Saturday, 24 January 2009

Michelin-Starred Lemon Tart

This tart is unbelievably lemony. It is sharp enough to wake up the taste buds after a heavy meal yet also heavy enough to provide a solid kick to an afternoon coffee break. It looks wonderful - so vividly yellow from the lemon zest and egg yolks. If you are the type of person to have black plates (you probably have black sheets too), it will contrast brilliantly. On white plates, set it off with some red fruit or a drizzle of jus.

This recipe was given to me by the pastry chef at Chez Bruce when I did a 2 day stage in the kitchen. His recipe involved 40 eggs so I have had to scale it down for domestic proportions. The recipe below fits my 28cm flan tin (which is quite shallow) perfectly so you may need to adjust it slightly depending on your tin.

My pastry tends to come out thicker than I'd like. At Chez Bruce the pastry is waffer-thin.


For the pastry:

350g of flour
3 egg yolks
175g of butter
100g of icing sugar
pinch of salt (only if using unsalted butter)

For the filling:

175ml double cream
7 eggs
juice of 4 lemons
zest of 1 and a half lemons
250g caster sugar


To make the filling, mix all of the ingredients together and leave in the fridge to rest for at least an hour so that the flavour of the zest has time to infuse. If you can leave it overnight, all the better.

To make the sweet pastry, combine the flour, butter and sugar in a food processor. Once well mixed (you're aiming for breadcrumbs), beat in the egg yolks one by one. You can do this in a food processor and finish it off in a mixing bowl if you like. I prefer to do it with my hands and to get mucky. Once the egg yolks are beaten in, add water drip-by-drip until the pastry is just firm, but not stiff. It will need to be pliable when you roll it. Wrap the pastry in cling film and refrigerate for an hour.

Heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.

Lightly grease a 28cm flan tin with a removable base. Take the chilled pastry from the fridge and give it 15 mins to warm up a little. Roll it out very thinly (3mm ideally) so that it will fill the flan case with at least 1cm overlap all round the edge of the tin. Line the tin with one large circle of pastry, pressing the pastry into the corners and ensuring the 1cm or spare pastry remains all around the edge. The pastry needs to be watertight as the filling is very runny indeed - so repair any holes with moistened pastry patches.

Line the pastry with a circle of greaseproof paper and fill with baking beads. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until very light brown. Remove the baking beads and paper and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes. My oven has a mind of its own, so I rotate the tin regularly to ensure it is evenly cooked.

Remove the tin from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 120 degrees. Trim the excess pastry from the edge of the tin with a sharp knife. Your flan tin should now have a pastry lining which fits perfectly or near-perfectly.

Strain the filling mixture using a fine sieve and pour it into the base while still hot (this will ensure the case is sealed). The filling should come up to just below the top of the pastry. Carefully return the full tin to the oven and bake for 30 minutes. When you take the tart out of the oven, the middle will still be gooey. Don't worry, leave the tart to cool for at least 40 minutes. You will find that the residual heat in the pastry and case will set the filling perfectly. If you over-bake the tart, the filling will dry out and crack.

Serve the tart by itself or with cream. Drizzle a coulis/jus if you want to make the plate more exciting. If like me, your jam has not set this year, try using a spoonful of the runny jam.

Notes for gluttons

As an alternative, sift icing sugar over the top of the tart and place it under the grill to caramelize the sugar to a light golden brown. Try it without first though, as I reckon it needs no elaboration.