I always get worked up about this recipe (via the fantastic Dorie Greenspan), thinking that it’s more of a pain than it actually is. I bought the ingredients and put off making it for a full five days, eventually pulling together the emotional energy to tackle it this past Saturday.
Just look at it. How could you say no to that? Melt-in-your-mouth lovely.
You have to be precise and patient for it to turn out just so… but when it does? Oh my.
Sure, I spent the whole day swearing at the darn thing, but it’s a rich, creamy, part-ay of lemons – with some sugar, and a generous helping of butter. Smooth and luxurious. And inexplicably daunting. Maybe it’s all the whisking?
Don’t let my whining put you off of trying this. It’s too good to miss.
Enough chit chat – let’s bake!
Start by prepping your dough the day ahead (or use a graham cracker crust, if you’re feeling lazy).
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup confectioner’s sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Two sticks frozen unsalted butter (stick two sticks in the freezer one day before making the dough)
- 1 large egg
- Saran wrap
- Tart pan
- Aluminum foil
- Whisk together flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl.
- Grate 1 stick and 1 tablespoon of the frozen butter using a cheese grater into the bowl.
- Using a pastry cutter, work the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.
- Add egg and stir until just combined.
- Lay a medium piece of saran wrap on your work surface.
- Using your hands, light knead and press together the dough in the bowl until it adheres into a ball.
- Place the dough ball on the saran wrap, wrap it tightly, and refrigerate for at least three hours.
- Remove the cold dough ball from the fridge and place it on a lightly floured work surface. Roll out until it is just big enough to fill the bottom and sides of a tart pan.
- Press dough gently into pan, carefully focusing on the shape and thickness of the edges.
- Using a fork, pierce dough several times on the bottom and sides.
- Place tart pan in freezer and freeze for at least one hour.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Tightly wrap tart dough with aluminum foil.
- Bake for 25 minutes, remove foil, and bake an additional 10 minutes or until golden brown (do not let it burn).
- Allow to cool and then spoon in the lemon filling (recipe below).
Then comes the filling.
- 5 lemons
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 eggs
- 2 sticks and five additional Tablespoons of unsalted butter, cut into pieces.
- Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in your pot (make sure the water level won't touch the bottom of your metal bowl).
- Zest three of the lemons and combine with sugar in the metal bowl you will use for your double boiler.
- Work the zest together with the sugar between your very clean fingers to infuse the sugar with lemon oil. Pinch, mash, smear.
- Whisk in eggs.
- Juice lemons to get ¾ cup liquid (in a pinch, I've added a little orange juice if the lemons aren't producing enough) and whisk into the sugar mixture.
- Prepare to whisk until your arm falls off. 😉
- Assemble your double boiler by placing the metal bowl filled with sugar mixture over the pot. Whisk vigorously and continually until the temperature reaches 180 F. Do not allow eggs to scramble and make sure to keep an eye on the thermometer. This step can take upwards of 10 minutes.
- Remove lemon cream from heat and strain into the blender. You will want to mash the liquid through the sieve to get as much cream through as possible.
- Let cool for about 15 minutes, or until the cream gets to 140 F.
- Turn the blender on high and blend about 5 pieces of butter at a time until thoroughly combined.
- Blend for an additional three minutes (or 3 one minute intervals, allowing your machine to rest as needed).
- Press a piece of saran wrap tightly against the surface of the cream and refrigerate for at LEAST four hours or overnight.
- Spoon into the tart shell you baked earlier and enjoy.
She lives in the Bay Area and cites her diverse background as her biggest influence: her visual artist mom is half-Chinese, half-Greek, and from Hawai’i; her film-loving, world-music curating dad is from Montana; and she lived in both California and Montana while growing up. She loves at least a little bit about virtually everything (Pokémon Snap included) and aims to be a Jane of all trades. By day Cat is a multiple-hat-wearing media person.
She is also allergic to felines.