The last time Andrew and I were in Paris, we pretty much went from one spectacular bakeshop or chocolatier to another. And you can’t really miss those belonging to Pastry Chef Extraordinaire Pierre Hermé. The man himself is arguably the most acclaimed of all living pastry chefs. He is best known for his perfectly -textured macarons which come in flavors that are simply out of this world. Vogue magazine called him ‘the Picasso of pastry”. So need I tell you whenever we spied one of his three locations in St. Germaine de Pres, Avenue de L’Opera or on Rue Cambon a stone’s throw from the Palais Royale, we would go in for a macaron fix.
Along with Chef Herme’s famed macarons, he also has the distinction of making pastries and tarts and gourmet chocolates. His chocolate cake alone was once called ‘one of the 50 best things in the world to eat’ by the Observer. Once home, Andrew was perusing a favorite recipe source “Food 52 Genius Desserts: 100 Recipes That Will Change The Way You Bake”. Written by Kristin Migliore and published by Ten Speed Press (2018), this is a collection of recipes from all over. And it was there that he spied Pierre Hermé’s recipe for French Lemon Cream Tart.
You’ll notice that this is not called a Lemon Curd Tart. Chef Hermé altered the standard recipe for lemon curd—eggs, sugar, lemon juice, butter—by taking the butter out of the process and then whipping melted butter back into it. The butter emulsifies and is filled with air. So the texture isn’t that of jam-like curd. Instead, it’s more like a smooth aioli or a French buttercream. To make it, you’ll need a whisk, an instant-read thermometer, a fine mesh strainer and preferably a blender over a food processor, although you can use the latter in a pinch. I’ve started here with the recipe for the tart shell itself. You may be forgiven if you would prefer to buy a ready-made tart shell. After that, you’ll find the recipe for the Lemon Cream. Put them together and you’ll probably never make Lemon tarts any other way. And here they are. And after, another tart you might enjoy.
Pate a Sucre Tart Shell
The perfect crust for all sweet tarts.
- 2 Cups (220 g) plain flour, sifted, plus more to dust
- 1/3 Cup (40 g) icing sugar
- 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
- ½ Cup (120 g) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
- 1 Orange (finely grated zest only)
- 1 egg yolk
- 4 tbsp. cold water
- Step 1 Start with the pastry. Place the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl and use your hands to rub in the butter until you have a texture resembling crumbs. You can also do this in a food mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mixing on a slow speed.
- Step 2 Add the zest and egg yolk, then slowly add the water one tablespoon at a time, mixing constantly, until you have a smooth dough. You might not need all the water, so add it in stages. Be careful not to work the dough too much, as it can make the pastry chewy and elastic instead of crumbly and short.
- Step 3 Mould the dough into a ball, cover with cling film and leave it to rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
- Step 4 When you are ready to bake the tart, preheat the oven to 180°C/360°F/gas mark 4. Leave the oven on as you roll out your pastry. Lightly flour a work top and rolling pin, then roll the pastry out to about 5mm (0.2 inches) thick.
- Step 5 Line the base and sides of a 23cm (9 inch) diameter fluted tart tin with the pastry, pushing it into the crevices so you get an even layer. Prick the base of the pastry a few times with a fork, then line it with greaseproof paper and fill it with baking beans or other dried beans.
- Step 6 Bake the tart crust for 15 minutes, then remove the paper and beans and bake for a further 5–10 minutes, until the pastry looks golden. Take the pastry out of the oven and let it cool slightly while you make the filling.
Pierre Hermés French Lemon Cream Tart
This extraordinarily creamy lemon confection is the ultimate lemon pie.
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 lemons, finely grated zest only (about 2 tablespoons)
- 4 large eggs
- ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 4 or 5 lemons)
- 10.5 oz plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 2cm (1 inch) pieces
- 1 fully baked 23cm (9 inch) tart shell (you can make your own by following the recipe in the intro or buy one ready-made)
- Step 1 Fill a large saucepan with 5cm (2 inches) of water and bring it to a boil over high heat, then lower to a simmer.
- Step 2 In a large metal bowl, rub the sugar and lemon zest together with your fingers until the sugar is well moistened, a bit clumpy, and very aromatic. Whisk in the eggs, followed by the lemon juice.
- Step 3 Set the bowl over the saucepan (be sure the bottom isn’t touching the water) and cook the mixture, whisking constantly as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch (this will happen quickly).
- Step 4 Cook the cream until it reaches 80°C (180°F). The mixture will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then, as it’s getting close to 80°C (180°F), it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks, which means it’s almost ready. Don’t stop whisking and don’t stop checking the temperature – this can take as long as 10 minutes but may happen more quickly, depending on the heat.
- Step 5 As soon as the mixture reaches 80°C (180°F), remove it from the heat and pour it through a fine-mesh strainer set over a blender (or food processor), stirring with a rubber spatula to coax as much of the curd through the strainer as possible. Let the curd cool at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until it is 60°C (140°F).
- Step 6 Set the blender to high and, with the machine running, drop in about 5 pieces of butter at a time. Scrape down the sides of the blender as needed.
- Step 7 After the butter is all blended in, continue to blend for 3 minutes more to whip in even more air. If your blender gets a bit too hot, run it only a minute at a time, giving the machine a short rest in between.
- Step 8 Scrape the cream into a container and smooth a piece of plastic wrap over its surface to form an airtight seal. Refrigerate the cream for at least 4 hours. (You can store it in the refrigerator for 4 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months.)
- Step 9 When you are ready to fill the tart, whisk the cream to loosen it. Scrape it into the tart shell, smooth the top, and refrigerate if not serving shortly. Serve the tart cold the day it’s made.