Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Whole lemon tart

There are some days when I've had enough of freelance life. Usually on public holidays when I'm working or when, months later, I still haven't been paid for that work. Then there's not having anyone to share a mid-morning coffee with in my office, which is next door to my bedroom. But on a day like last Friday, when I got up early, made a lemon tart to take to a friend's place for dinner, sat down and finished a piece of work, and spontaneously decided to go for a swim at 11am without having to ask anyone's permission or fill out a form, I remember that it's not all bad. To my great shame, I recently realised that I could probably count on one hand the number of swims I've had this summer. This is made worse by the fact that I live within easy walking distance of not one, not two, but three beautiful Sydney beaches. So I set out to rectify this. 

Like a good splash of salt water, lemon desserts are wonderfully refreshing. This one I particularly love because it uses the entire lemon - every single bit of it (well, minus the pips) - to give a deep, sharp, full-bodied citrus hit. With its darkly caramelised top, and gloriously golden, jammy interior, it distinguishes itself from the usual lemon tart, which quite literally pales in comparison. You'll want to dive straight in.

Whole lemon tart
From Smitten Kitchen (again!), who in turn adapted it from Parisian patisserie Rollet Pradier 

Unlike a lot of other lemon tarts, there's no cream or inordinately high number of egg yolks in this recipe. That's not to say it's exactly healthy - you'll see there's butter involved - but what I like about it is that you can make it with things that are likely already in your fridge/cupboard, and you're not burdened with egg whites and cream to use up afterwards. If you're in a rush, just buy a ready-made shell and fill it, but if you've got the time and inclination to make pastry, then go no further than Deb Perelman's Great Shrinkable Sweet Tart shell (recipe below).

1 partially baked 9 inch (24cm) tart shell (recipe follows)
1 average sized lemon, rinsed and dried
1 1/2 cups (300g) sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 stick (4 ounces, 115g) butter, melted and cooled

Centre a rack in the oven and preheat it to 325 F / 165 C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and put the tart shell on the sheet.

Slice the lemon into thin wedges, remove the seeds, and toss the lemon and sugar into the container of a food processor. Process until lemon is thoroughly pureed and blended with the sugar, about 1-2 minutes. Add in the whole egg and the yolk, followed by the cornstarch and melted butter and process to combine. Pour the filling into the crust but be sure to leave 1/4 inch between the top of your filling and the top edge of your crust.

Slide the baking sheet into the oven and bake the tart for 20 minutes. Increase the oven temperature to 350 F (180 C) and bake for another 15-20 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling, lightly browned and set (it should be slightly jiggly but with no suggestion of liquid underneath). You may need to wrap a bit of foil around the edges if you find the crust is getting a bit too brown. 

Transfer the tart, still on the baking sheet, to a cooling rack and allow it to cool for at least 20 minutes before removing it from the pan. The tart is ready to be served when it reaches room temperature. But if you make it ahead of time, it tastes just as delicious straight from the fridge.

The great unshrinkable sweet tart shell
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen via Dorie Greenspan

This is as good as advertised - no shrinkage when baked. On top of that, it's incredibly easy to throw together and roll out. The dough can be wrapped and kept in the fridge for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 months.

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup icing (confectioner's) sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons; 4 1/2 ounces) very cold (or frozen) butter
1 large egg

  1. Pulse the flour, sugar and salt together in the bowl of a food processor. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse til the butter is coarsely cut in and the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Stir the egg, to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When it's all in, process in long pulses until the mixture starts to clump together. When the food processor slows and starts to make a groaning noise, tip out the dough and pat it together with floury hands. Gather it into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before rolling.
  2. To roll the dough: butter a 9 inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Roll out chilled dough to size between two pieces of baking paper. Lay dough into pan and seal any cracks. Trim the overhang of crust to 1/2 inch and fold overhang in to make sides double thick. Pierce crust all over with fork.
  3. Freeze crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.
  4. To fully or partially bake the crust: centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 deg F. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminium foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust.  Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights - put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 20-25 minutes. 
  5. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Bake the crust about 10 minutes longer to fully bake it, or until it is firm and golden brown. To partially bake it (as per recipe for whole lemon tart), only an additional 5 minutes is needed. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature.



  1. I ate this very tart last Friday night and it has the best, dense marmalade like taste. Very good with some whipped cream

  2. where is the black berry cobbler? from e+c

  3. Hi Alice, Yet another Alice recipe that never fails to satisfy. The lemon filling is so bitter sweet it is amazing. Used non waxed organic and mmmmmmmm is all I can say. Made Raymond Blancs sweet short crust pastry and ohhhh. Thanks Alice so very much.ali