A traditional French-style lemon tart with creamy, dreamy lemony filling.
My favorite lemon tart tastes just like a classic ‘tarte au citron’ from Paris. It has shallow sides, a crumbly, sweet, cookie-like crust, and classic lemon curd filling with just enough butter to make it creamy and not too sour. Since the filling is quite rich, the lemon layer isn’t very thick.
This tart requires 2 steps:
- Make the tart crust. In this post, you’ll find not just the recipe, but also tips for making a perfect crust. You’ll need to prepare the dough, then fully bake the crust before filling it with the lemon mixture. If you’re using a store-bough tart shell, you’ll only need to make the lemon curd.
- Make lemon curd for the filling. This post includes many tips on how it’s done, so be sure you read it. Once the lemon curd is ready, fill your crust with it and chill.
The filling is similar to my favorite lemon curd, except for 2 adjustments. First, there’s the addition of heavy cream, which is optional but adds richness and great taste, and you can use up to ¼ cup of it.
Second is the amount of butter. I usually don’t like a lot of butter in my lemon curd, but here it helps to mute the bold lemon flavor, which I find really makes this tart superb. You can cut the butter by half if you prefer, or on the contrary, add more. The butter also adds a thick, creamy texture and the long whisking when adding it makes it light and airy. Instead of whisking the butter by hand, you can use a blender; just add the lemon mixture and blend, adding a few cubes of butter at a time, until completely smooth.
Chill the tart for several hours before serving or the curd will be too runny. After enough chilling time, the lemon curd will firm up, making it easier to cut through the pie.
An interesting and delicious option is to add basil to the lemon curd. Add ½ cup packed fresh basil leaves along with the sugar, eggs, and other ingredients, and let them cook together. You’ll discard the leaves upon sieving the mixture through a strainer.
You could top the tart with meringue, whipped cream, or berries if you want, but it’s just as good as is.
- 1 fully baked tart crust
- 2 large eggs, plus 2 egg yolks (or 3 whole eggs)
- ¾ cup (150 g/5.3 oz) granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- ½ cup (120 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice (2-3 lemons for both zest and juice)
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream, optional
- ½ cup (1 stick/115 g) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- To make the lemon curd: In a medium heatproof bowl, place eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and heavy cream and whisk to combine. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (bain-marie). Cook on moderate heat, whisking constantly, until mixture becomes thick (mine was ready in 10 minutes, but it can take up to 20). If you have a thermometer, it should register 170F/75C; otherwise, it should coat the back of a wooden spoon and leave a clear pass if you run your finger through it. The curd will thicken more once cooled.
- Remove from heat and immediately strain mixture through a sieve. Add butter, a few cubes at a time, and whisk until completely melted and incorporated, and mixture is smooth. Take your time with it—the whisking makes for an airy and light texture. Allow to cool to room temperature before filling the tart. (Lemon curd can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week, or can be frozen for up to 2 months. To thaw, place overnight in the fridge. Whisk the mixture to smoothen it before using.)
- Fill the tart shell with lemon curd, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours until chilled. Serve with berries and whipped cream if you like. The tart is rich, so cut your servings small.