Who doesn’t like a good slice of tarte au citron? The buttery, flakey pastry with the rich, sweet and tangy wobbly middle. Pour some double cream over a big slice and that’s me done. I’ll tuck myself away in a corner for a few minutes so no stray forks can interfere, while I enjoy every last morsel.
But despite there being a few decent shop bought alternatives out there, home made is definitely preferable. Having never made one before, I set out to do just that on Sunday. What I didn’t realise was just how long the process is – I completely understand why people shove one in their supermarket trolley. Not only is it 10 times quicker, it’s also around the same price. But nothing compares to home made (if done well of course) and it is oh so satisfying to see the golden pastry and wobbly lemony filling come out of the oven almost perfect.
I got my recipe from Lindsey Bareham, who wrote a piece about the delightful dessert after being inspired by Marco Pierre White’s 1987 ‘Harveys’ version, back when he was head chef. However, it wasn’t Marco that introduced us Brits to the queen of tarts, it was no other than the Roux brothers at the beginning of the 80’s. Who better to introduce this than the masters of pastry themselves. I have tried the tart both cold and at room temperature and I definitely prefer the latter. The flavours shine out more – but you can always add a drizzle of cold double cream.
If you’re thinking of making a dessert soon, I can’t recommend this enough. But it’s not for the time conscious. This dessert is one that needs love, care, attention and a good few hours. I thoroughly enjoyed my therapeutic time in the kitchen, but I enjoyed my slice smothered in cream much more.
Serves 6 to 8
Prep 35 min plus 1 hr chilling
Cook 1 hr plus 1 hr cooling
For the pastry:
250g plain flour plus extra for dusting
Pinch of salt
150g butter plus an extra knob, cubed
75g icing sugar
1 egg yolk
For the filling:
4 large unwaxed lemons
5 large eggs
150g caster sugar
200ml double cream
For the pastry:
1. Sift the flour into a mixing bowl with the salt
2. Add the butter and rub it into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs
3. Sift the icing sugar over the crumbs and mix
4. Lightly whisk the whole egg and egg yolk and add to the crumbs
5. Bring everything together and knead slightly. You can add more flour if needed
6. Form into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and chill for 1 hour
7. Heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4
8. Grease a 22cm by 2.5cm deep flan ring with the knob of butter and dust with flour. Shake the excess flour out and place on a baking tray, lined with a baking sheet
9. Dust a work surface with flour and roll out the pastry to make a 28cm circle
10.Roll the pastry over the rolling pin and place over the prepared flan ring, pressing to neatly line the ring, leaving a 1cm overhang
11.Roll your rolling pin over the flan case to cut off the excess. Cover with graseproof paper and fill with ceramic baking beans. Bake for 20 minutes
12.Separate one of the eggs required for the filling and lightly whisk the egg white with 1 tbsp water. Paint the cooked pastry case with beaten egg white to seal. Plug any holes with leftover pastry. Return to the oven, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Lower heat to 150C/gas mark 2.
1. Juice the lemons through a sieve to make approx 175ml and stir in the zest
2. Whisk 4 eggs and the reserved egg yolk with 150g caster sugar, continuing until the sugar disappears
3. Lightly whip the cream and stir it into the eggs. Add the lemon juice and zest.
4. Pour the filling into the pastry case and bake for 45-60 minutes until the tart is just set but still slightly wobbly in the middle.
5. Leave to cool for an hour before removing from the tin
6. Dust with icing sugar and serve with double cream!