Pucker Up! Lemon Tarts

We're renovating, exploring style and design with a dash of cocktail making and cooking thrown in. 

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I spend the summer hoping that someone with a backyard or terrace invites us to a BBQ. You have to know outdoor cooking space in NYC is a luxury and hard to come by. In our last two apartments, we had amazing outdoor spaces, the loft we are in now there is just nowhere for it. Granted we have beautiful parks, but it’s not the same and you can’t wheel a big grill up in Central Park. Luckily, we were invited to Andrea and Phil’s place for a BBQ this weekend. I know they’ll be lots of meats and sides, so I’m going to bring a fancy, refreshing dessert: lemon tart.

I love tarts, but they can be a little challenging to make, and require some planning. I like to wrap my head around making tarts by thinking of them as a ‘make ahead’ dessert. Once you learn a few basic techniques, you’ll be able to make a tart with no stress. And you can even use different fruits and make variations. The items I like to keep the same are the crust and the curd. You can be creative with the topping, here I used candied lemons. In fact, we received a bunch of strawberries from our CSA, so I might make a strawberry version as well. I used lemons for this recipe because we are going to recycle the left overs from this recipe into an amazing summer drink we’ll post next week. So save that syrup from the candied lemons!

Lemon Tarte Recipe


  • 2 1/2 cups plus 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) of cold butter
  • Ice water, 1/4 cup or more
  1. Place all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cut up your cold butter in cubes and place in bowl with dry ingredients.
  2. Using a pastry cutter, or fork, combine them with the flour. The dough should look like pebbles, and if some are as large as 1/4 that’s fine. Don’t over work the dough or your crust won’t be flakey. It took me years to to figure this out!
  3. Gradually add in the ice water a tablespoon at a time, mixing with a fork, until dough has a dry texture, but holds together. You don’t want it to feel ‘wet’. If you think you added too much water, you can always add a little flour. Form two disks and wrap in plastic wrap, place in fridge (or freezer). You can leave these in the fridge over night, or for about 30 minutes in the freezer if you’re in a rush.
  4. Roll out your dough to fit two 8 inch tart pans, or I made about 8 mini tart shells from this recipe. If you like this recipe, you can also use it for a double pie shell too.
  5. Place pie weights, or the foil and beans trick if you don’t have pie weights, in your tart shells and bake for about 30 minutes, remove the weights and bake 10 more minutes. If you are making smaller tarts you might have to bake for less time, keep an eye on the crust color.

Tip: You always want your butter to stay cold, which is why you don’t want to over work the butter when using the pastry cutter. Then you want to chill your buttery dough before rolling out.

Lemon Curd

  • 6 egg yokes
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) of butter
  1. Set up a double boiler: place a pot with about 3 inches of water on the stove and bring it to a boil. Set your heat proof bowl bowl over the pot making a double boiler.
  2. Add the egg yokes and sugar.
  3. Stirring slowly, but constantly let sugar dissolve, then add lemon juice and zest. Make sure to stir, or you’ll make scrambled eggs!
  4. Continue to cook for about 10 minutes, when mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon it’s done. Remove from heat and strain mixture using a sieve into another bowl. While mixture is still hot, gradually add butter and melt. Stir to fully combine.
  5. You can refrigerate this for a few days, remember to let it come to room temp so it spreads easily into your tart shells.

Candied Lemons

  • 2 lemons (or more), sliced thin
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 4 cups water
  1. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil over high heat.
  2. Slice lemons thin, a little less than a quarter inch. The rind can be bitter, so you want the lemon slices to be pretty thin.
  3. Add sugar to boiling water. Heat and stir until sugar is dissolved, then add lemon slices. Boil for about 20 minutes until they start to turn clear. Scoop out with a slotted spoon onto a cooling rack and let firm up and excess syrup drip off. These can store in an air tight container for a week.

Optional: Save that syrup! You’ve made a beautiful lemon syrup, so save it and we’ll post a summer cocktail recipe later this week. Here’s how you prepare it: Strain the liquid into a container, this will help remove any lemon chucks that light have fallen off during the boiling process. Cover and place in the fridge. This will last up to a week, or longer.

Assemble your tartes

So now all your pieces are made, the baked tart crust, the lemon curd, and the candied lemon slices. Time to put them together! Let the lemon curd warm up a bit so it spreads easily, and spread into your tart shell. Place candied lemon slices on top.

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