My heart was broken by a lemon tart at Ottawa’s Metropolitain Brasserie.
After a wonderful meal I made the mistake of ordering a lemon tart for desert. I was given a runny, pasty mess. So outraged was I that I undertook to teach myself to make the perfect lemon tart…and boy did I find it. I whipped this lemon desert out during a Tea Party I threw for some friends and this gem came out a treat.
The recipe for the filling is a variation of a Gordon Ramsay recipe (without the chocolate) and I borrow the pâte brisée recipe from Guy Disdier’s Les Desserts: Les secrets de leur réussite (Editions S.A.E.P; 1990). Here are the ingredients:
- Tart pan (28cm)
- Creme brulee torch
PATE BRISEE CRUST
- 250g of all purpose flour
- 5g of salt
- 20g of granulated sugar
- 125g of butter (cold and chopped up)
- 1 egg white
- 50ml of water
- 6 eggs (2 whole, 4 yolks only)
- 120g granulated sugar
- 200ml double cream
- 2 lemons, grated (keep the zest!) and juiced
- granulated sugar to dust
STEP ONE – PÂTE BRISÉE
Ok. Crust making time. This is the most time consuming part, but (in my humble opinion) once you’ve done it once, it’s becomes a snap.
1. First, mix and sift the flour, salt and sugar onto a clean work surface, making a little mound. Make a “crater” into the mound of powder and put in the chopped up butter. With your thumbs, middle and index fingers work the butter into the flour. Don’t squeeze the butter too hard. You are aiming to make a sandy looking mixture.
2. Once the butter has been incorporated make a mound from your mixture (again) and then hollow it out (again) making a “well”. Take your egg white and water, mix them together in a bowl, and then pour the mixture into the centre of the “well”. Use your well as a bowl, and use a fork to gradually incorporate the outer powdery wall into the liquid. This should be a familiar technique to those who make pasta. When you’re fork is no longer a useful tool to incorporate the ingredients, gently kneed the dough only enough to properly incorporate your dough – the less you kneed, the lighter and less mealy your crust will be. If your dough is too powdery add a bit of water.
3. Next, wrap your dough in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge to cool for about 30 minutes.
4. Take out your rested dough and roll it out on the floured surface, turning it once or twice as you do so to make sure it doesn’t stick. Once you have a circle a bit bigger than the pie tray. Put your crust in the pan, prick holes in the bottom of the dough and make sure it’s snug against the edges. Allow the extra crust to overflow from the edges. Your pie might shrink once you cook it. Put the crust in the fridge for another 20 minutes or so. Preheat your over to 240°C/470°F.
5. Alright, you’re in the homestretch. Put some baking weights in the bottom of your pie base and bake for 15-20 minutes until the edges are just starting to change colour. Remove the weights and bake for another 5-7 minutes. Your pie base is ready to rock. Remove it from the oven.
STEP TWO – THE FILLING
1. This step is super easy and can be done while you wait for your pie crust to bake. Take your egg yolks, the eggs, sugar, and cream and put them in a bowl. Now, take the lemon zest and lemon juice and put them in the mix. The grated lemon skin is a secret weapon (thank you Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall) in giving your filling an extra lemon zing. Mix these ingredients together and let them sit for about 20 minutes to allow the zest’s flavour to diffuse into the cream.
2. Next, switch on your oven to 190°C/375°F. When the oven has reached that temperature, take the filling, strain it well (to separate the lemon zest) and place it in the pie crust. Fill the prepared tart crust (outlined above) up as much as possible to maximize the deliciousness of the lemony goodness. Don’t worry if you think it lacks viscosity. It will thicken nicely in the oven.
3. Carefully (the liquid likes to spill out) place your crust/filling concoction into the oven and bake for 50-60 minutes until the filling is set. Gordon Ramsay’s recipe suggests that the centre will have a “slight wobble”.
4. Let the tart cool a bit.
STEP THREE – THE CARAMELIZED SUGAR CRUST
1. This is what makes this tart so good: the caramelized sugar crust. Take the sugar and sprinkle a thin layer on the top of the tart. Use a creme brulee torch (they are pretty cheap and well worth the investment) to caramelize the top of the tart.
Voila! You are done!