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Tarte au Citron AKA French Lemon Tart on a cake stand with a slice removed

Tarte au Citron AKA French Lemon Tart

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This French Lemon Tart, or Tarte au Citron, is the most exquisite citrus dessert you’ll ever experience.

With a buttery shortbread crust and a dreamy lemon sabayon, this lemon dessert is a winner!!

 Tarte au Citron AKA French Lemon Tart on a cake stand with a slice removed

Tarte au Citron

Besides chocolate, the hubby loves lemon desserts. I baked up some lemon squares for the Secret Recipe Club this month, and both Bill and Katie gave them rave reviews. Then a few days before we traveled to visit my in-laws, I saw my fruit bowl was still full of gorgeous lemons. I thought a simple lemon tart, or Tarte au Citron, would be perfect. A shortbread crust filled with a luscious, lemon sabayon would certainly fit the bill. Whether you call it a lemon tart, a tarte au citron or lemon pie, this was a terrific treat to bring along on our visit.

Oh.my.gosh. This trumps any and every lemon dessert I’ve ever made or tasted. The buttery crust and creamy filling were an exquisite combination. My sweet mother-in-law enjoys all my cooking, but this one drew extra accolades. And though my father-in-law wasn’t feeling up to par, he ate a thin slice each night. Sweet things weren’t appealing, but the right balance of tart and sweet (and creamy, I must add) went down just fine.

A slice of Tarte au Citron AKA French Lemon Tart garnished with raspberries

Tips for Making a Tarte au Citron or Lemon Tart

With just two components, the crust and the filling, each must be made with precision.

  • The crust recipe is pretty straightforward. Like with a pastry crust, cold butter is utilized so that the crust is tender.
  • Pulse the mixture in a food processor until coarse crumbs are formed. Then add the liquids and process only until the mixture holds together when pinched between your fingers.
  • Chilling the crust before it’s baked prevents shrinkage and also allows any gluten strands which have developed to relax.
  • The filling was adapted from Thomas Keller, and you must make sure it thickens properly during the cooking process. If it’s runny, it needs to be heated a while longer while whisking constantly. 
  • The filling will thicken a bit more as it cools, but it should reach the consistency of loose pudding while in your double boiler. Mine took longer than the original recipe stated, so be prepared.
  • PRO-Tip: Always use fresh lemon juice. The bottled stuff will not not give you the true lemon flavor needed in this tart.
  • I love to garnish my desserts with fresh berries and any kind would work here. See what looks best at the market, like strawberries, raspberries or blueberries.  The contrast of berries with the lemon yellow of a lemon pie or lemon tart makes a beautiful presentation!
  • A little dollop of sweetened whipped cream would push this over the top, especially if you’re serving it for company. If you’re a fan of lemon desserts, you must make this one!
French Lemon Tart garnished with raspberries

Looking for more citrus desserts? This Greek Lemon Bundt Cake is another winner as are my Best Lemon Bars! These Glazed Lemon Scones make a delicious breakfast, brunch or tea time snack. And these Strawberry Lemon Blondies look fabulous!

Tarte au Citron Pinterest collage
Tarte au Citron | An exquisite lemon dessert

Tarte au Citron

A sublime lemon tart adapted from Thomas Keller and Bon Appetit

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Yield 8 servings

Ingredients

Crust:

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 7 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon ice water

Filling:

  • 2 large eggs, cold
  • 2 large egg yolks, cold
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) cold butter, cut into pieces

Instructions

  1. Combine flour, sugar and salt in processor. Add butter; cut in using on/off turns until mixture forms coarse crumbs. Mix yolk and ice water in small bowl. Add to crumb mixture; process until dough begins to clump together. Press over bottom and up sides of 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Trim edges. Pierce crust all over with fork. Chill 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°. Line crust with foil. Fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake until crust is set, about 20 minutes. Remove foil and beans. Continue baking until pale golden, pressing with back of fork if crust bubbles, about 20 minutes longer. Transfer crust to rack.
  3. Bring about 1½ inches of water to a boil in a pot that is slightly smaller than the diameter of the bowl you will be using for the filling. Meanwhile, in a large metal bowl, whisk the eggs, yolks, and sugar for about 1 minute, or until the mixture is smooth.
  4. Set the bowl over the pot and, using a large whisk, whip the mixture while you turn the bowl (for even heating...I didn't do this; just whisked). After about 2 minutes, when the eggs are foamy and have thickened, add one-third of the lemon juice. Continue to whisk vigorously and, when the mixture thickens again, add another one-third of the lemon juice. Whisk until the mixture thickens again, then add the remaining lemon juice. Continue whisking vigorously, still turning the bowl, until the mixture is thickened and light in color and the whisk leaves a trail in the bottom of the bowl. The total cooking time should be 8 to 10 minutes.(mine took a lot longer....maybe 15-20...just make sure it has thickened)
  5. Turn off the heat and leave the bowl over the water. Whisk in the butter a piece at a time. The filling may loosen slightly, but it will thicken and set as it cools. Pour the warm filling into the tart crust and place the pan on a baking sheet.
  6. Serve at room temperature or cold. May garnish with whipped cream and raspberries if desired.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1 slice

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 322Total Fat: 22gSaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 189mgSodium: 252mgCarbohydrates: 28gFiber: 0gSugar: 25gProtein: 4g

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