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French Food at Home: Classic Tarte au Citron

I’m fortunate to have a friend who is also a pastry genius – he bakes baguettes, pain au chocolat, croissants and tarte au citron like none I’ve ever tasted. But I do love being able to make my own – and if I’m going to venture into French pastry territory, a simple lemon tart is a good starting point. Not too complex, classic tarte au citron is a sophisticated change from pie, and a perfectly bright, tangy summer dessert, especially topped with a few fresh raspberries or blueberries.

Tarte au Citron

adapted from Bon Appétit

Pastry for a single crust pie

Filling:
2 large eggs, chilled
2 large egg yolks, chilled
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously butter and flour a 9-inch round (or a long pan with about the same capacity) fluted tart pan with a removable bottom and press the pastry dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Trim off any excess dough. Prick the bottom a few times with a fork.

Bake the crust for 20-30 minutes, until pale golden. Remove the crust from the oven and let it cool while you make the filling. (If it cracks a bit – don’t worry.)

To make the filling, whisk the eggs, yolks, and sugar together in the bowl of a double boiler. (Or in a medium stainless steel bowl.)

Set the bowl over a pot of simmering water and whisk for about 2 minutes, until the eggs are foamy and have thickened, then add a third of the lemon juice. Continue to whisk vigorously and, when the mixture thickens again, add another third of the lemon juice. Whisk until the mixture thickens again, then add the remaining lemon juice. Continue whisking vigorously, turning the bowl, until the mixture thickens and is light in color and the whisk leaves a trail in the bottom of the bowl. The total cooking time should be 8 to 10 minutes.

Turn off the heat and leave the bowl over the water. Whisk in the butter a piece at a time. Pour into the crust while still warm, and refrigerate until set.

Serve at room temperature or cold.

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