In Arizona, it’s almost time for our gorgeous aromatic citrus trees (including lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruit) to begin producing. You can smell the luscious scent of their leaves in the air now. One of my favorite desserts to make once the citrus comes fully into season is a lemon tart. The sweet, cookie-stye crumbly crust, combined with the creamy, rich lemon filling, results in a rich and festive dessert to celebrate any occasion.
CITRUS LEMON TART
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into quarter cubes
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Place the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Mix together well.
- Add butter and using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut into flour mixture until it turns crumbly. Do not overmix. You should be able to see shreds of butter throughout the dough.
- Add egg and vanilla extract. Mix until the dough begins to clump into a ball and feels slightly sticky.
- Form dough into a flat, rounded disc. Cover dough with plastic wrap.
- Refrigerate the disc for at least several hours, or overnight.
- Remove dough from the refrigerator. Allow dough to soften slightly at room temperature for 5-10 minutes.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into an 11-inch circle. Place dough into a 9-inch tart pan (use a tart pan with a removable bottom).
- With a sharp knife, trim the edges of the pastry to fit snugly in the tart pan.
- Cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer until firm, about 30 minutes or overnight. Note: Frozen dough will not shrink as much during the baking process.
- Bake: Preheat oven to 375 F. degrees.
- Cut a piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil into a round shape that will fit tightly against the crust, covering the edges to prevent burning. Fill with pie weights or dried beans, making sure they’re fully distributed around the entire surface of the bottom of the dough.
- Blind bake the crust for 20 minutes.
- Transfer tart pan to a wire rack. Remove weights and foil.
- Using a fork, prick the bottom of the crust in 5-6 places.
- Return tart to the oven and bake for 10 minutes longer, or until golden brown.
- Transfer to a wire rack and allow tart crust to cool.
LEMON TART FILLING:
3 whole eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 2 or 3 fresh lemons) Zest of 3 lemons
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- Place eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and heavy cream in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk ingredients together until well combined.
- Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (or pour mixture into the top of a double-boiler).
- Cook on moderate heat, whisking continuously until mixture becomes thick. Check mixture with a thermometer. It is ready at 170 F. degrees, or when the mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon. Note: The curd will thicken more once it is chilled.
- Remove mixture from heat and immediately strain through a mesh strainer into another bowl.
- Add butter cubes, a few at a time, and whisk until completely melted and thoroughly incorporated. Whisk until smooth.
- Allow mixture to cool to room temperature before filling the tart. Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on top of the mixture to prevent a crust from forming.
- Place filling in refrigerator until ready to use.
- Remove plastic wrap. Whisk mixture until it is smooth. Pour mixture into the tart shell.
- Garnish with thinly sliced lemons.
- Refrigerate tart for at least 4 hours, or until well chilled.
How to unmold a tart from a tart pan: Use a large can from you pantry (my preference is a large 32 ounce can of tomatoes). Place the can on the kitchen countertop. Sit the tart bottom centered directly over the can. To remove the tart pan ring, hold the pan ring and gently pull it downward. The ring will come off easily leaving the tart sitting on top of the can. Once the tart cools, it will easily slide off of the pan base onto a serving platter.