Tarte au citron: Lemon Tart Recipe

lemon tart 1

I’m happy to say that I finally got rid of the two eggs yolks in my freezer. They were packed together in plastic, then again in foil…and of course, quickly forgotten as over the course of the next few months, got pushed further and further back into the morass that is otherwise know as mon congĂ©lateur.

The other morning I woke up, and when I went to get an ice cube for my orange juice (one of my perks–I absolutely have to have an ice cube in my morning jus d’orange), everything came tumbling out. Long-forgotten flax seeds from a batch of seriously-healthy scones I’d planned to make, to six 2-cup containers of egg whites, plus a mysterious little foil-wrapped packet whose name had been scraped off after months of being away by jagged crystals of frost. It was like watching the last six months of baking projects crossing in front of my eyes, with a few things landing near my feet.

tart shell

So there I was, at 7:04 am, defrosting my freezer in my jammies, reliving my not-so-distant past, taking everything out, and scraping out massive amounts of ice for the next hour or so.


In the freezer were two frozen baked tart shells from making Paule’s pastry dough, so I let one thaw and decided to make a tart. After all, making the dough is half the battle. And I’d had enough fighting for one morning; the rest was easy.

Later at the market, I found these lovely unsprayed lemons, which I used to make a quick lemon curd. After I squeezed their juices out (one had remarkably adept aim, btw—right in the old œil gauche), I cooked the juice on the stovetop with lots of the fragrant zest, not too much sugar, those long-forgotten yolks, and poured the warm filling into the gloriously-ready tart shell.

lemons

Because the filling is quite tart, it makes a modest layer of filling, rather than a big pile o’ curd. Which, come to think of it, doesn’t sound so appetizing, does it? I prefer that, because I don’t like overly-rich desserts and you can confidently eat a wedge of tart and not feel bad about it afterward. (It’s the simplest way to cut the calories of a dessert in half; just eat a portion half the size. Simple, non?)

One could pipe whipped cream on it or top it with meringue, although I wanted to keep it pure and bought some seemingly just-picked raspberries to strew over the top. Unfortunately, they were so good, they didn’t make it to the finish and the tart, nor my guests, ever saw a single berry. Gulp!

So I killed two birds with one stone: I got rid of those two yolks once and for all, and used up one of the two tart shells in the freezer. Now I just need to figure out what I’m going to do with all that empty space in my freezer. But I’m sure it won’t last long.
In fact…

lemon tart

Lemon Tart

One 9-inch (23 cm) tart

This makes a modest, but very tasty lemony layer. If you want more filling, feel free to double the recipe; any filling that you don’t use can be spread on toast, fresh biscuits, or scones.

You could substitute fresh lime juice for the lemon and if you have Meyer lemons, reduce the sugar to 1/3 cup (65g). You can use a favorite tart dough recipe, or the one I’ve linked to.

  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • grated zest of one lemon, preferably unsprayed
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
  • 6 tablespoons (85 g) butter, salted or unsalted, cut into bits
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • One pre-baked 9-inch (23 cm) tart shell

Preheat the oven to 350F (180C.)

1. In a medium-sized non-reactive saucepan, heat the lemon juice, zest, sugar, and butter. Have a mesh strainer nearby.

2. In a small bowl, beat together the eggs and the yolks.

3. When the butter is melted, whisk some of the warm lemon mixture into the eggs, stirring constantly, to warm them. Scrape the warmed eggs back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and almost begins to bubble around the edges.

4. Pour the lemon curd though a strainer directly into the pre-baked tart shell, scraping with a rubber spatula to press it through.

5. Smooth the top of the tart and pop it in the oven for five minutes, just to set the curd.

6. Remove from the oven and let cool before slicing and serving.

Related Links:

Recipes to Use Up Leftover Egg Whites

Lemon Verbena Ice Cream

Moroccan Preserved Lemons

Tips for Freezing Eggs

118 comments

  • Thanks, David! I can’t wait to try it again. I’m glad I came upon this blog – it brings back great memories of my year in Versailles where I was inspired to start cooking.

  • Hi David

    I have made this lemon tart many times already, and it seems I will have to make many more since everyone that tries it cannot get enough. Absolutely a great desert! (and I give you the credit each time!)

    The last tart I made the lemon curd came out slightly grainy and tasted a bit “off”. Always before the curd was silky smooth and I am just curious to know why a curd might get grainy like that? I made it on a stove unfamiliar to me that runs crazy hot, so my guess is that I either over or under cooked the thing.

    All the best

    Eric

  • hi Eric: If it’s grainy, you could pass it through a mesh strainer, which usually takes care of that. You might have overcooked it. (Some folks cook fillings like this is a double-boiler, for that reason.)

    if it tastes off, it may be your lemons. Sometimes they just taste musty, so if they have any soft spots (or even green fuzzies) you can’t just cut that off–usually that taste permeates the whole fruit.

  • Hi David,

    How do you store your tart shells in the freezer? Just wrapped in cling film? Do they keep for long?
    Love the blog!

    Thanks,
    Nic

  • Hi Nick: I wrap them securely in plastic wrap, then store them in the freezer (baked or unbaked) for up to one month.

  • Hi David

    Quick question, I have frozen a tart shell and am using it this weekend for a lemon tart but was wondering if its best to defrost in the fridge or on the counter

    Thanks

  • I normally defrost on the counter.

  • hey
    i had a craving for lemon tarts and found this recipe, but my filling turned out bitter! i followed the exact recipe but don’t know where i went wrong!

  • Sumaiya: With equal amount of sugar to lemon juice (1/2 cup of each), I can’t imagine it being bitter. Perhaps there was a problem with your lemon juice, or a measurement error.

  • I just found this recipe and love it. I substituted blood orange and sour orange juice for the lemon and backed off the sugar a bit (I could have backed it up a bit more.) It is delicious, but I can decide if I love or hate the salmony-pink color the curd turned out to be!

  • Great tart, especially the crust method! I used meyer lemons and needed only about 1/4 cup sugar. Mmmmmmmm. And everyone was impressed.

  • I used your French tart shell recipe to make the crust and the lemon curd recipe here.
    I made it for a pre-wedding party yesterday and everyone loved it. Thank you for the wonderful compliments I received thanks to your recipe. I directed everyone who asked me for a recipe to your site :)

  • I made this tart for dessert today using lemons and blueberries from the farmers’ market. It was absolutely delicious; the five of us left a mere wedge on the table! I plan on trying it with lime juice soon as well.

  • Just making this tart right now. I doubled the recipe but put it in for 5 min and it doesn’t seem set. I am going to leave it a bit longer – assuming that because I doubled it for more filling that it should take longer to set?

  • This is the BEST lemon tart recipe I have ever made. The tart shell is so easy to make and wonderfully crisp. The lemon curd is creamy and tart. I have already made 2 this week and they go down a storm!

  • i love this tart i mixed lemon and lime it was DELICIOUS

  • i’d like to start by saying that i’m a fifteen year old girl from albany, new york who loves writing, food, and travelling. formerly a spanish student, i switched to french this year because i found my kindred spirit in a french teacher at my high school. not only do i have a sudden infatuation with all things french, but lately i’ve been totally and completely obsessing over cooking anything and everything, so when i got an english assignment to make a 4 course french meal, i was simply elated. a friend of mine recommended this site to me, and i kind of kept it as a thought in the back of my head. but looking for a tarte au citron recipe today, i rediscovered the magic of david lebovitz. thank you so much for this recipe! i also made your tarte shell recipe and the tarte looked amazing and was simply to die for. it was definitely a favorite amongst the uncultured palets of my tenth grade english class and some of the french teachers even decided it was some of the best tarte au citron they’d tasted. merci monsieur lebovitz!

  • Hi David, I made this tart today and loved it. It’s so refreshing and light. Just to be sure about the instructions… when you say “until the mixture thickens and almost begins to bubble around the edges”, does that refer to tiny foam that gathers around the side of the pot? How will I know when the mixture almost begins to bubble? Thanks for the lovely recipe. I enjoyed it very much.