Lemon Tart with Special Crust

It is a lemon tart made using whole lemons – zest, pulp, and juice, complete with a lemon infused tart dough. No waste in this kitchen, people!

I decided on a whim that I wanted to make some sort of fruit tart, and was intrigued and inspired when I saw this recipe in a cooking book. I have just been drawn to all things lemon lately.

Since we have both not loved the shortbread crusts that I have made in prior tarts, the dough I used here is a Pasta Frolla dough. This was my first ever attempt at Pasta Frolla, and it came out great. We both preferred it over the traditional shortbread crusts I have previously made. It seems to stay more tender even after the long baking times and we enjoyed the texture over a shortbread.

This tart was uber tart and lemony but it still had a good balance of sweetness to it. The whole lemon to cup of sugar ratio is 1:1, which is similar to that of a Shaker lemon tart/pie, so the bitterness of the pith is kept in check pretty well.

This is a great make ahead dessert, as I think it did get better after a day or so of rest in the fridge. And even better is the fact that both this dough (which requires no rolling and no food processor) and the filling are quick and easy to make.

Let’s start with the dough.

Pasta Frolla

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, softened and cut in pieces
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon salt
Sift the flour and sugar together in a mound on your counter or working board.

Make a well in the center and add the butter, egg yolks, lemon zest and salt. Using your hands, mix thoroughly and knead very briefly until the dough comes together. (It will be crumbly, as you can see in my picture below). Since you are using your hands to mix the dough, it is so important that your butter is gooey soft.

Press your dough into a tart pan or baking dish, being careful not to overwork the dough. Freeze the dough for at least 30 minutes or overnight (which I did) before par baking it.

To par bake, preheat oven to 375F. Tightly cover the frozen tart dough with a piece of greased aluminum foil, shiny side down. Since you are going from freezer to oven, you will not need pie weights. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove and cool to room temperature. Press down with the back of a spoon if the crust puffed up anywhere during baking.
Now onto the filling. Since I usedher recipe exactly I am not going to publish it here. I will give some of my thoughts and notes on the recipe that I think would be helpful if you are going to make this.

First, be sure to use thin skinned lemons. This will help ensure that the level of bitterness from the pith is kept to a minimum. I read that some people boil their lemon chunks first to remove the bitter flavor. To me that just sounded like extra work that I didn’t want to do. I also do no think it is necessary based on my final product. Another way to combat the bitter is to use Meyer lemons instead of regular lemons. They are sweeter to begin with than their tart lemon brethren, since they are a cross of a lemon and mandarin orange. In addition, they also generally have a thinner skin than an average lemon.

Another tip is when pureeing the lemons in the blender (which works fantastically), give it a good 3-5 minutes of pureeing. You don’t want to have any chunks of lemon rind in the tart. I did not do this at first, and as I started to pour the mixture into the tart shell I realized it was chunky. This was remedied by a trip back to the blender for major pulverization.

Shout out to my blender, which made a rare appearance in the kitchen for this. I just never seem to use the thing…

No chunks here, all smooth and creamy.

The recipe states that total baking time should be about 45-50 minutes. However, my tart cooked for 10 more minutes than recipe states, for a total of 1 hour. Even after 50 minutes, I was worried that the filling was not fully set, so I waited until the entire filling was bubbling for a full 2-3 minutes. It did overflow out of the pan and I trimmed off the browned or burnt edges after it cooled, it just peeled right off.

I will almost certainly make this again, but I think next time I will make them as lemon bars instead of as a tart. I would also like to try studding the baked filling with blueberries a few minutes out of the oven so they set in the filling. Yum.