Lemon Cream Tarts - for Your Valentine

January sees me off to the West Coast to visit with my son and daughter in law who live in San Francisco. A trip to the city is incomplete without a stop at my favorite bakery - Tartine. located in the Mission district. The lines form early for this wonderful shop and the pasties are all works of art. Fortunately for my customers, Tartine published a cookbook two years ago and the Lemon Cream Tart has become a standard offering at Loree's Catering. For beginners, let me assure you this is not a difficult recipe- just a few steps for both the crust and the filling . If you are pie crust handicapped, this sweet tart dough should put you at ease. The dough is easy to work with and any leftover scraps can be rolled into great sugar cookies or frozen to be used at a later date.

The filling is my favorite - a smooth lemon taste without any zest in the recipe. Because it is made without any cream you can actually freeze this filling and use it as needed. The addition of the butter at the end of the recipes, unlike adding it at the beginning for lemon curd, creates the wonderful creamy texture that I truly prefer. The assembled tart hold well overnight so if you want to minimize the stress of your Valentine dinner ,prepare it on the 13th and set it out as the finishing touch to your meal. As you can see from the photo above, you can top the tarts with a dollop of whipped cream or an arrangement of fresh fruit-either way the taste of the lemon cream is sublime. One note- to make this recipe you do need an immersion blender  or a stand up blender, a candy thermometer to control  the temperature while cooking the filling, tart pans with removable bottoms and a bowl that will snugly fit on top of a saucepan to create your own double boiler.

Sweet Tart Dough
1 Cup + 2 Tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
1 Cup sugar snugly 
3 1/2 Cups all purpose flour

Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter sugar and salt. Add one egg and combine. Add remaining egg. Add flour all at once and mix on low speed only until combined.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and divide it into 4 balls the same size. (I have a scale and I take the time to weigh the dough but you can do it by eye and still get consistent results) Flatten each ball into a disc and wrap each disc in saran. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

For individual tarts, remove one  ball from refrigerator and on a lightly floured board  roll out the dough to 1/8" thick. Cut  3 individual circles 1 ½ inches wider than your tart pans and gently lift each circle into your form. Gently push the dough into the corners and up the sides.being careful not to stretch the dough as you work, You will have dough left over on the top of each tart. Take your rolling pin and gently run the rolling pin across the top of the tart shell for a smooth  and professional look to the top of your shell.

(If you are making a large tart follow the instructions above noting that each ball will make 1 9" tart. You need to roll the ball into an 11" circle for the 9" pan. )

Place the tart shells on a cookie sheet and with the tings of a fork, poke holes in the bottom of the crust. Refrigerate the crusts for 15-30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 325°F.
Bake small tart shells 5-7 minutes -rotate the pans and bake 4-5 minutes more.For  large shells bake 7-10 minutes-rotate the pans and bake 4-5 minutes more. Note oven temperatures may vary- the shells should be golden in color and look dry but not brown.
Let cool until cream is ready for filling.

Lemon Cream-this recipe make enough to fill two large or twelve small tarts.
½ Cup(s) + 2 tbsp lemon juice (5 oz)
3 Large eggs
1 Large egg yolk
¾ Cup(s) sugar (6 oz)
1 Cup(s) cold unsalted butter( 8 oz) (two sticks)

  1. Pour one inch of water into a 2 quart saucepan and bring to a simmer. Combine lemon juice, eggs, egg yolk and sugar in a stainless bowl and set over simmering water. Whisk the ingredients together and cook until mixture becomes very thick and registers 180 on a  candy thermometer- this will take at least 10-12 minutes . (my mixture usually only reaches 175)
  2. Meanwhile cut butter in 1 tbsp pieces. When the cream is ready remove from heat. If you have an immersion blender leave the mixture in  the bowl and add butter 1 tbsp at a time blending after each addition until incorporated. The cream will be pale yellow and quite thick. You can use the cream immediately as a filling for a sweet tart or refrigerate until ready to use (up to 5 days), or freeze up to one month.
  3. If you don't have an immersion blender, place egg- lemon mix in a stand up blender and add butter one piece at a time as above. When all the butter is incorporated you are ready to fill your tart shells.
Posted on January 24, 2013 .