Tarte au citron (lemon tart)

Inspired by watching The Great Australian Bake Off, I found myself wanting to have a go at baking a tarte au citron, or lemon tart if you insist. It is essentially an egg-custard tart with a lot of lemon flavouring in it — zest and juice. I more or less followed Mary Berry’s recipe. Here’s the outcome:

It’s not quite as clean as I’d have liked, but then I had to use the wrong flour (high-gluten bread flour instead of plain, which we’re out of) and I had to cook it in the wrong container (ceramic instead of metal). It tastes great, so I’m happy with it as a first iteration.

My friend Rosie, who is a much better baker than I am, commented on the photo:

Ooo! Looking good! The filling looks like a really good consistency. And I’m impressed the pastry cooked well in ceramic. Will you try and get the pastry thinner next time? Looks quite thick. I also think it would look more sophisticated with less icing sugar. It looks like you’re trying to hide something, rather than compliment a thing of beauty. (Not that you asked my opinion, but there you go!) Bet it tasted delicious 😋

She’s right about the filling consistency: I got this right by checking repeatedly when the tart was near its predicted cooking time, nudging the dish and observing the wobble. Unfortunately, her criticisms are also spot on — and she missed some!

  • While the base is not soggy, it’s not 100% crisp either, which is probably due to the ceramic dish. I have metal tins with removable bottoms in the post, and they should arrive today or tomorrow, which will help with the next try. (To get this one out of its fixed-bottom ceramic container, I flipped it upside-down onto a plate, then flipped that back the right way up onto another plate!)
  • I agree on pastry thickness. I think Mary Berry let me down a bit here, as I made the quantity she recommended, and that was for a slightly smaller tin than I used. So I guess I should aim to throw some away. She probably intends more to extend past the edges and be trimmed after the first blind bake, which I did wrong this time: I rolled it to only just bigger than I needed, then trimmed before the bake, which is why the sides are not as tall and uniform as I’d like.
  • The icing sugar is a testament to my inexperience. I poured it into the sieve above the tart, intending to delicately sift through, but most of it just fell straight through onto the tart!

Also, check this out:

Weirdly, there seem to be layers in the pasty, as though I’d made not-very-good puff. But this was a basic sweecrust pasty (basically shortcrust with some icing sugar substituted for the flour) so I don’t really understand where the layers came from. My best guess is that the air spaces represent places where fragments of butter survived in the dough, insufficiently rubbed in with the flour. (I don’t have a food processor, so this is done by hand, and I am always keen to avoid over-working my pastry so I can sometimes underdo the rubbing in.) That error was compounded by the pastry being insufficiently weighted down during the blind-bake — I don’t really have enough baking beads.

So plenty of ways to do better next time: use the right tin; use the right flour; rub in more throroughly; weight the pastry down better during the first blind bake; do the first blind bake with pastry extending over the edge of the time and then trim; better handing of the icing sugar.

But yes, it tastes good. The pasty is crispy, especially around the sides, and the freshness of lemons is hard to beat.

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One response to “Tarte au citron (lemon tart)

  1. Pingback: Tartes au citron et limon (second try) | The Reinvigorated Programmer

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