is in small pieces.

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Once the butter pieces are small and well coated with flour, mix the flour and butter with the tips of your fingers until the mix looks like powder.

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Mix together salt, sugar, egg and water and then pour into a well that you’ve made with the flour/butter mixture.  This is my classmate Nigel from Australia pouring our egg mixture into the middle of the well.

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Here’s what it looks like right before it becomes dough.  Mix all by ingredients by hand until it losing its stickiness.  Although it’s important not to overwork the dough so the gluten doesn’t develop and you’ll end up with tough dough (and dough that will more likely shrink when baking).

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We rolled out the dough until thin, coating the countertops and wooden rolling pin with flour so it wouldn’t stick. We then used our tart pans as a guide to cut a larger circle.  I bought some of these mini tart pans while I was in Paris, so can’t wait to make these at home. The dough was then placed into the mold, nestled in and then we used the back of our knife to trim around the edges.  One step that I often skip is brushing away the extra flour on top.  That’s important, I learned, so the topical flour doesn’t provide a raw taste to the crust.

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The bottom dough was pricked with a fork so it wouldn’t puff up in the oven.  Then we added parchment paper and dried beans to the tart pans to keep the dough in place when baking.  Chill the dough 15 minutes before baking.  The tart pans are baked for 30 minutes.  After they’ve cooled down, remove from the pan.  Do this gently not to break the tender crust.  Ours came out easily — just tip over into your hand, then lower onto a tray.

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For the lemon filling, we squeezed fresh lemons and brought it to a boil with sugar.  In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, egg yolks and sugar together until the mixture is thick and pale.  Add cornstarch and mix.  Pour half of the hot juices into the egg mixture to temper the eggs, mix well, then pour back into the saucepan.  Cook the lemon cream on medium heat.  When it boils, cook for 1 more minute, whisking constantly.  Transfer to a large bowl, add the cream and leave to cool.

For the meringue, bring sugar and water to a boil and cook to 118 C.  When the sugar is at 115 C, start beating the egg whites with a whisk.  When sugar syrup is at 118 C, pour onto the beaten egg whites and go on whisking until the meringue cools down (50 C).    To assemble, add the butter at room temperature to the lemon cream, a little at a time, whisking.  Pour the lemon cream into the tart shell.  Just before serving, pipe the meringue on top of the lemon cream.

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Use a small torch or the oven to get the top of the meringue golden.

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Ta da!  Perfection.

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Tarte au Citron Meringuee

Ingredients

Pate brisee (short pastry dough)
250 g flour
100 g butter
6 g salt
15 g sugar
1 egg
20-30 g water

Lemon cream
200 ml lemon juice
Juice of 1/2 orange
90 g sugar
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
25 g sugar
7 g cornstarch
70 ml whipping cream
36 g butter, at room temperature

Meringue
200 g sugar
50 g water
75 g egg whites

Makes 5-6 tartelettes.

Recipe courtesy of La Cuisine Paris.

For additional inspiration (or for help with U.S. conversion of ingredients) check out:
French Lemon Tart from Food & Wine
Tarte au Citron from Epicurious
Tarte au Citron from David Lebovitz
French Lemon Tart from Saveur
French Lemon Cream Tart from Dorie Greenspan
Lemon Curd Tart from Ina Garten
Lemon Tart from Simply Recipes

 

 

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1 Comment

  • sam

    Wow, this is absolutely beautiful. I am a definite Francophile, even though I’ve never been to Paris. Maybe I lived there in a past life 😉 Just came across your blog and am loving the design, and even moreso the content! Found you in the Chicago Food Bloggers directory. Can’t wait to read more!

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