Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The perfect tart au citron (or lemon tart for the rest of us!)

Melbourne has finally had some real spring days - the weather has been warm, fine and sunny, and even the nights have not dropped to frosty levels. 

To celebrate the fabulous weather, and also showcase the lovely homegrown lemons given to me by my friends Christian and Veronica, I made a sunny yellow Lemon Tart by Felicity Cloake from The Guardian, which you can find here.

There is some lively debate in the comments section of Felicity's article as to whether this is a tart au citron at all, or whether it is simply a lemon curd tart.  One school of thought is that a tart au citron must be filled with custard, not curd.  However, Felicity chose this recipe, comprised of a curd and a pate sable, because to her it embodied what a lemon tart should be all about - bright, sharp, lemon flavours, silky smooth filling and a delicate, crumbly crust.  Her filling recipe came from the king of patisserie, Pierre Herme, and the candied lemon decoration was inspired by Jane Grigson's recipe.

Honestly, I don't have any pre-conceived ideas about what a tart au citron should be, and I  enjoyed this one.  It has a heart-attack inducing amount of butter in the filling (300g!), so I probably won't make it again for that reason (there are much healthier alternatives around), but I really enjoyed the smooth silky filling and its tart, unmistakably lemon flavour.  I also recommend going the extra mile to make the candied lemon on top - it is not necessary (as someone wrote in the comments, you don't need lemon on top to know it's a lemon tart), but it is absolutely worth it - the candied lemon tastes delicious and does add to the attractiveness of the tart. I did not blend the filling after adding the butter - I merely cut the butter into small pieces and stirred it into the curd while it was still warm, and it came out perfectly smooth.

The pate sable was the part I had  the most trouble with - I accidentally added the egg white meant for painting the par-cooked crust to the pastry, which probably contributed to the pastry being rather sticky and hard to roll out.  In the end, I was lucky that it was a rather forgiving pastry, as I lined the tart pan as well as I could with the pastry then patched it furiously - and it seemed to work out just fine.

For a special treat, this tart was a delightful dessert.  I took it to dinner with Christian and Veronica so that they could enjoy some of their lemons in action.

I have since found a recipe for Thomas Keller's Lemon Sabayon Tart through the comments on Felicity's post - I might give it a burl next.  What's your favourite lemon tart recipe?