Lemon Tarts

Sunday, 10 October 2010

When life gives you lemons, make lemon tarts. They're much better than lemonade! And if you don't have free lemons from life, go buy some. Lemon tarts are worth it!

I gave one of my lemon tarts to a friend once. As I watched him eat, waiting for some compliments, he said, 'It's sour.' I was quite happy, thinking that he liked it, then I realized he meant the opposite. Duh? I'm proud of my lemon tarts precisely because they're sour . . . or rather tart, which sounds much nicer. There's about half a lemon in each small tart!

Why have lemon anything if you can't taste the lemon? I find the lemon tarts sold in Singapore way too sweet and not at all tart or lemony. In other words, wimps! Now France is where they know how to make a proper tarte au citron. There, in just about every patisserie, you can find silky smooth sunshine yellow tarts that give you a lemon high and make your eyes spring wide open with a 'Ding!' Or maybe 'Ooh la la!'

The best thing about homemade lemon tarts is the homemade lemon curd. Lemon curd eaten on the day it's made has a tartness that's really refreshing. After resting in the fridge for a night, the tartness mellows, and the curd becomes less sharp and more rounded. I like it both ways. Either is miles better and fresher than store bought ones made god knows how many moons ago.

Today's recipe might look rather lengthy but I swear making lemon tarts doesn't take long. 15 minutes to get the tart shells in the oven (no resting needed) and whilst they're baking, another 15 minutes to make the curd. If you can't wait, cool the curd in an ice bath for 5 minutes. Another 5 minutes to assemble, garnish and unmould. 40 minutes, tops. Great use of 40 minutes, I think. One warning though: these tarts are really tart. As my friend said, they're lemon tarts for lemon fiends!

(Recipe for 4 tarts 10 cm wide)
Pastry (this is also sufficient for one 23-cm tart)
90 g unsalted butter
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp water
1 tbsp sugar
⅛ tsp salt
150 g plain flour (1 slightly rounded cup)
Lemon curd (scale up by 50% for one 23-cm tart)
50 g unsalted butter*
100 g sugar (½ cup)
105 g lemon juice (7 tbsp) from 2-3 lemons, or less if you're not a lemon fiend
2 eggs, chalazea (white bits attached to egg yolks) removed with chopsticks
½ tsp corn flour
1 tsp grated lemon zest
Garnish (optional)
4 thin slices lemon, 4 pinches lemon zest (curls or grated), or gold flakes (if money is no object)

* I like to use Petit Normand (available at Phoon Huat). It's quite useless for baking and spreading 'cause it's tasteless. But the tastelessness is great for lemon curd. President is too rich (might be ok if the amount used is reduced but I haven't tried); Anchor, Kerrygold and SCS somehow give the curd an acrid taste.

To make tart shells, preheat oven to 210°C (410°F). Put all ingredients except flour in a pot. Over medium heat, stir till colour darkens around the edges, about 5 minutes. Turn off heat. Tip flour into pot. Stir till thoroughly mixed.

When cool enough to handle, divide dough between tart moulds with removable bottoms, using about 60 g per mould. Reserve a small piece for patching up cracks after baking. Pat and press dough to form a thin, even layer. Bake till golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and patch up cracks if any. Flatten some reserved dough as much as possible between fingers. Press gently over holes for a few seconds once tarts are removed from oven. It would be hot but tolerable.

To make lemon curd, heat butter, sugar and lemon juice in a non-reactive pot till melted. Slowly add mixture to eggs whilst stirring eggs with a spatula. Add cornflour and lemon zest. Stir till evenly mixed. Put mixture in pot. Heat using lowest setting possible, holding pot so that only half is on the stove. Keep scraping sides and bottom whilst stirring. If eggs start curdling, remove pot from stove. Keep stirring/scraping. Heat again after cooling down a bit. Curd is ready when it coats spatula, about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust with a bit of sugar or lemon juice if necessary. Remove from stove. Continue stirring to dissipate residual heat, 2-3 minutes.

To assemble, divide lemon curd between pastry shells. Level and smooth top. Decorate with lemon zest, lemon slices or gold flakes (if life had given you strawberries instead of lemons). Cover (to prevent skin from forming) till curd is fully set, 10-15 minutes. Unmould and serve. Or keep chilled and covered in the fridge till ready.

When unmoulding, bottom of tart must always rest on a flat surface. Do not attempt to hold unmoulded tart in your hands. It would just crumble to bits – like mine.

To store, keep assembled tarts chilled for up to 2 days. Beyond that, curd may weep and soften pastry. Filling and shells may be kept separately and assembled just before serving. However, curd would have set so there wouldn't be a 'mirror effect' unless it's glazed.


What to cook today said...

yummm....!!! lemon makes my mouth waters! I gotta bookmark this recipe. It seems "easy" but I"m not so much of a baker.

KT said...

Well, there's about 10 minutes baking for a small tart shell. Not exactly heavy duty baking!

Genevieve Ngui said...

Hey KT...i have homemade lemon curd in my fridge..and all i have to do is make the shells and i will have lemon tarts:)so do i wait for the shells to cool off first before i put in the curd...and do i have to eat them immediately?my moulds are 16 cm.

KT said...

Hi Genevieve

Lemon tarts should be ok kept for a couple of days, chilled, if the lemon curd is fresh. Stale lemon curd weeps, and the water would make tart shells soggy. But even then, the tarts should be ok for at least several hours.

Fill tart shells after they have cooled substantially. Otherwise, the heat may cook the lemon curd, especially if the curd is at room temperature.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I tried to make the pastry today, what is the texture supposed to be like? mine was very very sticky and i found myself having to add much more flour to make it easier to work with. the outcome was super crumbly too. it was practically impossible to get out of its mould. is this correct? where did i go wrong?

KT said...

Hi hi

You didn't boil the butter mixture long enough. There was too much water, so the dough was sticky. Done correctly, the dough should not stick at all, either to the pot or your hands. On the other hand, if the butter mixture is overcooked, the dough would be dry and crumbly, and it would break easily when you shape it.

If you have weighing scales, it's easy to get it just right. Weigh the butter mixture together with the pot, then boil till the weight is reduced by 45 g (a few grams more or less is ok), which is the weight of the 3 tbsp water added. If you don't have scales, you'd have to use the change in colour as a guide. The cooking time would vary depending on the strength of the heat and the shape of your pot.

Click here for photos and lots of feedback on the dough recipe.

The pastry is very crumbly (which is why it is nice to eat). It should be made with tart moulds that have removable bottoms, and given time to firm up before unmoulding. Even then, I just remove the side and chicken out of removing the bottom unless the tart is chilled. If you need to transport the tart, definitely do it unmoulded. In fact, keep it unmoulded until you want to eat it.

You can also use 6-cm aluminium foil moulds. The baked pastry pulls away from the foil, and can be lifted without crumbling because it's very small and light. Bigger ones would be too heavy. Metal moulds without removable bottoms would be impossible to unmould.

Hope you try the recipe again. It is very good and very easy. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

wow, thanks for the detailed help! what i did was i added flour until it became easier to work with. the pastry was still very crumbly and yummy (was just very difficult to work with). the lemon curd was just how i liked it too. tangy and tart enough. i just left it in the mould and ate from it :P it was still extremely delicious. thanks for the link, now i know what it's supposed to look like... lol. even though my pastry wasn't how it's supposed to be i still love the recipe. i will definitely try this again and perfect it! thanks for your help!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the pastry recipe. I add passion fruit to my lemon curd sometimes when they are available. Do you have a recipe for lemon slice or that lemony slice they sell in Cedele?I love lemon pastries with my coffee.
Love your cat pictures esp. the boxing gloves. I have a male longkang cat.

KT said...

Lemon slice? Just pour lemon curd on prebaked shortcrust pastry and bake till set? Cedele's is not bad; would like it more if it weren't so bitter. They probably use the entire lemon rind, including the pith.

CS said...

Hey,KT I know this is unrelated to this post but I have been testing other recipes of lemon curd meringue pie without much success. The meringue tends to weep excessively. I hope you could post about the science behind to combat this problem.

KT said...

Hi CS, this explains why the meringue weeps and how to prevent it: http://s302.photobucket.com/user/daffdaffdaff/media/recipes/ultimate%20recipes/ultimatereicpeslemonmeringuepie3.jpg.html

Thomas Watson said...

Great recipe, loved by all who have eaten them.

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