Traditional French lemon tarts are made with a pâte sucrée dough ('sweet dough') and filled with a creamy lemon curd filling. They are dreamy and reminiscent of lemon tarts in Paris.
One of my favorite tarts is a classic lemon French tart. It's baked in a crumbly, sweet cookie-like crust and filled with a rich and creamy lemon curd. French lemon tarts are delicious as is, but sometimes I enjoy adding a bit of meringue for presentation or fresh seasonal berries for color.
These lemon tarts are easy to make. Typically, I make the pâte sucrée dough the day before to allow the gluten in the dough to rest overnight. The same day that I serve the tarts, I make the lemon filling early in the day and fill the tarts about an hour before serving. It's a beautiful recipe to make if you are hosting a dinner party. However, you don't need a reason to make these tarts. They are also the perfect anytime treat.
Before you begin
Take out the following baking equipment.
Digital kitchen scale
1 medium heatproof bowl
1 small saucepan
1 fine sieve
1 silicone spatula
Stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment
3 small mixing bowls
1 dough scraper
1 rolling pin
Six 4-inch (10 cm) tart pans or rings
Baking sheet pan
Allow your butter and pâté sucrée egg to come to room temperature.
Read the recipe through from start to finish.
Using whole eggs creates a light lemon filling. However, replacing an egg with two egg yolks creates a richer and creamier filling. For this lemon filling, I have used two whole eggs plus two egg yolks. If you'd like to make an even richer filling, you can use one whole egg plus four egg yolks or you can use egg yolks only (five to six). The more egg yolks you use, the more yellow the filling.
Powdered sugar is used in the pâte sucrée dough because it melts and combines quickly compared to granulated sugar. As a result, you don't have to mix the dough as long, which will help avoid adding too many air bubbles into the pâte sucrée.
The amount of gluten that develops in pie dough depends on the flour type used and how much the dough is mixed. All flours contain a protein that creates gluten (the elasticity in dough) when mixed with moisture. The more you mix the dough, the more elastic it becomes. When making pâte sucrée, you do not want to create a lot of gluten, so mixing the dough slowly and preventing overmixing is essential. Because cake flour has the least amount of protein of all wheat flour, it is used to make this pâte sucrée.
In a traditional pie dough, water is typically used as the binding ingredient. For pâté sucrée, an egg is used to bind the ingredients together for the crust to hold its shape.
How to make the lemon filling
Create a double boiler with a medium heatproof bowl set over a small saucepan filled with an inch of simmering water. To the bowl, add the lemon juice, zest, sugar, eggs, egg yolks, and salt and whisk together. Continue to whisk for about 10 minutes or until the mixture thickens. The lemon mixture should coat the back of a wooden spoon. Alternatively, the temperature should read 170°F/75°C.
To remove any cooked add, pour the lemon mixture through a fine sieve directly into your blender. Allow the lemon filling to sit for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the temperature reads approximately 140°F/60°C.
Add a couple of pieces of butter at a time to the mixture and blend. Continue to add the butter until it all of it has incorporated into the lemon filling. Pour the mixture into a container and place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the lemon filling. Doing this will prevent a 'skin' from forming. Refrigerate for a least 4 hours or until the lemon curd is set and no longer runny.
Tips and takeaways
- You can make the lemon filling up to three days in advance but at least several hours before serving. It's essential to allow the lemon curd to refrigerate for enough time, or else it will be too runny. Once you have filled the tart shells, serving them the same day is ideal.
- For a beautiful presentation, you could top your lemon tarts with toasted meringue (as I have done), whipped cream, or berries. If using meringue or whipped cream, top the lemon tarts just before serving.
More lemon recipes
Make sure to tag me @thesweetoccasion on Instagram and leave me a review below if you make these Lemon Tarts. I’d love to see your creations and read your feedback. And if you would like to make this recipe later, be sure to pin this recipe using the button on any of these images. Let’s make every occasion, a sweet occasion!Print