Lemon Tart is one of my all-time favourite desserts but something that I have never attempted to bake before. With friends coming round for dinner and an afternoon to bake, I searched through lots of my cookery books for inspiration and, as I flicked through my ever-reliable Mary Berry’s Complete Cookbook, I came across this recipe for lemon tart – perfect!
Well, almost perfect … Having decided to follow this recipe and having made a start on the pastry, I realised that I didn’t have a big enough flan tin (this recipe required a 28cm tin) and, anyway, I really didn’t need to make a tart big enough for 10-12 people! The only flan tin that I own is 23cm and, after some rough calculations with the help of my ever-hungry husband (EHH), I decided to reduce the ingredients for the filling by one-third – fortunately, these quantities worked perfectly! As the pastry is made using one egg, it is difficult to reduce the quantities, so I have retained the pastry quantities: you can freeze the remainder or make some little jam tarts!!
I often avoid making desserts with pastry, or cheat and buy ready-made pastry, but actually, the pastry was easy to make and worked out fairly well. When making pastry, I follow the Biscuiteers’ tip for biscuits and I roll the pastry between two sheets of baking parchment – which prevents me from needing to add lots of additional flour as I roll and this helps to keep the pastry light and crisp. It also makes it much easier to lift the pastry into the flan tin!
Unlike some of my prior attempts at pastry, this pastry did not shrink away from the edges of the tin whilst at the blind-baking stage – which I think was due to very careful placing of the pastry in the tin, pushing it into the side of the tin (taking care not to stretch the pastry and then trimming the majority of the excess pastry, but leaving a 2-3cm overhang.
However, I didn’t roll the pastry dough thin enough and so it was a little thick (although EHH quite likes this!) and, despite following the blind baking rules, the bottom was not as crisp as Paul and Mary would like! Having done a bit more research on “soggy bottoms”, one of the recommendations is that, having completed the first stage of blind baking (with the baking beans), you then remove the baking beans and brush the pastry with whisked egg (or egg whites / yolk) before returning the pastry case to the oven to continue baking. This egg-wash helps to seal the pastry and therefore prevent the filling from seeping into the pastry and making it soggy. I’ve included this instruction in the recipe below and will give this a go next time that I make a tart.
The filling for the tart was quick and easy to make. However, the end result was a little curdled and not perfectly smooth. Some research suggests that this could be a result of the acid in the lemon juice curdling the protein in the egg – the webpages I have read suggest that you mix all the ingredients for the filling and add the lemon juice / zest last – so I have proposed this in my method below.
Overall, despite all my criticisms above, the lemon tart did generally taste good and my dinner guests really enjoyed it. Hopefully, with the improvements discussed above and included in the method below, it will be perfect – I’ll have to make another to test it out! I served it with a very simple summer berry sauce, which would be great with lots of other desserts, and double cream. However it would also work brilliantly for afternoon tea!
For the pastry
- 250g plain flour
- 125g cold butter, cut into small cubes
- 60g caster sugar
- 2 free-range eggs, beaten
For the lemon filling
- 6 free-range eggs
- 200ml double cream
- 250g caster sugar
- 4 large lemons, finely grated zest and juice
23cm flan tin
- For the pastry, place the flour in a large bowl; add the butter and rub in with your fingertips until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs.
- Stir in the castor sugar then bind together with one beaten egg to make a soft, pliable dough.
- Wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 200C and place a baking tray in the oven to heat up.
- Roll out the pastry very thinly between two lightly floured pieces of baking parchment.
- Use the pastry to line the flan tin, trim away any surplus pastry, leaving a 2-3cm overhang.
- Prick the pastry all over with a fork.
- Line the pastry-filled tin with baking parchment or foil, allowing it to come up high above the rim to make it easy to lift out.
- Fill the lined tin with baking beans.
- Place on the pre-heated baking tray and bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven until pale golden-brown.
- Remove from the oven and remove the baking beans and paper.
- Brush the pastry with the remaining beaten egg.
- Return the empty pastry shell to the oven for another 5-10 minutes or until it is completely dry. Set aside to cool.
- Reduce the temperature of the oven to 180C.
- Measure the eggs, sugar and cream into a bowl and whisk together until smooth.
- Whisk in the lemon juice and zest.
- Carefully pour the filling mixture into the cooled baked pastry case.
- Carefully transfer to the oven and bake for about 40 minutes. Check after about 25 minutes and cover the tart loosely with foil if the pastry starts to brown too much.
- When ready, the filling will be just set but with a slight wobble in the middle. It will be soufflé like when it comes out of the oven, but will sink down when it has cooled down.
- Leave to cool a little or completely then remove from the tin, transfer to a serving plate and dust with icing sugar to serve.