Thomas Keller's Lemon Tart Recipe (2024)

Yahoo Food is proud to present a new weeklong series called “Master Class.” Throughout the year, we’ll visit with some of America’s top culinary talents and share a behind-the-scenes look at the worlds they’ve created. First up, the country’s most revered chef, Thomas Keller of The French Laundry and Per Se. Here is his lemon tart recipe from the French Laundry Cookbook (Artisan Books).

Thomas Keller's Lemon Tart Recipe (1)

Photo: Deborah Jones

Lemon Sabayon–Pine Nut Tart with Honeyed Mascarpone Cream
Makes 8 servings

This is an elegant dessert that is very easy, can be done ahead of time, and tastes absolutely exquisite. The lemon sabayon is a lot like a lemon curd; the difference is you cook the eggs over hot water till you develop those nice big trails and ribbons, then add the butter, which helps it set up as it cools to room temperature. The honey in the mascarpone cream perfectly balances the lemon in the tart, a flavor combination I didn’t have to look any farther for than a cup of hot tea.

This tart is best served at room temperature, within a few hours of assembling, but if necessary, it can be refrigerated and served cold.

Butter and flour for the tart pan
⅓ recipe Pine Nut Crust (recipe follows)
Lemon sabayon
2 large eggs, cold
2 large egg yolks, cold
¾ cup sugar
½ cup fresh lemon juice
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces

Honeyed Mascarpone Cream
½ cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
1 tablespoon honey

For the crust: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously butter and flour a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom and refrigerate it while the oven preheats.

Remove the tart pan from the refrigerator. Use your fingertips to press the chilled dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Trim off any excess dough.

Bake the crust for 10 to 15 minutes, then rotate the shell and continue baking for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the shell is golden brown. Remove the shell from the oven and let it cool while you make the filling. There may be some cracks in the shell; they will not affect the tart.

For the Lemon Sabayon: Bring about 1 ½ inches of water to a boil in a pot that is slightly smaller than the diameter of the mixing bowl you will be using for the sabayon. Meanwhile, in a large metal bowl, whisk the eggs, yolks, and sugar for about 1 minute, or until the mixture is smooth.

Set the bowl over the pot and, using a large whisk, whip the mixture while you turn the bowl, for even heating. After about 2 minutes, when the eggs are foamy and have thickened, add ⅓ of the lemon juice. Continue to whisk vigorously and when the mixture thickens again, add another ⅓ of the lemon juice. Whisk until the mixture thickens again, then add the remaining lemon juice. Continue whisking vigorously, still turning the bowl, until the mixture is thickened, light in color, and the whisk leaves a trail in the bottom of the bowl. The total cooking time should be approximately 8 to 10 minutes.

Turn off the heat but leave the bowl over the water as you add the butter: Whisk in the butter a piece at a time. The sabayon may loosen slightly, but it will thicken and set as it cools. Pour the warm sabayon into the tart shell and place the pan on a baking sheet.

Preheat the broiler. While the sabayon is still warm, place the tart under the broiler. Leaving the door open, brown the top of the sabayon, rotating the tart if necessary for even color; do not leave the oven — this will happen in a few seconds. Remove the tart from the broiler and let it sit at least 1 hour before serving. Serve at room temperature or cold.

For the Honeyed Mascarpone Cream: Whip the cream until it is frothy in a bowl set over ice. Add the mascarpone and honey and continue to whisk for about 2 minutes, or until the cream is thick and creamy. Keep refrigerated until serving.

To complete: Serve the slices of the tart with the mascarpone cream on the side.

Pine Nut Crust
Makes enough dough for three 9-inch tarts

2 cups (10 ounces) pine nuts
⅓ cup sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
16 tablespoons (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

Since the recipe uses only one egg, it would be difficult to cut down, but the extra dough can be frozen for future use.

Place the pine nuts in a food processor and pulse a few times. Add the sugar and flour and continue to pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Place the mixture in a mixing bowl (the dough can be mixed in a mixer fitted with the paddle or by hand).

Add the softened butter, the egg, and vanilla extract and mix to incorporate all the ingredients. Divide the dough into three parts. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes before using. The dough can be frozen for future use.

More delicious lemon desserts to make at home:

Lemon curd makes everything better

Martha Stewart’s upside-down lemon meringue pie

Lemon icebox pie

Thomas Keller's Lemon Tart Recipe (2024)


Why didn't my lemon tart set? ›

A custard with both eggs and starch needs to be thoroughly cooked. The reason is that yolks contain an enzyme which liquidifies starch. It doesn't happen outright, but will happen while your tart is cooling. The only way to prevent it is to heat the mix high enough so the enzyme is deactivated.

Why is my lemon tart runny? ›

If your lemon tart is runny, the mostly likely cause is not cooking the filling long enough. It should be nicely thickened when you pull it off the stove.

Why does my lemon tart separate? ›

Burr explains that custard, especially ones that are heavy on fruit, have a tendency to split as a result of the moisture content and too-high oven temperatures. This is the chief issue you'll encounter when baking a lemon tart.

Why is my tart not setting? ›

If the filling is runny and flowing out of the tart when you cut into it, then it is likely that the curd was not cooked for quite long enough.

How do you know when lemon tart is set? ›

Half-fill the tart case with lemon mixture, then place tart on an oven shelf, ensuring it's level. Fill to the rim with remaining filling (you may have a little left over). Bake until the tart is set but with a little wobble in the centre (about 30 minutes).

How can I thicken my tart filling? ›

Cornstarch has thickening power similar to Instant ClearJel. Like flour, it lends a cloudy, semi-transparent look to filling. It can also give filling a starchy taste. For full effectiveness, make sure the pie filling is bubbling up through the crust before removing your pie from the oven.

How do you fix a runny tart? ›

Last resort to fix a runny pie
  1. Remove the filling from the pie and add it to a saucepan on the stovetop.
  2. Add a bit of cornstarch (refer to the table above for measurements) and gently heat it to a boil.
  3. Turn the heat down and let the fruit simmer for a few minutes to activate the cornstarch.
Sep 13, 2022

Why is my tart base so hard? ›

Richard's solution: Tough pastry is very common, but easily avoidable. It usually occurs when you've been a bit heavy-handed with the water when you're initially bringing the pastry together (by adding water to the flour and butter), or if you have over-worked the dough and developed the gluten in the flour.

How do you keep lemon tart from curdling? ›

After filling your tarts or tartlets with custard, refrigerate them immediately. This will help to set the custard and prevent it from curdling or weeping. Allow the tarts or tartlets to chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

Why is my lemon tart grainy? ›

Grainy or gritty lemon curd comes from curdled (over-coagulated) eggs, as a result of overcooking. The easiest way to prevent curdling is to use a double boiler to slow the rate of cooking-- and to monitor the temperature with a thermometer.

Can you leave a lemon tart out overnight? ›

Yes, this lemon tart needs to be refrigerated to stay fresh. It will keep well for 4-5 days.

Why is my tart dough so soft? ›

Very soft, difficult-to-mould pastry: Either too little flour or too much water or fat was used, the pastry was not kneaded together until smooth or the pastry was still too hot and soft to roll out (to remedy this, allow to stand or knead gently for 1–2 minutes).

Why isn t my lemon meringue thickening? ›

If the meringue mixture becomes flat or runny when the sugar is added then it usually means that the egg whites were not quite whisked enough before the sugar was added. It sometimes helps to whisk the whites, then add a tablespoon of sugar and whisk the whites back to medium peaks before adding the rest of the sugar.

Why did my lemon filling not set? ›

I think you didn't cook it long enough after adding the eggs. Lemon pie filling has to be almost so thick you can cut it with a knife before you pour it into the shell or it won't set up. So you cook it until it becomes that thick.

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