This French lemon tart, adapted from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon cookbook, is one of the best lemon tarts. Ever. The crust is light and sweet while the lemon curd has a bright lemon flavor. The texture of the crust is soft but flaky while the curd is silky smooth. In short, this tarte au citron has nicely balanced flavor and texture. And it is perfect for summer!
When I was in culinary school, my friend, Rachel, and I made this lemon tart one weekend (as if we didn’t bake enough all week long at school!). She introduced me to Thomas Keller, and I have been hooked on this lemon tart ever since. And who doesn’t love a good French lemon tart?!
What is a French Lemon Tart?
A French lemon tart consists of a simple crust and lemon curd that is sometimes caramelized on top. This is not your traditional lemon meringue pie, so expect something different and refreshing!
How Do You Make a French Lemon Tart?
- Make the crust ahead of time by using the basic creaming method. Wrap and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days ahead of time.
- Roll out the dough, press it into the tart pan, and dock with a fork. Line the top of the tart with foil and rice, dried beans, or pie weights. Bake for around 30 minutes and let cool.
- Use a double boiler to make the lemon curd so that the curd does not burn while cooking. A double boiler consists 2 parts, a pot and insert pot or bowl. First, fill a medium sized pot with an inch or two of water and simmer. Second, place a medium glass or metal bowl over the pot so that it sits just above the simmering water.
- In the metal bowl being used for the double boiler, whisk together the eggs, yolks, and sugar. Whisk continuously until thickened.
- Add half of strained lemon juice, continue to whisk, and let thicken. Repeat with remaining lemon juice.
- After the lemon curd has thickened the final time, remove from heat and whisk in butter. Pour directly into the cooled tart shell and allow to set for two hours.
- Caramelize the top of the tart under a broiler or (my personal favorite) with a kitchen torch.
What do I Need to Make a Tarte au Citron?
- A 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom
- A whisk (this one is one of my favorites)
- A rolling pin (use a French one if you really want to feel French!)
- A pie mat or pastry cloth
- A torch
- Pie weights or rice
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French Lemon Tart | Tarte au Citron
- Prep Time: 1 hour + 2 hours rest time
- Cook Time: 1 hour
- Total Time: 3 hours
- Yield: 1 – 9 inch tart 1x
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 whole egg
- 1 cup cake flour
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom
- Rice or pie weights for baking
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, strained
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3 egg yolks
- 2 whole eggs
- 3 tbs unsalted butter
- Powdered sugar for dusting
- Italian Meringue(optional)
- Cream butter and powdered sugar together in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add eggs and vanilla; mix until combined.
- Add flour and mix just until the dough comes together. Turn dough onto plastic wrap, flatten the dough into a disk, and wrap. Refrigerate for 2 hours before rolling.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly flour a pie mat or pastry cloth and place dough disk in the center. Roll the dough to an 12-13 inch circle. The dough should be about 1/8 inch thick. Gently lift the dough and place in tart pan, pressing the dough into the corners and ridges.
- Once dough has been pressed into the pan completely, use a fork to poke holes all around. This prevents bubbles from forming in the crust while it bakes.
- Take a piece of foil that is larger than the tart and press it into the crust. Fill the foil lines shell with rice, dried beans, or pie weights. Doing so keeps the crust from shrinking during baking.
- Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until the tart crust is lightly golden brown. Remove from oven and remove pie weights and foil.
- Cool completely before filling
Lemon Curd Filling
- Fill a medium sized pot with 1-2 inches of water and bring to a simmer. Use a heat safe metal or glass bowl for the lemon filling that can sit on the pot without touching the water.
- In the bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs. Place bowl on pot and whisk sugar and eggs continuously until the mixture thickens. Thickening takes about 15-20 minutes. Do NOT turn the heat up beyond to boil the water to speed up the process because this can burn the sugar mixture. Patience is the name of the game here.
- Add half of the lemon juice, and whisk until mixture thickens again. Repeat with remaining lemon juice. The mixture will look thin after each addition, but it will thicken back up after a few minutes.
- Remove from heat and whisk in butter. Pour lemon curd into the cooled tart shell and tap tart pan gently to smooth any ripples or bubbles out.
- After tart has cooled, use a kitchen torch or your broiler to caramelize the top of the tart. Dust with powdered sugar or top with Italian meringue and enjoy.
This recipe is adapted from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon cookbook.
Keywords: lemon tart, french lemon tart, tarte au citron