My Tarte au Citron recipe includes an easy sweet pastry case filled with a sharp but sweet and creamy custard filling. Its the ultimate Lemon Tart! Whats more, you can use the sweet pastry case to make a range of other sweet tarts and as a bonus, I reveal the secret to avoiding that ubiquitous soggy bottom!
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My Tarte au Citron recipe is adapted from the recipe given to me at Denman College on the Pastry Weekender that I attended in 2016. I have made it suitable for a larger tart tin and adapted it so that the filling quantities are in line with the amount of pastry made. We had so much filling leftover on the course it was quite hilarious!
Tarte au Citron or Lemon Tart as the less pretentious among us may call it, is a classic French tart. The sweet shortcrust pastry is not far from a shortbread biscuit in texture and the filling is a very simple egg and cream mix with added lemon juice and zest.
I think we’ve all eaten a version of Tarte au Citron at some point and I know that whenever I make and eat it, I’m reminded how that sometimes the simple classics are the best. This is certainly true of scones!
I have packed this post with as many hints and tips as possible, most of which I picked up and Denman and the rest likely stem from learning from mistakes. Very few people are highly talented cooks or bakers straight off the bat, most of us have learnt over time with practise and many errors. I hope to fast-track your learning by sharing that learning curve with you!
The crust of this Lemon Tart is made from a delicate sweet shortcrust known as “Pate Sucree”. It is an incredibly forgiving pastry to work with. Oh, there is a split! Patch it up. Oh, there is a hole! Patch it up. Oh, its stuck to everything and I can’t line the tin! Scrunch it back up, add a little flour and re-roll. Puff pastry this is not!
The most unusual part of the pastry recipe is that it utilises the creaming method. Softened butter and sugar are beaten together before the rest of the ingredients are added. This differs wildly from the usual rubbing in method using extra cold cubes of butter like with my Homemade Thyme Pastry. Its unusual but it works perfectly.
The other unusual part to the pastry recipe is that it asks you to weigh your egg. I know this is strange but too little or too much egg will affect the overall texture of the crust. It takes 3 extra seconds so please do do it!
Make my Tarte au Citron into a Feast
I truly believe that you can make any dish into a proper feast! Whether thats a feast for one after work on a Tuesday, a casual feast for four on a Friday evening or a feast for 12 for a special occasion!
A great Tarte au Citron is an almost perfect end to any Feast. Because it is fresh and tart, it can clear the palette nicely even after having a totally different cuisine like one of my Everyday Asian Feasts.
Don’t forget to head over to my Feast Collection pages to find all of my tips and tricks to help you host a fun and stress-free feast. Plus remember to check out my recipe index to create your own awesome Feast!
Ingredients for Tarte au Citron
Unusually you need softened butter for this recipe. I would still not use a spreadable or soft butter however as the moisture content will likely differ.
Roll the lemons on the work surface to make them easier to juice. I squeeze the lemon juice through a fine sieve to ensure no seeds or pulp get through. I have a small nylon tea strainer just for this job (and sprinkling icing sugar over stuff).
Double cream provides the exact right texture for the Tart but whipping cream would likely work equally well. Single cream will be a little too delicate and milk would be much too thin. I also would not substitute something like creme fraiche in this instance.
This is another of my classic type recipes where I am not going to encourage too much flexibility. Saying this, you could switch out the lemon for lime and make a Lime Tart. Limes are smaller than lemons so you may need to use about 3 limes for every 2 lemons in the recipe.
It would also be quite easy to make mini Lemon Tarts using individual tart tins. The given recipe would likely make about 8 single portion sized tarts but the cooking time will be significantly reduced.
The other options are more “add-ons” rather than variations. The first is to create a brulee topping by sprinkling icing sugar in a good layer all over the top of the baked filling and then hitting it with a blowtorch until lightly caramelised. The second is to add an extra meringue layer like with my Chocolate Lime Pie.
Make it Vegetarian
There is no bacon in this recipe for a change! And so this Tarte au Citron recipe is perfectly vegetarian. It is also gelatin free.
Make it Vegan
As with most egg based recipes, it is very difficult to give you a great way to veganise this recipe. I mention in my Quiche Lorraine post that I’ve been told that tofu can make a great substitute for eggs in this type of recipe.
The other alternative is to utilise Birds Custard powder and a plant-based milk to make up a thickish custard. Add a load of lemon juice and zest and bake that as the filling. You won’t get quite the same delicate filling but it would make a great alternative.
If you are going to try that method, you will need to make sure that you make the pastry vegan friendly to. Use a dairy free butter or baking block and just leave out the egg. You will likely need a little more water to make the pastry come together.
Make it Allergy Friendly
This Lemon Tart recipe is free from nuts.
Gluten Free: Substitute the flour in the pastry for a gluten free plain flour. The pastry is lovely and short and doesn’t rely on gluten in the flour so you should end up with a lovely super short pastry. The filling is naturally gluten free.
Egg Free: As with my notes for the vegans, you will struggle without using eggs in this recipe, but do check out my suggestion for making a filling using birds custard as a base.
Dairy Free: There are only two substitutions needed to make to make this Lemon Tart recipe suitable for dairy free diets. Firstly you need to use a dairy free butter/baking block in the pastry and then use a dairy free alternative to double cream in the filling. Done!.
Please note that this recipe may contain other allergens not referred to above and any variations suggested have not been tested unless otherwise stated. For more information regarding any dietary information provided on this website, please refer to my Nutritional Disclaimer.
Equipment Notes for Tarte au Citron
I use an electric hand mixer to cream the butter and sugar together so that they are fully combined. You could just use your silicone spatula to do the mixing if you prefer. Don’t be tempted to mix the filling with the mixer as it doesn’t want to be aerated.
I find that using a lemon reamer is the best way to get the maximum juice from a lemon. Especially by using a good and pointy one. I strain the juice through a small tea strainer to make sure there is no pulp or seeds in the juice. The sieve can also be used to sprinkle icing sugar over the finished tart.
The tin that you use is important. You will get the absolute best results using a thin quiche tin. These tins conduct the heat quickly to make pastry crisp. The removable base gives you a much better chance of getting the tart out of the tin in one piece.
A silicone pastry brush will help to brush any excess flour off the pastry and brush the beaten egg over the part baked pastry case. A flour shaker will help you not waste too much flour in the first place and a good rolling pin will help with dealing with the pastry.
Baking beans are something that I didn’t own until recently. You can blind bake using rice, chickpeas (dried not tinned!), other pulses or even flour. The trick is to FILL the pastry case with whatever you are using. This keeps the sides of the pastry case in check as well as the base.
To see more of my recommended utensils, have a look at my post featuring all the basic kitchen utensils I can’t live without!
It is also perfect inspiration for simple gifts for a budding cook or bakers in your life!
A comprehensive list of the equipment used to make this recipe is included in the main recipe card below. Click on any item to see an example. There are no hard and fast rules so many items can be sensibly substituted to achieve the same results.
There are a few ways to get ahead of the game with this one, anything up to a few days before you need the sweet tart.
Firstly, you can make the pastry and leave it chilling in the fridge for a few days. Secondly, you can line the tart tin and then leave that chilling for a couple of days. I would not make the filling mixture in advance however.
Once you have added the filling to the tart case, do not stop at that point! You want to get the tart into the oven as soon as possible at that point or you will have extra soggy pastry!
Leftover Tarte au Citron
This Lemon Tart stores great in or out of the fridge for a good few days. And its so light, it will almost certainly be eaten in its entirely by then!
How to Avoid a Soggy Bottom
Here are a few little tips and tricks that I have picked up to help avoid a soggy bottom (Although I actually quite like a soggy bottom on occasion!).
- Its obvious really but beware of long fingernails. I have a tendency to puncture the dough with my nails!
- Do NOT prick the pastry case. This applies to any pastry base. The baking beans will stop the base rising and making unnecessary holes which will only increase the chances of the filling infiltrating the base pastry.
- If you think about a cross section of the dough in the corner of the tin, you are aiming for an ‘L’ rather than a ‘C’ shape. This will ensure that you don’t end up with a thick section of uncooked dough in the corners.
- One of the biggest tips I learnt was to FILL the pastry case with the baking beans (or dried chickpeas/pulses/rice) to keep the sides from shrinking inwards. This will reduce the likelihood of the filling breaching over the top of the pastry case.
- Blind baking in itself will help avoid a soggy bottom. Whether you do this or not will depend on the cooking time of the filling however. For example, this quiche recipe does not require a blind bake.
- The real top tip involves painting the still hot pastry with a thin layer of beaten egg just after it comes out of blind baking. The thin egg layer will set to create a film which the wet filling will not permeate.
So now you know! But shhhh! Don’t tell everyone!
Other Tarte au Citron Tips
Make sure you sieve the flour. I used to be too lazy to do this and was probably where I went wrong!
You should only roll your pastry backwards and forwards, never side to side. So you should roll out a little, lift and turn the dough 90 degrees and keep repeating until it’s the right size. I have a tendency to flip the dough too.
There is no need to whisk air into the filling mixture so just mix to combine.
Don’t forget to let me know in the comments if you try making this recipe – I want to know what you think and if you made any substitutions, how did it turn out?
Still Have Questions?
Simple! Just contact me and I will do my best to help as quickly as I am able. Head over to my Contact Me page, any of my social media channels or post a comment at the bottom of this page and I’ll see what I can do.
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More Dessert Recipes
Tarte au Citron
Ingredients For the Pastry:
- 120 g Salted Butter
- 45 g Caster Sugar (Superfine Sugar)
- 1 Egg
- 200 g Plain Flour (All Purpose)
- 1.5 tbsp Lemon Juice
- Oil for greasing
Ingredients For the Tart Filling:
- 7 Eggs - large
- 300 g Caster Sugar (Superfine Sugar)
- 225 ml Double Cream (Heavy Cream)
- 3 Lemons
- 1 tbsp Icing Sugar (Confectioner’s Sugar)
Make the Pastry
- Start by creaming together 120g Salted Butter and 45g Caster Sugar until light and fluffy in a medium mixing bowl.
- Whisk 1 Egg in a small bowl then weigh 35g of the beaten egg. Keep the remainder of the beaten egg for the glaze later in the recipe.
- Add the weighed egg and 200g Plain Flour to the creamed butter and sugar along with 1.5 tbsp Lemon Juice.
- Stir gently….
- ….until a dough forms.
- Lightly knead the dough just until it has fully come together into a smooth ball. Wrap the pastry in clingfilm and pop it in the fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes.
Line the Pastry Case
- Lightly grease a loose bottomed tart tin (about 25cm) with a little flavourless oil.
- Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface until relatively thin and a little bigger than the tin (taking into account the amount of dough needed to line up the sides with a little excess). Keep sprinkling a little flour under the dough to prevent it sticking but don’t go overboard or you’ll change the consistency of the pastry.
- Using the rolling pin to assist, drape the dough gently over the tart tin being careful to not rip it on the sharp edge.
- Using your finger pads, press the dough right into the corners of the tin.
- Use any trimmings to patch up any holes if any have appeared.
- Using the rolling pin, roll over the top of the tin to cut the excess pastry away.
- After the case is trimmed, using your fingers gently ease the pastry around the edges up a little to compensate for shrinkage. Chill the pastry case for a minimum of 30 minutes in the fridge.
Bake the Pastry Case
- Preheat the oven to 190c or equivalent.
- Line the inside of the pastry case with grease proof paper or a grease proof liner and FILL it with baking beans. (Twice as many as in the photo! Do as I say, not as I do!)
- Blind bake the pastry case with the beans in for 10 minutes.
- Take the beans out and return the pastry to the oven for another 5 minutes.
- Using a pastry brush, gently paint a thin layer of your retained beaten egg over the whole of the inside of the pastry. It will dry and form a little bit of a barrier between the pastry and wet filling.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 150c or equivalent.
Make the Filling
- While the pastry is chilling, separate the yolk from the white of 2 Eggs.
- Mix the yolk with 5 Eggs and 300g Caster Sugar.
- Beat in 225ml Double Cream.
- Zest then juice 3 Lemons. Add both the zest and juice to the filling mix.
- Set the mixture aside until the case is ready to fill.
Assemble and Bake the Tart
- Place the tart tin on a baking tray and pour the filling mixture into the pastry case.
- Pop in the oven for 30 minutes.
- The tart is ready when the filling is set in the middle but is still wobbly – it will carry on firming up a little before it cools. If the tart isn’t yet ready, pop it back in and check every three to five minutes.
- Leave the tart in its tin to cool then gently work around the edge of the tin with something sharp to make sure the pastry isn’t sticking and remove the tin edge.
- You can serve the tart on the tin base if you wish, otherwise work a big and wide sharp knife between the pastry and tin (whilst on a flat surface) to release it.
- Sprinkle the tart with 1 tbsp Icing Sugar before serving with more double cream.