Golden like the sun, with its crisp buttery crust and its luscious, dreamy – not too sweet not too tart- zingy lemon custard filling, this Tarte au Citron will definitely work its magic to ensnare your beloved on this Valentine’s Day 2023.
I mean don’t they say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach?
The Husband, who conveniently also happens to be my Valentine, generally doesn’t like any chocolatey super sweet sugar bombs that seem to be all the rage for this holiday. Which is totally unlike me. That is exactly what I would want. Truth be told…in a the shape of a cupcake if all were going my way. Just saying…He, on the other hand, prefers fruit forward desserts. And since I’m making these treats for him, not me, I oblige. So bring on the fruit! These mini Passion Fruit & Berry Pavlovas were a big hit last year.
Just like this lovely Cashew Crusted Blackberry & Lime Tart was a few years ago.
One year he was delighted with these Luscious Lemon Squares;
And I don’t want to forget about that Poached Pear Tart with Lemony Cream.
One year, I was even clever enough to combine what he loves, a good Gin & Tonic, and what I love, cupcakes by making Pink Grapefruit Gin & Tonic Cupcakes:
And a couple of years ago, I was pretty sly with these Mimosa Butter Sweetheart Cookies. I really like cookies and was able to not only add some of his favorite jam into the mix with these, but was also able to get some champagne on deck. Always up for a glass of bubbles!
But lets not get sidetracked from this years gorgeous offering; Tarte au Citron – A classic French Lemon Tart!
This bright, golden delight will remind you that Spring and the return to sunny days are not far off. Recently I read about a link between Valentine’s Day and spring. The usual origin story that you’ll hear about Valentine’s Day, is that it was a pagan holiday (Lupercalia) which was co-opted into a Christian feast day to honor St. Valentine who might be one or a combination of two martyrs – neither of whom’s stories are very romantic.
But another theory has come forth suggesting that our modern association of Valentine’s Day with romance comes from two poems (Parliament of Foules & The Complaint of Mars) which Chaucer wrote in the 14th Century. At that time, Britons considered the first day of Spring to be February 14th. And Spring has long been associated with fertility (I just told you all about Imbolc, a Celtic fertility festival, which became christianized as St. Brigid’s Day in Ireland Yup, this assimilation of pagan to christian was a common practice). Coincidentally, that day just happened to be the feast day of St. Valentine, hence Valentine’s Feast Day became associated with fertility and thereby romance. Nowadays the first day of spring is not declared until the equinox which falls between March 19 -21st – this year it is on Monday March 20th. Seems folks in the past were ready to get a jump on Spring in February. This bright citrusy tart is certain to evoke thoughts of warmer times to come. (Not that we’ve had much winter…don’t even get me started!)
This tart is quite easy to make and I bet you have all the required ingredients in your pantry right now. Just be aware that in order to get the sweet, crisp but not crumbly pâte sucrée crust just perfect, you’ve got to allow for quite a bit of chill time. It is because of all the butter used in it. So you know it has got to be good right? The rich custard filling is also chock full of butter. It is so luscious and zesty (zest from 2 whole lemons to be exact) with just the right amount of pucker in every bite! So pucker up Valentine, this one’s for you!
Tarte au Citron
recipe from: Pardon your French
For the pâte sucrée crust:
- ½ cup (125 grams) unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature.
- ¾ cup (95 grams) powdered sugar
- ½ tsp vanilla bean paste (can substitute vanilla extract if you prefer)
- 1/3 cup + 1 ½ tbsp (40 grams) almond flour (ground almond)
- 1 large egg
- 1 ¾ cup + 1 tbsp (233 grams) all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp salt
For the lemon filling:
- 1 cup (250ml) lemon juice (about 6-7 lemons)
- Zest of 2 lemons (organic lemons)
- 3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- ¾ cup (170 grams) unsalted butter, cubed.
- 4 large eggs + 4 large egg yolks
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the cubed butter and powdered sugar until creamy and smooth. Add the vanilla bean paste, almond flour and egg, and mix until homogeneous. Add the all-purpose flour and salt, and mix until just incorporated and the dough comes together into a ball. Place plastic film on the counter and turn the dough out onto it. Using another piece of plastic wrap, pat the dough into a circle. Wrap in the plastic film and place in the fridge for 2 hours, minimum.
Pre-heat your oven to 350F (180C).
Take the pâte sucrée out of the fridge, place it between two large sheets of parchment paper and roll it out to a 12-inch circle. Unpeel the top sheet of parchment paper, transfer the crust to a 9-inch tart pan (trim the sides if needed) and poke the bottom of the crust all over with a fork. Chill it again for 30 minutes. Line the top of the crust with foil or parchment paper and place pie weights or dried beans to keep the pie crust from puffing when baking.
Bake the pâte sucrée for 20 minutes. Carefully remove the parchment paper filled with weights and bake for 10 more minutes, until the edges of the crust are golden.
Set the tart shell aside to cool (still in the dish). Leave your oven on at 350F/180C.
In the meantime, make the filling. Place a fine-mesh strainer close by before you begin.
In a medium saucepan (no heat yet), whisk together the lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar, salt, egg yolks and eggs. Add the cubed butter and turn the heat to medium. Whisk slowly until the butter is all melted. Continue whisking steadily for several minutes until the mixture thickens to a thin custard consistency.
Immediately pass the lemon filling through the fine mesh strainer, directly into the tart shell. Using an offset spatula (or back of a large spoon), smooth out the top of the filling. Bake the tart for 5 minutes, until the filling has slightly set and turned slightly deeper in color.
Set aside to cool for at least 30 minutes. Serve tart slightly warm or chilled.
Useful links for Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Tarte au Citron:
Oxo Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale
Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer
Set of 3 Stainless Steel Fine Mesh Strainers
Oxo Dusting Wand – I sometimes use a wand such as the one pictured above, but I also love this one, which isn’t as photogenic, but can be used with one hand!
Non-melting Confectioners Sugar – I have actually not used this brand. I usually use King Arthur Baking’s product. You can, of course, use regular confectioners or powdered sugar to stencil a design on your tart as I have done here. Non-melting is nice because, well…it doesn’t melt. But I just bet you’ll scarf this scrumptious tart down right away, so any design you might add won’t need a lot of staying power.