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Tuesdays With Dorie: The World’s Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart

This week’s recipe was Dorie’s French Lemon Cream Tart, chosen by Mary of Starting From Scratch. We had the choice of making either the Lemon Cream Tart or the Fresh Orange Cream Tart since there are a lot of people who don’t like lemon. I wouldn’t have minded either way, but I know people who really like lemon desserts so I decided to go with the lemon tart. I am not a huge fan of lemon desserts, but this was the best lemon cream I’ve ever tasted. I must say that I liked it a lot better before I added the butter. I could just eat spoonfuls of that stuff. I’m thinking that I just might have to make some and eat it by itself for desserts. The cream thickened up quite nicely. Thank you to David for holding the heavy bowl for me while I whisked my arm off 🙂 Check out our Tuesdays With Dorie blog to see how everyone else did with the tart!

Next week we’ll be making Marshmallows, chosen by Judy of Judy’s Gross Eats.

The World’s Most Extraordinary Lemon Cream Tart


1 cup sugar
Finely grated zest of 3 lemons
4 large eggs
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 4 to 5 lemons)
2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons (21 tablespoons; 10 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
1 fully-baked 9-inch tart shell


Getting ready: Have a thermometer, preferably an instant-read, a strainer and a blender (first choice) or food processor at the ready. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.

Put the sugar and zest in a large metal bowl that can be fitted into the pan of simmering water. Off heat, work the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic. Whisk in the eggs followed by the lemon juice.

Fit the bowl into the pan (make certain the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl) and cook, stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch. You want to cook the cream until it reaches 180°F. As you whisk the cream over heat-and you must whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling-you’ll see that the cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then, as the cream is getting closer to 180°F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks. Heads up at this point-the tracks mean the cream is almost ready. Don’t stop whisking and don’t stop checking the temperature. And have patience-depending on how much heat you’re giving the cream, getting to temp can take as long as 10 minutes.

As soon as you reach 180°F, pull the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of a blender (or food processor); discard the zest. Let the cream rest at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until it cools to 140°F, about 10 minutes.

Turn the blender to high and, with the machine going, add about 5 pieces of butter at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed while you’re incorporating the butter. Once the butter is in, keep the machine going-to get the perfect light, airy texture of lemon-cream dreams, you must continue to beat the cream for another 3 minutes. If your machine protests and gets a bit too hot, work in 1-minute intervals, giving the machine a little rest between beats.

Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal and chill the cream for at least 4 hours or overnight. When you are ready to construct the tart, just whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell.

Serving: The tart should be served cold, because it is a particular pleasure to have the cold cream melt in your mouth.

Sweet Tart Dough

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons)
very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Put the flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in-you should have some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses-about 10 seconds each-until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change-heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

To press the dough into the pan: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece of dough, which you should save in the refrigerator to patch any cracks after the crust is baked. Don’t be too heavy-handed-press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

To partially or fully bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. (Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights.) Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. For a partially baked crust, patch the crust if necessary, then transfer the crust to a cooling rack (keep it in its pan).

To fully bake the crust: Bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. (I dislike lightly baked crusts, so I often keep the crust in the oven just a little longer. If you do that, just make sure to keep a close eye on the crust’s progress-it can go from golden to way too dark in a flash.) Transfer the tart pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature before filling.

To patch a partially or fully baked crust, if necessary: If there are any cracks in the baked crust, patch them with some of the reserved raw dough as soon as you remove the foil. Slice off a thin piece of the dough, place it over the crack, moisten the edges and very gently smooth the edges into the baked crust. If the tart will not be baked again with its filling, bake for another 2 minutes or so, just to take the rawness off the patch.

Storing: While you can make the lemon cream ahead (it will keep in the frige for 4 days and in the freezer for up to 2 months), once the tart is constructed, it’s best to eat it the day it is made.

27 Responses

  1. your tart looks great. your lemon cream is so smooth

  2. Lovely! Your cream set so nicely and the crust almost looks like graham crackers to me. Yummy!

  3. This IS the best lemon cream ever. Your tart looks delectable.

  4. Your crust looks incredible, as pp said! Great work!

  5. Looks great!! And yeah, I usually end up making a mess whisking before I finally yell to Nick to come hold the bowl 😉

  6. I’m with you, it’s so good!

  7. Isn’t it just so sinfully delicious? I could have eaten the entire bowl of cream just by itself. Your tart looks wonderful! Great job!

  8. Your lemon cream looks great. And my husband like lemon, but he’s not as crazy about it as I am, and he LOVED this lemon cream!

  9. Your tart looks yummy! I’ve got a little bowl of lemon cream sitting in the fridge, and I’m going to have to finish it off tonite. It’s so GOOD!

  10. It’s amazing how light these lemon creams look, despite the staggering amount of butter I know they contain. I’m making the orange version and can’t wait to see how it comes out.

  11. I also though the lemon cream tasted best before the butter was added! I might have to try making it again with a greatly reduced amount of butter and see how it turns out.

    A good friend of ours is a professor at Clemson! : ) I’ve heard it’s a great school and a great place to live!

  12. Your tart looks awesome! I’m glad you liked the lemon cream!

  13. your tart came out looking so creamy and your crust looks perfectly crumbly!

  14. Your cream look sooo creeeeeeamy! Great job!

  15. Lovely lemon cream. Great job!
    Clara @ I♥food4thought

  16. Yummy looking!

  17. Your tart looks great, so smooth, so creamy!

  18. Nice job on the tart–it looks delicious. =)

  19. Looks great! Good job!

  20. The lemon cream was very good before adding the butter, just a lot less rich! Your tart looks delicious!

  21. I thought it tasted great before the butter too. And after lol! Your tart looks awesome!

  22. Your tart looks perfect. I loved the cream too, although I may slightly cut back on the butter next time. Fab job!

  23. I agree that the lemon cream was great before adding ALL THAT BUTTER!

  24. I loved the taste of my cream before adding the butter too (I used Meyer lemons) – it wasn’t thick at all though. This’ll be fun to play with, I think! Your tart looks great!

  25. Mmmm looks delicious and creamy! Glad that you enjoyed the lemon cream so much. I’m not sure what it was about this cream that wasn’t great for me, but I prefer lemon curd.

  26. […] for me tomorrow, and the kids are coming in full force next Tuesday.  This was very similar to the lemon tart we made in April 2008 for TWD, but with limes instead of lemons and a different crust.  It was […]

  27. […] almost like angel food cake.  The lemon cream was very similar to the lemon cream used for the Lemon Tart I made for TWD last year.  I remember having problems getting the cream to the correct […]

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