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Saturday, 4 May 2013

Tarte au Citron (Lemon Tart)

I love, love, love lemon tart.  This is something I could very easily make on a Friday night and by Sunday have consumed the whole lot.  There is just something about nipping down to the fridge whenever you feel like it, cutting a thin slice and carefully picking it up by the edge, seeing the wobble and 1, 2, 3 mouthfuls its gone.  Instant sweet fix.

I have only recently started making this fabulous tart and my go-to-receipe has always been Mary Berry's however recently I came across a new version of the 'Ultimate Lemon Tart' by the Queen of Tarts herself Tamasin Day-Lewis.  I have always been a massive fan of Tamasin and her no-nonsence approach to cooking real food so when I saw this recipe in her upcoming book I had to try it.  I will add more about her upcoming book in the footnote of this post.

She states that after years of cooking what she thought was the ultimate lemon tart she wondered how it could be made even better.  The trick, lower heat and slower cooking.  She states over an hour in her recipe, the result, a heavenly light and smooth custard mixture with an almost too sharp lemon taste - possibly perfect I think.

This is my first attempt at this recipe and I am going to blog it no matter the outcome.

So, here we go.  I have simply copy and pasted Tamasin's recipe below. Italics are my additional comments, photos are my own.

PLEASE NOTE: This not my best work, it was a disaster actually, although still eatable! If you would like to make Tart au Citron I recommend my second blog post, find it here.

Ultimate Lemon Tart 

by Tamasin Day-Lews

Serves 10

6 lemons 
I wish she gave an actual ml amount here, my lemons produced 250ml total
9 eggs 

265 g vanilla caster sugar 

300 ml double cream

Make a pâte sablée (sweet ‘sandy’ pastry) with 240 g plain flour, 180 g unsalted butter, 75 g caster sugar and 2 egg yolks (save 1 white for later).  I was tempted to skip this and use my no-fail sweet shortcrust pasty, but I decided to trust and follow along.  This description is very basic for anyone who does not normally bake.  However, all you do is throw everything in to a processor and turn on, leave until it comes together, no water required.  I then rested mine for 30 mins before rolling out.  This is a difficult pastry to roll and line the tin, expect to patch-up!!  Also I had far too much pastry for my 25cm tin (she states 30cm so I expected this) so I threw quite a bit away.


Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/ Gas 5.

Roll out the pastry and line a 30cm tart tin – there’s something about a lemon tart that prohibits one from making it small. Bake blind for 25 minutes then for a further 5 minutes without the beans. All fine here, 25 mins seemed very long at first but it worked for me.

Brush with egg white before you pour on the lemon mixture to keep the pastry crisp. Hope you saved one of the whites from the two egg yolks in the pastry? On removing my pasty from the over I noticed it was getting towards the edge of overdone, the pasty was very brown.  I double checked the oven temp etc so I am not sure if the cooking temperature is too high or the time too long.  I am sure it will taste fine, but just perhaps a little over.

Turn down the oven to 120ºC/250ºF/Gas ½.

Meanwhile, finely grate the zest of two of the lemons, then squeeze the juice of all six and set aside.

Whisky together the eggs and vanilla sugar until thoroughly mixed. Add the lemon juice and zest and continue whisking, then whisk in the cream. Taste it – it should be sweet but teetering on the edge of being too sour. Transfer the mixture to a jug.  The recipe states vanilla caster sugar, I did not have this so instead I added 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract to the mix, on tasting I was slightly worried I had put too much in as there was a strongest taste of vanilla (along with lemon).  It wasn't unpleasant, I guess vanilla caster sugar must have a half decent scent too it (otherwise whats the point) so hopefully I have not messed it up.

As soon as the pastry is cooked, pull the pastry case half out of the oven and pour the filling into it, as high as you dare. Nudge it gently back into the oven and cook for between 1 hour and 1 hr 20 minutes, depending on the depth of your tin.  As with the pasty I had a little too much liquid, however I managed to get most of it in the tin, filling to the top as Tamasin dared me too.

The result should be barely set, wobbly and tremulous; it will go on firming up outside the oven. Remove and leave to cool for at least 20 minutes. Cooked for 1 hour 10 mins, not much of a wobble so maybe could have reduce it to an hour instead.  

Once its cooled drench it in icing sugar to cover any tiny cracks/marks and give a slight sweetness to the top when you eat it.

My overall impression of this tart is not great, I am sorry to say, the pasty became soggy quickly after one night in the fridge (this never happened with my other lemon tarts) and also  an hour is just far too long in the oven, even at a low temperature. I did look up Tamasin's recipe in her Kitchen Bible book and found the recipe to be the same (so much for rethinking it) however the time in the book was 30 minutes not 1 to 1.20 hours.  This was also at the same temp.  I find it very strange why she would say 30 mins in one book (which to me see the right amount of time) but then in the revised new book double the cooking the time.  Surely 30 mins is enough so why add any more.  I feel rather let down by this tart, I really wanted it to be great, but it wasn't.  Friends and family loved it, which is great, but I think I will go back to my tried and tested Mary Berry favourite.  I will add though I am still a massive fan of Tamasin and will continue to try her recipes.

Footnote:  Tamasin is currently writing a new book, or should I say a revised version of her classic 'The Art of the Tart'.  I came across this recipe when I found out she was on twitter and a quick follow directed me towards to this page   Smart Tart will be the new book by Tamasin as soon as it gains enough pledges (I will be adding my pledge very soon).