What makes this Lemon Tart so perfect? It’s the lemon curd filling. It’s not too sweet but not mouth-puckeringly sour either, and so custardy it just melts in the mouth. This is a classic French tart that’s elegant and pretty as a picture, yet the filling is as simple as can be: just eggs, sugar, butter and fresh lemon!
🇫🇷Welcome back to FRENCH BISTRO WEEK!🇫🇷
Welcome back to the final instalment of French Bistro Week! 🇫🇷 This is a week in which I’m sharing all the recipes you need to recreate your very own French Bistro experience at home. Here’s the menu of recipes I shared:
Starter: Warm Goat’s Cheese Salad – A classic French Bistro starter. This fresh leaf salad sports nuts, bacon, and pan-fried goat’s cheese medallions that are golden outside and oozing inside.
Main: Duck Confit – An iconic French dish that’s so much easier to make than you think! It’s the ultimate make-ahead dinner party dish for showing off!
Side: Lentil Ragout – A traditional side for Duck Confit, these French lentils are mouth-wateringly good!
Dessert: Today’s Lemon Tart – A perfect finish to the meal that’s not too heavy, this is a tart you’ll find in virtually every patisserie across France.
Today’s Lemon Tart recipe is a classic tart known in French as Tarte au Citron. Endlessly popular, you’ll find it on the shelves of patisseries all across France, and it’s a favoured dessert served at French bistros or even fine dining restaurants. Tangy, refreshing and light, this tart makes the perfect dessert to follow on from decadent and rich French mains!
About this French Lemon Tart
The filling in this Lemon Tart is a brilliantly yellow, beautifully fresh lemon curd that’s completely smooth. It sets enough that you can cut neat slices as pictured throughout this post, yet soft enough that it melts alluringly in your mouth just like custard.
As for the taste, it’s a Goldilocks bullseye: not overly sweet, not overly sour, just right. I found that other Lemon Tart recipes I’ve tried veer too far in one direction or the other. A perfect balance between the two is my ideal!
The crust I’ve used is a sweet French Tart Crust called Pâte Sucrée. This is an excellent master pastry for all sorts of sweet tarts. It’s buttery and not too sweet, and flaky without being so crumbly that it’s difficult to eat with a fork. Bonus: The dough is extremely easy to work with – even easier than Shortcrust Pastry.
Feel free to use sweet shortcrust if you prefer, or if you’re pressed for time just buy a pastry case! Who’s going to know? 😊
Ingredients in French Lemon Tart filling
Here’s what you need to make the lemon curd filling for this tart.
Lemons – We use both lemon zest and juice for this recipe. You’ll need 2 normal size lemons, or 3 smaller lemons.
Butter – Unsalted butter, cut into cubes so it melts more evenly.
Eggs – Eggs are what sets the lemon curd filling into a custard. We’re using both whole eggs and egg yolks. Yolks add richness which gives the filling a nice and creamy mouthfeel.
Sugar – Caster / superfine white sugar is best, for ease of dissolving. However ordinary white sugar will work just fine here.
How to make the Lemon Tart filling
It’s dead simple: put it all in a saucepan and whisk over low heat until it thickens!
Combine ingredients: Put ingredients in a saucepan and whisk together. Turn the stove to a low to medium-low heat. Don’t fret about scrambling the eggs – the lemon juice and sugar dilutes the eggs enough that they’re won’t easily set!
Whisk over low heat: Once the butter melts, it will become a fairly thin and smooth mixture. Whisk constantly so the base doesn’t catch, until the mixture thickens in a pourable custard – about 5 minutes;
Check thickness: The above and below photos illustrate the thickness you are aiming for. Use a spoon or spatula to dollop some custard onto the mixture’s surface. It should hold shape briefly before disappearing. You could thicken it further on the stove but there’s no need. We are going to bake the tart briefly to set it so we can cut neat slices;
Strain: Pour the custard into a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl, and use a rubber spatula to push it through. This makes the filling completely smooth, and strains out the zest plus any rogue lemon seeds, as well as any bits of the filling that might’ve solidified on the base of the saucepan.
Filling and baking
Next, we fill and bake the tart.
Fill pastry case: Fill the tart crust you’re using (here’s the French Sweet Tart Crust pictured). Shortcrust is also an excellent option, else buy one (a single large or 12 to 15 small individual tart cases);
Smooth the surface: This is easiest to do using a small offset spatula;
Bake: Bake for just 5 minutes. Nothing needs cooking here, it’s just to finish setting the custard without getting any colour on the surface. We don’t want to bake it any longer because otherwise the filling will overcook and become curdled and dry, rather than soft and custardy;
Decorate as desired! I’ve used lemon slices, raspberries and mint leaves. I’ve listed some more decorating options below.
Lemon Tart decoration suggestions
A naked Lemon Tart is a bit plain, so I think it’s nice to add a finishing touch, even if it’s just a dusting of icing sugar / powdered sugar. But here are some other ideas – feel free to mix and match!
Raspberries, strawberry slices or other berries – for lovely pops of colour!
Mint leaves and edible flowers
Cream – pipe blobs around the edge
Melted chocolate – a thin squiggle of melted dark chocolate artfully (casually!) drizzled across the surface. Channel your inner Jackson Pollock! Or, a handwritten message if that’s what’s called for … 😂
What to serve with Lemon Tart
This tart is terrific eaten plain (2 seconds after snapping the above photos I was buzzing around the shoot room, cleaning up with one hand and devouring the pictured slice with the other!) When serving people, I think it’s nice to add a dollop of something on the side to complete the plate.
Here’s what goes well with this Lemon Tart:
Creme fraiche – Pictured in post. The uber-rich cream plays delightfully against the zippy tartness of the lemon;
Whipped cream – Lightly sweetened with a touch of sugar and vanilla (use restraint, the lemon tart is the star here!); or
Vanilla ice cream
And with that, French Bistro Week is done! 🇫🇷 I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did creating, photographing, filming and writing about the dishes. And, of course, EATING them!!
Got a request for the next theme week?? Pop it in the comments below! – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
French Lemon Tart – Tarte au Citron
Lemon Tart filling:
- 1 tbsp lemon zest (1 lemon's worth)
- 1/2 cup lemon juice (from 1 – 2 lemons)
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 12 tbsp / 170g unsalted butter , cut in 1cm (1/2") cubes
- 3 whole eggs large, (Note 1)
- 3 egg yolks (from large-size eggs, Note 1)
- Make tart crust per linked recipe, including blind baking the empty tart crust. Allow to fully cool before filling (to ensure it won't go soggy).
Lemon Tart filling:
- Preheat oven: Preheat oven to 180℃/350℉ (160℃ fan)
- Whisk ingredients together: Put all ingredients in a medium saucepan and whisk to combine.
- Thicken on stove: Place the saucepan on the stove over low / medium low heat. Whisk constantly, especially as the butter is melting, to ensure it doesn't split. Keeping stirring until the mixture thickens enough to visibly mound (ie. holds its shape briefly) on the surface when dolloped – about 5 minutes, though it might take longer depending on stove strength, saucepan heat retention etc. See video and photos for thickness guide. Don't take it off the stove until it's thick enough otherwise the Filling won't set.
- Strain into a bowl using a fine mesh strainer.
- Fill tart: Pour into tart shell and smooth the filling surface using an offset spatula or similar.
- Bake: Bake for 5 minutes. It will still be a soft custard when you touch it but not liquidity. It will set more when cooled so it's sliceable.
- Cool: Cool tart fully to allow it to set before slicing to serve. Pictured with a dollop of creme fraiche (a thick, rich cream that has a slight tartness, and goes very well with the lemon tart) or whipped cream and even vanilla ice cream.
- Decorate if desired with lemon slices, edible flowers, raspberries. Else pipe on dollops of whipped cream or dust with icing sugar!
Life of Dozer
Looking très chic, Dozer!