whole lemon tart

whole lemon tart

The hubs and I hosted a Coding and Board games Saturday at our house the other weekend – yes, only in Silicon Valley do such things happen. The hubs did the coding part and I did the cooking part. I wanted to make a lemon tart as I had just acquired a bunch of lemons from a friend who has 2 lemon trees in her backyard. This recipe from Smitten Kitchen seemed simple enough. Best part is I didn’t need to squeeze any lemon juice but rather just throw the whole lemon into the food processor (seeds removed of course).

However, the crust didn’t seem to work out very well for me. Maybe I didn’t chill it enough or was too enthusiastic about using up all the bits of dough leftovers – the crust turned out too thick and not too tasty (in my opinion). It was also a little hard to work with. The filling was very simple to put together but wasn’t lemony enough for my liking and way too eggy for the hubs. On the other hand, I think only the hubs and I didn’t enjoy this tart because it was heartily eaten up by our friends. I guess this is just another case of – food okay but not what I was looking for. I dismiss many “good” recipes because they aren’t what I was looking for. As such, here is the recipe regardless of how I feel about it because it is a “good” recipe and will be enjoyed by some, just not me and the hubs. At the same time, the search for the tart lemon tart will continue…

a slice of lemon tart

Whole Lemon Tart

(taken from Smitten Kitchen; click here)


For the tart shell:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons; 4 1/2 ounces) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large egg

For the tart filling:

  • 1 average-sized lemon (about 4 1/2 ounces; 130 grams), rinsed and dried
  • 1 1/2 cups (300 grams) sugar
  • 1 stick (4 ounces or 115 grams) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons (14 grams) cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt


To make the tart shell:

  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 until the butter is coarsely cut in. (You’re looking for some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas.) Stir the yolk, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses–about 10 seconds each–until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing. Chill the dough, wrapped in plastic, for about 2 hours before rolling.
  3. To roll the dough: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Roll out chilled dough on floured sheet of parchment paper to 12-inch round, lifting and turning dough occasionally to free from paper. You can also just roll out the dough any way you prefer. Using paper as aid, turn dough into 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom; peel off paper. Seal any cracks in dough. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch. Fold overhang in, making double-thick sides. Pierce crust all over with fork.
  4. Alternately, you can press the dough in as soon as it is processed: Press it evenly across the bottom and up the sides of the tart shell. You want to press hard enough that the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that it loses its crumbly texture.
  5. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.
  6. To fully or partially bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375° F. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil (or use nonstick 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 to 25 minutes.
  7. 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, brown being the important word: a pale crust doesn’t have a lot of flavor. (To partially bake it, only an additional 5 minutes is needed.) Transfer the pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature, and proceed with the rest of your recipe.

To make the tart and filling:

  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven 350°F (165´C). Place the tart shell on a baking sheet.
  2. Slice the lemon into thin wheels, remove any seeds, and toss the rounds — lemon flesh and peel — sugar and chunks of butter into the container of a food processor. Process, scraping down the sides of the container as needed, until the lemon is thoroughly pureed. Add the eggs, cornstarch and salt and pulse until the batter is smooth.
  3. Pour into prepared tart shell. It will fill it completely but if due to slight variances in tart pans, egg sizes, lemon sizes or crust thickness, you have too much, do not pour it past the top of of your crust or it will become difficult to unmold later.
  4. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the filling is set. You can test this by bumping the pan a little; it should only jiggle slightly.
  5. Let cool on rack, unmold tart pan and serve.Tart can also be served chilled.
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