It would seem that we can’t stop making pastry at the moment, so here’s another tasty treat to brighten up your week and help bring some lovely lemony sunshine!
There’s a million and one tarte au citron recipes around but I feel it’s important to remember the origins of this lovely recipe and searched round for a recipe that I hoped would be the real deal and came across this lovely Raymond Blanc recipe from his wonderful website – if a foodie Frenchman can’t get a tarte au citron recipe right then there’s simply no winning! I particularly like this recipe because of the inclusion of egg yolk in the pastry which makes it gorgeously rich and crumbly and helps to seal it from the very liquidy filling when its first poured into the case.
120g unsalted butter, diced (at room temperature)
75g sifted icing sugar
250g plain flour
3 egg yolks
2 tbsps water
5 medium free range eggs
150g caster sugar
85ml lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
2 tbsps finely grated lemon zest
150ml double cream
Mix the butter and icing sugar in a large bowl to a cream and beat in just 2 of the egg yolks (watch out for this – I chucked all 3 in and had to perform a rescue mission on one that hadn’t broken yet!). Add the flour and rub it into the mix to achieve a dry crumby texture. Once it reaches this point, very gently gather it together, gently forming it into a disc. Wrap this in clingfilm and set aside in the fridge for 30 minutes whilst making the lemon filling. When putting the pastry to rest in the clingfilm, I always place the disc between two very large pieces of clingfilm (big enough to cover the size of the tart tin you are using) as this means that to roll it out you can keep it between the clingfilm, eliminating the need for flour and ensure the pastry doesn’t dry out or become overworked.
To make the lemon filling, mix together the eggs, sugar, lemon juice and zest together for a few seconds, add the cream and then whisk for a further few minutes. Then set this aside in the fridge. Wait until the 30 minutes resting time for the pastry is up and roll it out (between the clingfilm sheets!) until its pretty thin (but with no holes!). Peel off one half of the clingfilm and use the clingfilm covered pastry to gently lower the pastry onto a 24cm (91/2 inch) loose bottomed tart tin, being careful not to stretch it and gently push the pastry into the edges of the tin. I don’t own a loose bottomed tart tin, in fact my bottom was firmly in place(!), so I devised a cunning solution to remove my tart from the tin once it had cooked by folding greaseproof paper into two long strips and placing these in a cross in the tin with a bit showing at each end, as you can sort of see below:
This worked remarkably well (with a little help from Jack as four hands were best for this job!). The picture also shows the slight translucency of the pastry which is a useful sign that it’s not too thick! Prick the base of the pastry with a fork and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to help prevent it from shrinking too much when cooking. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees c/gas mark 3.
Once the pastry has rested for 30 minutes, line the case with foil and fill with baking beans. I don’t own baking beans, as much as I’d like to, so I used dried chickpeas which did the job wonderfully… As pointed out by Cat in her recent Pecan Pie post, once these have been used its best to make sure that they are kept labelled as baking beans as they’ll be rubbish to cook with!! Bake the case for 10 minutes then remove from the oven and remove the beans. Then put the case back in the oven for a further 20 minutes sans beans.
Towards the end of the 20 minutes baking time, pour the lemon filling into a saucepan and warm it very gently – this is an important step to reduce the time the tart needs in the oven (an avoid burnt pastry!). Be very careful not to let it scramble. After the 20 minutes of further baking time is up, take the case out of the oven and brush the inside of the case with the remaining beaten egg yolk, returning to the oven for 1 minute – I was skeptical about this because it doesn’t look so appetising at this point but it creates a great seal on the pastry so that when the liquidy lemony filling is poured in, the case stays good and crisp! Now turn the oven down to 140c.
Once the mixture is warm, pour into the pastry case. This is best done in the oven and done very gently as the mix should be quite liquidy. Bake this for 25 minutes only – it should be barely set when you take it out as it continues to set more during cooling. Then comes the hard part – leave it for an hour (yes a whole hour!!) before eating. I’m possibly a bit hypocritical saying this as we just couldn’t wait and had our first pieces about 20 minutes after it came out the oven but it was too soft and was perfect after a night in the fridge! Once this painful waiting period is over, dust all over with icing sugar and dive right in!