In nineteenth century France the lemon tart was so revered that it was served to the king as a symbol of wealth and goodness. It is relatively simple to make and so worth it for the zesty lemon tang and creamy custard - a delicious sweet and sour experience that cannot fail to delight your guests. Perhaps this is why it has always been one of the most popular recipes on my website.
For the sweet pastry
unsalted butter, at room temperature, diced
icing sugar, sifted, plus extra for dusting
For the lemon cream
medium organic or free range eggs
lemon zest, finely grated
Start with making the sweet pastry.
In a large bowl, with a spatula or wooden spoon, mix the soft butter and icing sugar to a cream; then beat in 2 of the egg yolks.
Add the flour and, with your fingertips, rub the butter mixture and flour together to achieve a crumbly texture.
Add the water and press the mixture together to form a ball.
With the palms of your hands, knead the pastry on a lightly floured work surface until it is blended
(maximum 30 seconds – do not overwork the pastry or it will be hard and lose its crumbly texture).
Flatten the pastry slightly with the palm of your hand, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes
(this helps the dough lose its elasticity).
Next, make the lemon cream.
In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, sugar, lemon juice and zest and whisk for a few seconds.
Add the cream and whisk it in, then place in the fridge.
On a lightly floured work surface, evenly roll out the pastry into a circle 3 mm (1/8 inch) thick.
Roll the pastry over the rolling pin and unroll it over a 24 cm (9 ½ inch) loose-bottomed tart tin.
With one hand lift the pastry and with the other gently tuck it into the bottom edge of the tin so that it fits tightly. Be careful not to stretch it.
Cut off excess pastry by rolling the pin over the top edge of the tin. Take a small ball of pastry and gently press it all around the base of the tart to ensure a snug fit.
Prick the base of the pastry all over with a fork and refrigerate for 30 minutes (this helps prevent shrinkage during cooking).
Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 160°C/ 325°F/Gas Mark 3.
Now cook the pastry.
Line the pastry case with aluminium foil and fill with dried beans, pushing them against the side.
Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and lift out both foil and beans.
Return the tart tin to the oven and bake for a further 20 minutes.
Brush the inside of the pastry with the remaining egg yolk and return to the oven for 1 minute (this creates a seal on the pastry and prevents it becoming soggy when the lemon cream is added).
Turn the oven down to 140°C/ 275°F/Gas Mark 1.
Now to cook the lemon tart.
Pour the lemon cream mixture into a saucepan and warm it gently to a maximum of 40°C (this is to speed up the cooking time of the tart), being careful not to heat it too much or it will scramble.
Pour the warm mixture into the pastry case and bake for 25 minutes, until barely set.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool for at least 1 hour, then dredge icing sugar around the edge of the tart.
Remove the tart from the tin and place on a serving plate.
This recipe is adapted from the book Simple French Cookery
Raymond brings authentic French family cooking to your kitchen. In these simple-to-follow recipes, he describes the basic techniques required to create traditional French food at home. Step-by-step instructions and photography accompany every stage, from starters and soups, fish, meat and vegetable dishes, through to a selection of irresistible desserts.