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Tarte au Citron


2010
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I once read somewhere that the measure of a good pastry chef is in their ability to make a perfect lemon tart (or tarte au citron). Not sure if that's true but I guess you can screw up a "simple" lemon tart.

Anyone got a good recipe, hints/tips for making the perfect one?

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Two recipes I can definitely recommend are Thomas Keller's and Pierre Herme's. Between the two, I prefer Herme's, but both are excellent. If you make Herme's, its essential that you use the freshest butter. It has so much butter in it that any off flavors that may have got absorbed into the butter in the fridge will show up. If you make Keller's tart, I recommend that you use add zest to the filling recipe at the beginning, and then strain it back out when you pour the filling into the tart shell. You're going to use ~3 lemons for juice anyway, you might as well use that zest!

Edited by Patrick S (log)

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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A perfect tarte au citron is a great thing! The two recipes I refer to most are those of Francois Payard and Patricia Wells.

The notes to Payard's recipe in Simply Sensational Desserts make two crucial points, IMHO:

- when people want a lemon tart, they don't want "a bowl of sugar." Don't be afraid of the tartness of lemon! The key is the balance between sweet (sugar) and sour (lemon). Stay away from recipes which use too little lemon juice. I always use some zest too, though it makes for a less-than-perfectly-smooth filling.

- a rich, buttery crust, helps cut through a tart filling.

That said, I tend towards Wells' filling, which calls for more lemon and eggs.

Edited by LindaK (log)


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I second the recommendation of Keller's recipe, but confess that I've never made any other version. Just finished up the last one we made on Friday night; the distinctive pine nut crust held its crunch for almost a week and the filling held its tang. Havng one of those things lying around the house is like money in the bank.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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A perfect tarte au citron is a great thing!  The two recipes I refer to most are those of Francois Payard and Patricia Wells.

The notes to Payard's recipe in Simply Sensational Desserts make two crucial points, IMHO:

- when people want a lemon tart, they don't want "a bowl of sugar." Don't be afraid of the tartness of lemon!  The key is the balance between sweet (sugar) and sour (lemon). Stay away from recipes which use too little lemon juice. I always use some zest too, though it makes for a less-than-perfectly-smooth filling.

- a rich, buttery crust, helps cut through a tart filling.

That said, I tend towards Wells' filling, which calls for more lemon and eggs.

I've happily made Patricia Well's recipe from "Bistro Cooking" several times but I have not done comparison yet. I really like her Pate Sable recipe used in that and other tarts. There is some creme fraiche in the filling as well.

I need to try the Bouchon recipe though; it sounds great.

Another one that is different than a typical Tart Citron but sounds very good is the recipe from Joel Robuchon in Patricia Wells "Simply French". The pastry shell is filled with lemon curd and then topped with lemon sections (supremes) that have been poached/candied in a sugar syrup. Finally, the top of the tart is abrushed with an apricot preserve glaze and sprinkled with finely minced candied lemon zest.

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Here's my Tart au citron recipe which I've adapted from Cuisine At Home 2002

A couple of things.

I’ve altered their recipe for a couple of reasons: to give a finer crumb to the crust, to time save on the straining and to make it my own. Obviously, you’ll change it as well to suit your own style.

A couple of things you need to do this:

Pastry blender - unless you opt for making your pastry in a food processor - not the best way to go, in my opinion.

Food wrap - for chilling the pastry

Good rolling pin.

Tart pan with a removable bottom.

Parchment paper cut to match the bottom of the tart pan.

Pie weights - for baking the pastry shell blind

Microplane grater - the flat one.

Heavy bottomed, non reactive sauce pan - for the filling - stainless steel or enameled castiron - very important, because if you use aluminium or cast iron the filling will discolor.

There are a couple of different ways you could go with the crust. I like Pate brisee and not American pie crust - I don't like the taste of shortening. You could always go with a hazelnut flour or almond crust as well though why gild the lily?

This is very tart and if you get fresh lemons from a lemon tree in your garden better than the store bought ones coated with food grade paraffin.

Rich shortcrust pastry or Patê brisée

250 g flour - sieved

4 tablespoons sugar

Pinch salt

125g cold unsalted butter cubed

1 large beaten egg

2-3 tablespoons ice cold water.

Blend the flour, salt and sugar together in a bowl. Add the cubed butter and using the pastry cutter blend until the mixture looks like coarse sand. Still using the pastry cutter, blend in the beaten egg. When the egg is mixed in, add enough cold water so that the pastry comes together in a ball. Flatten into a disk, wrap in food wrap and put the dough in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

While the dough is chilling butter the bottom and sides of the tart pan and put it into the freezer.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees with the rack in the lower third.

Do not neglect to chill the dough, otherwise it will be difficult to handle and will shrink. Take the bottom of the buttered tart pan, flour it and then roll out your dough to the thickness you want on top of it. This will make it easier to handle and even though it seems counterintuitive, it works. Lift the rolled out pastry and tart pan bottom and place in the tart ring. Press the edges into the sides of the ring. Use the rolling pin to roll across the top of the tart ring and trim the pastry.

Take a fork and pierce the bottom of the pastry with it. Place the circle of parchment paper over the raw pastry and then put the pie weights on top. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven, take out the parchment paper and the pie weights.

Reduce the oven temp to 325 degrees.

While the tart shell is baking, make the lemon filling, though it is a good idea to do some of these steps while the pastry is chilling.

Lemon filling

Ingredients

3 whole eggs

3 egg yolks (save the whites to make meringues - which are very easy - recipe at the end)

1 cup sugar

3/4 cups lemon juice

3 tablespoons lemon zest - This is where the Microplane comes into play because if you use if for the zest you don’t have to strain the lemon mixture to achieve TOTAL SMOOTHNESS.

Pinch salt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter - cubed, room tempurature.

Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, salt, lemon juice and lemon zest together in the large non-reactive sauce pan.

Add the butter and cook over medium-low heat, stirring CONSTANTLY. Cook until the filling thickens slightly, but is still pourable. Pour into the pre baked crust and bake in the 325 degree oven for about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. The tart can be frozen, defrosted and served at room tempurature.

I’ve served this with at rhubarb compote, fresh made meringues, chocolate, whatever. It’s all good, but on it’s own is just fine.

Meringues - The basic recipe

I’ve followed both the recipes in Joy of Cooking (1975 edition) and Larousse Gastronomique, but I’ve found a combination of the two gives the best result.

Pre heat the oven to 200 degrees Fah.

Use egg whites that are room tempurature and are fairly fresh. Grind the sugar in a coffe grinder so it’s superfine (DO NOT USE CONFECTIONERS SUGAR! It has cornstarch in it.)

You need a volume of sugar to almost equal the volume of egg whites. Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they are at least doubled in volume and are ‘stiff peak’. Some people add cream of tartar, but unless it’s very humid, it’s not really necessary. Gradually add the sugar, making sure the egg whites don’t collapse. You can add flavouring if you wish. I occasionally use a lavender syrup or vanilla.

Load a pastry bag with a star tip with the beaten egg whites. Pipe small roses/rosettes/etc. onto parchment paper or a Silpat lining a cookie sheet.

Bake for 2 or 3 hours until the meringues are dry.

They will last for several weeks in a cookie tin.

Philly Francophiles

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Hi, this is from the other half of Tarte Tatin, above.

We share the same name on egullet. Probably should have different ones.

Anyway, just my two cents.

He sounds so strict and serious and the recipe almost sounds like he has cooked for a living.

Just to let you know, he hasn't.

He's an at home, happy, amateur; for relaxation cook.

I'm lucky!

He reads cookbooks for relaxation, from cover to cover, and it goes into his memory. He hardly consults them at all after reading it thru one time, like a novel.

P.S. Yes, we have incredible food almost every night of the week; he cooks so well, not just baking...

Philly Francophiles

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This is my first post and I've been struggling with the interface a tad. I was trying to highlight TartTatine#!'s portion of his lemon curd recipe (where he says to cook in a saucepan stirring constantly) for about 15 minutes to no avail - Oh Well :unsure:

Anyway, just wanted to say I find it much easier to make it using a bain marie, especially if you are multi-tasking. It also pretty much guarantees a silky texture.

I know the thread is dedicated to classic tarte au citron but many times I've bruleed it using different infused sugars like vanilla, ginger, lemon, or straight turbinado. Would only recomend bruleeing a tart that was baked for a bit because of the slightly firmer texture.

Any other good finishing ideas?

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I also recommend Thomas Keller's lemon tart. I made it with a plain butter crust instead of the expensive pine nut crust and it tasted amazing. It was very lemony and creamy. I reduced the sugar a bit and added more lemon. American recipes are too sweet IMHO.

Edited by Swisskaese (log)
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First decide - are you in the lemon curd camp or the creamy custardy camp?

This is exactly right. A lot of people love the Herme recipe, for example. I personally am more in the curd camp and found the Herme filling akin to eating lemony butter. The Keller recipe struck me as similar, but not to the same extreme.

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First decide - are you in the lemon curd camp or the creamy custardy camp?

This is exactly right. A lot of people love the Herme recipe, for example. I personally am more in the curd camp and found the Herme filling akin to eating lemony butter. The Keller recipe struck me as similar, but not to the same extreme.

Good points.

I prefer to eat baked custards myself. My favorite lemon tart recipe is from The Roux Brothers on Patisserie, by Michel and Albert Roux, page 90. It was published in 1986 by Prentice Hall Press.

It's:

4 lemons (zested and juiced)

9 eggs

1.5 c. sugar

1.5 c. heavy cream

Method: Use a blind baked shortbread crust. Before your done baking the crust, brush the inside with eggwash and give it a few minutes to bake on/form a barrier. That coats your shell to keep the filling from soaking into the crust, but I omit that and never had any issues with a soft crust. His filling is basicly......just mix together and bake at 300F. I've always followed his dirrections and it takes about 1.25 hours to bake this. Next time I make it I'll definately treat the filling like a brulee' to shorten the baking time.

I'm in the camp that thinks Herme's lemon cream is too buttery. I don't care for it.

I second Payards recipe, I like it also.............I've yet to make Kellers recipe-but I'm dying to try it.

Would someone share the recipe from Patricia Wells, please?

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Wow, thanks for all the responses everyone. I agree with Wendy with preferring the 'baked custard' version of tarte au citron. I also prefer to have a non-bruleed/broiled top to the tarte. I love seeing a beautifully baked lemon tart with a smooth untouched surface. No icing sugar, no whipping cream etc...Simplicity at its best. That's why I inquired about this topic. There are so many variations of tarte au citron. Is anyone willing to participate in a bake-off?

Wendy, do you leave all that zest in the filling prior to baking or do you strain it?

Edited by 2010 (log)
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I'm pondering about Thomas Keller's recipe, can i make it into bite size desserts? like maybe use small cheesecake pans with the removable bottoms to shape the pastry shell, and since the recipe doesnt require the pastry shell and the sabayon to baked together, i can just use my torch to finish it off creme brulee style. comments? yes? no? would it make a difference?

oh btw im planning on executing this thought on saturday, so if y'all say yes i'd proceed and provide pictures if it goes well or not. =)

...a little bit of this, and a little bit of that....*slurp......^_^.....ehh I think more fish sauce.

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I'm pondering about Thomas Keller's recipe, can i make it into bite size desserts? like maybe use small cheesecake pans with the removable bottoms to shape the pastry shell, and since the recipe doesnt require the pastry shell and the sabayon to baked together, i can just use my torch to finish it off creme brulee style. comments? yes? no? would it make a difference?

You've got it right -- since the filling is cooked before going into the shell, there's no reason you can't make the tarts any size you want.

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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I agree that the Keller recipe from Bouchon rules! I've tried a few others but this one is my favorite. Do try an splurge on the crust with pinenuts at least once (it's only 1/3 of the crust recipe anyways, so it is not that much). It really makes a big difference.

I would love to try the Payard or Robuchon recipe. Are there any copies online of these two?

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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I agree that the Keller recipe from Bouchon rules! I've tried a few others but this one is my favorite. Do try an splurge on the crust with pinenuts at least once (it's only 1/3 of the crust recipe anyways, so it is not that much). It really makes a big difference.

I would love to try the Payard or Robuchon recipe. Are there any copies online of these two?

You are correct in that it calls for only 1/3 of the crust recipe, however, that recipe calls for 2 cups of pine nuts! and Keller discourages making a smaller quantity of the pastry. Around here I could probably buy a bottle of Armagnac for the same price as 2 cups of pine nuts. So I am wondering if it would be at all feasible to substitute hazelnuts? I'm no baker so I have no idea if this would work or not but it seems possible. Anyone care to comment?

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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You can substitute hazelnuts, but pinenuts have a very distinctive taste so the overall taste profile will be quite different I suspect. Pinenuts seem to be to be moister/oilier than hazelnuts so I don't know if there will need to be an adjustment in proportions.

Don't know if there are Costcos in Canada, but their Kirkland pinenuts are relatively reasonable.

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I agree that the Keller recipe from Bouchon rules! I've tried a few others but this one is my favorite. Do try an splurge on the crust with pinenuts at least once (it's only 1/3 of the crust recipe anyways, so it is not that much). It really makes a big difference.

I would love to try the Payard or Robuchon recipe. Are there any copies online of these two?

You are correct in that it calls for only 1/3 of the crust recipe, however, that recipe calls for 2 cups of pine nuts! and Keller discourages making a smaller quantity of the pastry. Around here I could probably buy a bottle of Armagnac for the same price as 2 cups of pine nuts. So I am wondering if it would be at all feasible to substitute hazelnuts? I'm no baker so I have no idea if this would work or not but it seems possible. Anyone care to comment?

Yikes! these are some expensive pinenuts! Do you have any middle eastern grocery stores nearby? Try them, usually they have pinenuts for a lot cheaper than other "Western" stores.

Hazelnuts would technically work, but I would be a little worried that they might overpower the the filling flavor-wise. Roasted hazelnuts are pretty potent unlike the mild pinenuts. Also your hazelnut crust might be too crumbly/brittle because pinenuts seem to have more oil in them and will bind better, that last phrase is purely hypothetical on my part though and I could be very wrong.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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...

Hazelnuts would technically work, but I would be a little worried that they might overpower the the filling flavor-wise. Roasted hazelnuts are pretty potent unlike the mild pinenuts. Also your hazelnut crust might be too crumbly/brittle because pinenuts seem to have more oil in them and will bind better, that last phrase is purely hypothetical on my part though and I could be very wrong.

Walnuts are closer in oil content to pine nuts and the flavor might be less assertive as well. Just an idea...

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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I agree that the Keller recipe from Bouchon rules! I've tried a few others but this one is my favorite. Do try an splurge on the crust with pinenuts at least once (it's only 1/3 of the crust recipe anyways, so it is not that much). It really makes a big difference.

I would love to try the Payard or Robuchon recipe. Are there any copies online of these two?

You are correct in that it calls for only 1/3 of the crust recipe, however, that recipe calls for 2 cups of pine nuts! and Keller discourages making a smaller quantity of the pastry. Around here I could probably buy a bottle of Armagnac for the same price as 2 cups of pine nuts. So I am wondering if it would be at all feasible to substitute hazelnuts? I'm no baker so I have no idea if this would work or not but it seems possible. Anyone care to comment?

I substituted ground almonds and the crust and filling/pastry balance worked fine. I don't like pinenuts; I don't think I've ever bought a packet without at least some rancid nuts in it. The tart was wonderful :wub: .

clb

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I can get pinenuts from the asian grocery here for cheap! US$1.99 for a 1lb bag. thats more than 2 cups right there!!! I'll definitely try the original recipe with pinenuts.

...a little bit of this, and a little bit of that....*slurp......^_^.....ehh I think more fish sauce.

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clb- have you tried toasting the pinenuts before using them? usually toasting offsets the rancidity of nutmeats, and I would think it will release the full flavor of the pinenuts, just like with toasting different nuts and spices.

...a little bit of this, and a little bit of that....*slurp......^_^.....ehh I think more fish sauce.

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