French Lemon Tart (or Tartlets)


My recent cravings for lemon cakes, creams and tarts probably reveal a lack of vitamin C (which probably isn’t there after baking anyway) or, simply, a typical cold days’ need for sunny and vivid colours on the table. Or, maybe, together with sour cherry obsession, they are the obvious signs of my growing preference for acidity… This beautiful tart, served after a nourishing and heavy meal, is not only a refreshing relief for the palate, but also an act of protest against the seasonal gloominess. It is the ideal ending of a spicy meal, such as Beef Rendang, Indian or Thai curry.

Lemon tart is not a newcomer to my kitchen. I have been making the French lemon tart for several years, whenever I had lemon-loving company or when I simply couldn’t stop dreaming about it and finally would end up making a small portion only for myself… Of course, the French are not the only ones to consider the lemon tart as one of their national desserts. However, the thin crust and the absence of cream, flour or condensed milk in the filling make the French version of this worldwide known dish the most subtle and light (by “light”I mean taste, since the tart is far from being low-fat or low-calorie).

My slightly modified recipe can be found in “Le Grand Livre de Cuisine d’Alain Ducasse: Bistrots, Brasseries et Restaurants de Tradition”, a highly reliable source of French recipes. As other Ducasse recipes (crème brûléemadeleines) I have been making, this one always works perfectly well.

TIPS: If you wish – and have a blowtorch – you can sprinkle the tart with brown sugar and burn it before serving, like a burnt cream. (Personally I prefer it simple or with some grated lemon zest.)

You can make either one big tart or, as you see on the above photo, individual tartlets (with the amounts below you will obtain about 12 standard tartlets). If you decide to make individual tartlets, cut down the baking time as advised below.

Special equipment:

beans for blind baking (I have been using the same real dried cheap beans for several years now)

Preparation: 1 hour + 2 hours in the fridge

Ingredients (one 28 cm diameter tart or about 12 standard tartlets):


100 g flour

30 g ground or powdered almonds

90g softened butter

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons caster sugar


200 ml lemon juice

100 g butter

4 eggs

120 g confectioner’s sugar

(grated lemon zest)

(brown sugar)

Prepare the pastry case.

Mix the butter, the almonds, the salt and the sugar in a food processor. When these ingredients are mixed thoroughly, add the flour and mix again.

Stop when you see a big ball is being formed.

(You may also knead the pastry without the food processor, but then you have to do this very quickly, maximum 5 minutes, pushing with the heel of your hand and minimising the use of your fingers, otherwise the tart will be too crumbly.)

Wrap the dough in a cling film and put into the fridge for at least 30 minutes (you can leave it there up to 48 hours).

Take it out of the fridge and let it soften a bit before  using it.

Roll it thinly with a rolling pin (I would advise 1/2 cm) and line the tart pan or individual tartlets forms. (If you don’t manage to roll it out, you can wait until it softens more and spread it with your fingers).

Pick the surface with a fork and place it into the fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 150°C.

Take out the tart dish from the fridge.

Cover the flat surface with a baking sheet and put some dried beans on it. This way the pastry will not rise.

Precook the tart shell (or tartlets shells) until it’s no longer raw, but still white. Take it out, put the beans back into their jar and let the tart shell cool.

Lower the oven temperature to 130°C.

Melt the butter in a pan. Put aside.

Break the eggs in a bowl, add the sugar, the lemon juice and the warm butter. Stir well.

Pour the lemon filling on the warm (not hot) tart shell (or individual shells) and bake it at 130°C for about 30 minutes (or 15-20 minutes if making individual tartlets), depending on the oven (when the tart is moved the surface should be only slightly trembling in the centre).

Let it cool down and put into the fridge for at least two hours.

Take it out of the fridge no more than 30 minutes before serving (it must be cold, but the pastry should soften a bit). At the last moment either sprinkle it with fresh lemon zest or gently pat it dry with paper towels, sprinkle with brown sugar and burn it, or simply serve it as it is.

14 Replies to “French Lemon Tart (or Tartlets)”

  1. Sissi, your lemon tart is literally beautifully glowing!! This kind of color certainly will brighten up any day or mood! I too love anything sour (good sour, though:)). Except for the lemons, I actually have all those ingredients now. Oh I`m so excited with my lemon tart project! Thanks for the recipe and wish me luck!
    Oh, and I`m so surprised to find a beef rendang recipe here! You`re right, lemon tart after beef rendang should be double heavenly!

    1. Thank you, Arudhi. I am also very excited with you lemon tart project! If you like sour desserts, you will love this one. It’s sour, but moderately. If you have any questions, write to me. I have made this tart many times, but am not very good at explanations (not to mention the lack of making-of photos…).
      I love rendang beef. I think it’s the only beef dish I love apart from tartare (I’m rather a pork and chicken person).
      PS I couldn’t stand the old awful photo and have just changed it, making individual tartlets for this occasion 😉 It’s not perfect, but much better than the old one I hope…

    1. Arudhi, it’s risky: if the crust rises you can end up with a kind of mountain at the centre or several small mountains… It will never go back to flat. You can use anything heavy instead of beans. Cover the dough with baking paper and then put a smaller baking dish or anything that can support the oven temperature. The blind baking process is necessary because the lemon mixture needs less time to bake and lower temperature. You don’t have such a problem with simple fruit tarts…

    2. There is another method: picking the pastry case on the whole surface with a fork, but it doesn’t always work (at least in ma case). You can risk it. The bean method is sure. The beans can be used then for several years.

    3. Arudhi, I have an idea. Why don’t you make individual tartlets? Then maybe it will be easier to find something heavy and small to put on the baking paper? It would make about 12 tartlets.

  2. Sissi, thank youuuuuu sooo much for your tips! Your new mini tarts are so cute!
    Too bad I didn`t have time to turn on my PC on Saturday and I made the tart anyway as I was very curious. I love the lemon curd very much!
    As you mentioned about the risk, the dough rose up on the center without the beans, but it flattened back when I took it out. By the way, I bake the dough at 150 C for 20 mins and because I was hurrying to go to my lab, I poured in the filling while the pie sheet was still hot and continue baking it 130 C. The final shape of my tart wasn`t as good as yours, but overall it tasted great! Good balance of sweetness and lemoniness. I also used almond powder as you suggested and I`m glad I did!
    Thank you so much for your help and I think I really should get those metal baking beans. And make sure that I don`t have to go anywhere in the middle of baking process :p Can`t wait to have my next trials!

    1. Arudhi, thank you for this kind message. I am so happy you have managed to make this tart and most of all that you have enjoyed it!
      I am very happy you didn’t have holes in the crust (it happened to me when the crust rose, didn’t go back to the flat shape and then I poured down the lemon curd and… it cracked. I had half of the lemon curd under the crust and half on the crust (but it was still delicious!).
      As for the beans: I use normal beans (white beans). You can use the Japanese red beans (azuki?). Choose the cheapest brand and label them as baking beans. I have used mine for at least three years now! I find the “special” metal or ceramic beans rip-off. They simply cost too much.
      Thank you for coming here and telling me these wonderful news!

      1. Hahah, this is hilarious! Now I know that you were talking about the real beans instead of the metal ones! I wonder, though, won`t the azuki beans scorch or get burned during the baking? I`ve never baked any kind of dry beans before, so this new info does sound interesting to me.
        My pie crust did cracked open and the filling got mixed with it, but really, given how the taste turned out, that didn`t bother me at all :)) I`ll try to be more careful next time, especially if I want to serve it for guests.
        Oh and there`s one more question if you don`t mind. My dough mixture was very crumbly and I couldn`t roll it out. So, I pressed it down with hands to line the tart tin like preparing the cookie crust for cheese cake. I`m thinking that it was because my kitchen was very cold making the butter difficult to properly bind the flour. Do you have any idea where I did things wrong? Or have you ever experienced this?

        1. Arudhi, I use the most popular (in Europe) white,dried beans and apart from the nasty look they have, some skin that peeled off, nothing has changed. As long as you put the baking paper on the pastry it’s ok.
          Arudhi, I often do the same when I have no patience to roll 😉 Spreading with fingers is a good shortcut if the dough is stubborn. (It’s easier when the dough is a bit warmer). I think it is very easy (before you put the dough to the fridge) to pass from what is called in French as “pâte brisée” to “pâte sablée” (“sand”, crumbly dough). Too many movements and it gets crumbly. The taste stays greats, but the rolling out is a bit more difficult. In short, you have had a wonderful idea (I think I should have added this option to my post).

          1. Thank you for your thorough explanations, Sissi. I feel as if I`m attending a private cooking class with a great teacher 🙂 And thank you for the wonderful lemon curd recipe too! I guess I`ll finish the whole batch by myself 🙂 Thank you and nite nite, Sissi!

            1. Thank you again, Arudhi, you are so sweet 🙂 I hope my explanations were useful. French lemon tart is not the easiest cake alas. The thin pastry crust is much more difficult to handle than the American-style thick pastry crust.
              I am very happy you liked the lemon curd too.

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