Bakery, Desserts, Pies, Tarts & Pastries

Lemon Curd Tart

2 Comments 08 June 2011

This is likely to be the last dessert to even partially be baked in my kitchen for the summer. If you live in the Southern U.S., the most constant thing about our weather is the summer heat, which often pushes its way into Fall and, yes, even winter at times. But it’s getting a little ridiculous even for us. We’ve endured one hundred degree plus temperatures for over a week now and it doesn’t look to be much more promising any time soon. If we’re not in a drought already, we soon will be. My yard is crunchy. Look, I know it’s bad when my cat wants to stay inside and lay on the cool tile floors instead of prowling the yard for various feline thrills.

In the coming weeks, you’ll see more meal ideas that are all about cooling off. It’s a goal of mine, and I intend to keep it. Yes, I know more lucid and with-it folks have already started doing this, but I love baking so…yeah.

Oven, I love you, but it’s time for you to go into hibernation. We’ll reconvene in the fall with plenty of ideas I already can’t wait to try.

All that being said, you can still get a lot out of this recipe if you’re looking for cooler treats. The lemon curd itself is made on the stove top relatively quickly, and lots of people have it, for example, on toast for breakfast. You can use it on pancakes, or even as filling for those cute, fun ebelskivers.

Lemon Curd Tart

I’ve made this tart several times now, and I’ve always used regular lemons. The grocery store had meyer lemons that day (which they usually never do) so I decided to give ’em a try. Yes, meyers are more expensive, but I figured it was just this once and I was curious to taste any possible differences. More on that later.

Meyer lemons are also, it seems, the prettier cousin. These were an almost orange color, and much smoother and, well, prettier. Not that it matters when it comes to eating them, but I guess I appreciated it nonetheless. Who doesn’t like pretty fruit?

Lemon Curd Tart

The zest even grated up more like orange zest. You all probably know by now, but I love citrus zest. Another reason for me to make this stuff.

Lemon Curd Tart

First we have to make a tart shell, and for that, I always go now to the one made by Smitten Kitchen, her Great Unshrinkable Sweet Tart Shell. The tart recipe itself is Ina Garten’s, but the first time I made her particular tart shell, I had such big problems with it that I opted for SK’s instead, and it worked so much better.

Lemon Curd Tart

So you can either refrigerate your tart pastry and then roll it out, or you can press the mixture into the pan, as you can see I did. I admit that I prefer to press it in because I’m too lazy to roll out dough, and pressing it in gets the recipe going quicker anyway. It is completely up to the cook.

Here’s how the tart shell looked after it was baked and the curd poured – you’ll see that mine did shrink a little, but all in all, it is still a good tart pastry shell recipe SK’s got going. It’s flaky and tasty and that’s good enough for me.

Lemon Curd Tart

While the tart shell has been baked and is cooling, you’ll commence with getting your curd on.

You’ll pulse together the sugar and lemon zest to make this delectable little bowl of lemon sugar. I’m betting this would taste grreeaaat in some tea this fall!

Lemon Curd Tart

You’ll use a hand or stand mixer to combine all the curd ingredients. And when you add and mix in the lemon juice, it will look like such a hot mess of a mistake. Don’t worry if the texture comes out clumpy like above. It’s just the butter separating a little. OK, a lot. Don’t worry, it will smooth out on the stove top.

Lemon Curd Tart

This is another recipe where you need to stir constantly. There’s eggs in there and you don’t want actual, real clumps to form via scrambled eggs. And see, the butter smoothed out and you’ve got one gorgeous, fragrant lemon curd.

At this point you can either bottle the stuff and refrigerate until time for tea or breakfast, or pour it into your tart shell.

Lemon Curd Tart

Ina’s recipe says to let the curd cool in the shell until it’s set, then serve. I was always suspicious that the curd would truly set that well on its own, though, so I do refrigerate my lemon curd tarts for a while in the fridge. This one we ended up refrigerating overnight as it was getting late anyway and we’d soon have no natural light left to take pictures with. If you want to serve it the same day, I recommend making it earlier in the day so that it can have several hours in the fridge. It will still want to ooze a little once cut, but will hold up much better than having been left at room temperature. Plus, I just love this dessert on the cool side anyway.

Lemon Curd Tart

It’s a very simple-looking dessert that packs a smoothly powerful flavor to the the taste buds. It’s elegant, it’s classic and it’s definitely a favorite of mine. Make a large tart to share, or make individual ones for your guests or family. If you like lemon, well, you can’t go wrong with this one. Lightly sweetened, fresh whipped cream makes a perfect accompaniment to this. And hey – so does canned whipped cream you get in the refrigerated section of the store. Enjoy!

Lemon Curd Tart

Filling by Ina Garten, shell by Smitten Kitchen

Since I got the shell part of this recipe from Smitten Kitchen, please proceed to her site to retrieve her recipe for the shell. Follow her great, detailed instructions and then swing back by here for Ina Garten’s lemon curd recipe. If you have any questions about the tart shell, I’ll be glad to try to answer them for you.

For the filling:

  • 4 lemons, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Remove the zest of the lemons with a vegetable peeler or zester, being careful to avoid the white pith. Squeeze the lemons to make 1/2 cup of juice and set the juice aside. Put the zest in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the sugar and process for 2 to 3 minutes, until the zest is very finely minced. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter with the sugar and lemon zest. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and then add the lemon juice and salt. Mix until combined.

Pour the mixture into a 2-quart saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 10 minutes. The lemon curd will thicken at about 175 degrees F, or just below a simmer. Remove from the heat.

Fill the tart shell with warm lemon curd and allow to set at room temperature, or refrigerate to help the curd set up more. You can refrigerate for several hours or even overnight, so this makes a good one-day-ahead dessert.


So, do meyer lemons taste any different/better than regular lemons in this recipe? I say yes and no. I think regular lemons work great for this, but the meyer lemons do have a slightly more sharp flavor. A little more lemony. Is it enough to justify the extra expense of the meyer lemons? That’s up to you. For me, they weren’t that much more expensive, and the recipe only calls for four of them. I have no problem, though, using regular lemons should I not be able to get meyer lemons again.

The tart shell is a great one also because it’s very sturdy. You’ll need a good, sharp knife to cut into it, and do so slowly and carefully, especially as you get to the back part, the crinkled edge crust. Mine is always thickest at this point.

Again, if you don’t ant to make a whole tart, you could opt for smaller individual ones, which always make for a cute presentation, or save the curd for other recipes and ideas.

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- who has written 347 posts on Full Fork Ahead.

Wife, mom, indulgent reader and Day Job Do-er, who occasionally likes to think she can cook. Sometimes she's right, sometimes she's wrong.

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2 Comments so far

  1. Penny says:

    Oh! I just want to jump into my computer screen and eat that entire tart!!!!! I love love love lemony desserts. I even had a lemon wedding cake! This looks wonderful…thanks for the great recipe.

  2. KMont says:

    No problem, Penny! Go forth and make it and be satisfied! 😀

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