“If at first you don’t succeed: try, try again.” I’m not sure where that quote originated, but whoever it came from clearly has never tried to create the perfect lemon tart. I can almost see those people pointing and probably laughing at me as I taste tested another round of lemon tarts with utter disappointment. Well, this time, I get the last laugh, because I am happy to report that after many tries, I nailed it. Today, I get to share with you the recipe for the best, most perfect lemon almond tart – a light and nutty almond crust filled with a creamy, tart lemon filling. (Drool)
This all started with a giant bag of lemons and an afternoon peruse through Thomas Keller’s “Bouchon” cookbook. I ran across his recipe for lemon tart (or as Keller and the French call it, “Tart au Citron”), and I thought it may be worth a stab. I had all of the needed ingredients, with exception of those needed for the pine nut crust, but thanks to a lone wolf bag of almond meal left in the netherparts of my pantry, I decided to proceed.
Attempt number one was eggy- and so, so tart. Everything Thomas Keller does is is perfect, so I confess that my lack of skills and palate were likely to blame. Unfortunately, as my husband pushed the tart around on his plate, I knew it wasn’t a winner.
Attempt number two yielded a perfect almond crust but with a filling that was still kind of eggy. I researched and discovered a few things about cooking with lemon and eggs (see notes!), so attempt number three left me with a perfectly tart/sweet lemon filling. Unfortunately, I torched the shell this time around and failed to cook the filling for quite long enough so it still wasn’t right. #humblingkitchenmoments
Attempt number four, as baby bear would say, was juuusssst right. Lemony, sweet, and with an incredibly creamy mouth feel, this was a tart sexy enough to call it by its French name. This was a tarte au citron.
I often receive complements from friends and family about how lovely all my food looks from the 2×4” screen of an iPhone, but what most people don’t know is that behind every photo is usually a failed attempt, a frosting that’s too stiff, a curdled filling, a sink full of dishes, or a scorched mess on the bottom of my oven. Those things aren’t as fun to write about or as pretty to photograph, but they’re apart of the process. If this is ringing any bells right now, take heart, because redemption is almost always just around the corner. This week, we’re calling redemption lemon almond tart.
Read through the recipe, and the notes in particular, prior to getting started. There’s no need for y’all to make the mistakes I’ve already trudged through. I like my lemon tart the exact way I take my ice cream sundaes- with a giant dollop of whipped cream. If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to be sure to whip some of that up as well.
Lemon Almond Tart
A light and nutty almond crust filled with a creamy, tart lemon filling. I prefer this tart served with a generous dollop of sweetened whipped cream and lemon almond crumbs.
- Prep Time: 45
- Cook Time: 45
- Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
For the crust
- 4 ounces (About 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon) of almond meal
- 7.5 ounces (About 1–1/2 cups) flour
- 3 ounces (6 tablespoons) of sugar
- 1 stick (4 ounces) butter, room temperature
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
For the filling
- 1 teaspoon butter, softened
- 2 tablespoons of flour
- 2 whole eggs, cold
- 2 egg yolks, cold
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1/3 cup lemon juice (juice of about 2–1/2 lemons)
- 2 teaspoons of packed lemon zest
- 10 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
For the lemon crumbs (if desired)
- About 1 cup of reserved, uncooked almond crust crumbs
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon of melted butter
To prepare the crust
- In a bowl, combine almond meal, flour, and sugar. Using a pastry cutter or the back of a large fork, cut in the stick of butter until dough is uniformly pea-sized crumbles.
- Lightly whisk the egg and extracts together in a separate bowl, and, using the pastry cutter again, combine the wet and dry ingredients. Only manipulate the dough as much as you have to to make it uniform. Overworking your dough will cause it to toughen when baked.
- Place dough in the refrigerator for about ten minutes while you prepare your tart pan. Dough can also be left covered in the fridge at this point for up to one day.
When ready to prepare the tart
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using your hands, butter a 9″ tart pan with a removable bottom with 1 teaspoon of softened butter. Lightly dust the bottom and sides of pan with flour.
- Using your fingers, press the almond meal crust into the bottom and sides of the tart pan. You will likely use all but 3/4-1 cup of the dough. Trim any excess off the top.
- Bake crust for 20-25 minutes, rotating halfway through, until edges are almost turning golden and the center crust is set. Allow to cool while you prepare your filling. Alternatively, the crust can be made one day in advance and set aside covered.
- Bring a small-medium saucepan filled with an inch of water to a simmer over medium-low heat.
- In a bowl just barely larger than the saucepan, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar.
- Once water is boiling, place the bowl of eggs on top of the saucepan and whisk until mixture becomes paler and slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.
- Add the lemon juice and zest, continuing to whisk all the while. Occasionally turn your bowl to ensure you don’t cook the eggs. Continue whisking consistently until mixture is thickened, about the consistency of a very loose pudding. Your whisk should be leaving a momentary trail behind it as it moves through the bowl and the mixture should generously coat the back of a spoon. The entire cooking process will have taken about 10-12 minutes.
- Turn the heat off, but with the pan still on the burner, add the cold butter, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, whisking until piece is combined before adding another piece. Stir in the vanilla.
- Pour your filling into the tart crust. Place a piece of saran wrap directly on top of the filling and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Tart is complete at this point, but lemon crumbs can be added as a garnish if desired.
To prepare lemon crumbs
- Preheat oven to 350.
- In a bowl, combine about 3/4 cup of reserved, uncooked almond tart crumbs with lemon zest and sugar. Drizzle in the melted butter and stir until small clumps form.
- Spread out on a sheet pan and break up larger clumps to smaller, pea-sized pieces. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until golden, shaking pan intermittently. Allow to cool. Sprinkle on top of tart or on top of each piece along with a generous dollop of sweetened whipped cream.
- Crust dough will be crumbly, but be sure to cover the sides and bottom of your pan thoroughly and evenly. It may crack in the oven, but that’s ok.
- When zesting your lemons, avoid the pith (the white part below the yellow exterior of the lemon). Zesting the whites can cause your tart to taste bitter.
- Cooking time of the filling may differ depending on the type of saucepan you’re using and how large your bowl is on top of the pan. If your bowl is too large, it will take longer to cook the eggs.
- Cooking your filling in some materials can cause your tart to taste metallic or eggy. After trial and error myself, I recommend using a glass bowl and a silicone whisk.
- If you prefer a much more tart filling, add another packed teaspoon of zest to the filling.
- If you like to serve your tart with whipped cream (don’t we all?), whip 1 cup of cold, heavy whipping cream until frothy, then slowly add 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar. When nearly to stiff peaks, add 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Yum!
Recipe Adapted From: Thomas Keller