At last, lemon tart.

You might remember a couple of months ago I wrote about little pots of lemon cream, rather seductive little puddings made from mascarpone (the extremely nice triple cream cheese from Italy), eggs, sugar and lemon. The ones that taste  somewhere in-between the soft quivering center of a classic tarte au citron and a very good, very creamy, baked lemon cheesecake.

I’m extremely fond of these little pots just as they are, but I have to admit that for years now I’ve fancied this luscious lemon cream in a tart, a thick, fat layer of it on thin base of delicate and buttery pastry.

Just one problem! Tarts, as we all know, involve pastry and I don’t, if at all possible, involve myself or get involved with pastry (the making of it that is, eating it is another matter entirely and one in which I’m very involved.) I suffer from pastry making anxiety you see, the conseqence of various pastry traumas; dry, cracked, shruken, heavy and leaden, heartburn inducing ones;  wet, damp, soggy, cloggy indigestion inducing ones . Despite lots of wonderful advice, I still practice heavy avoidance techniques where pastry is concerned. The mere sight of the words… pate…brisee…sucrèe…rich or shortcrust will still see me hastily turning the page.

Well they did, it did, I did, until 3 weeks ago, when I decided enough was enough. I gathered together the ingredients for the lemon cream and called upon my clever friend for moral support, a sweet pastry recipe and triple advice. Then rather like a certain afternoon about 25 years ago, after months of trepidation, hovering, perched on the edge and the inevitable sheepish, shivering retreats back down the ladder, I scrambled up to the second highest diving board, marched to the end and flung myself with abandon into the deep end of St Alban’s swimming pool.

The recipe my friend suggested turned out to be from a book I had on my shelf, Made in Italy, a book I like very much but whose entire dessert chapter I’d dismissed as too restauranty and fussy. A recipe chapter which includes, of all things -my clever clever friend – a rather delicious sounding lemon and mascarpone tart, the filling of which was pretty much identical to my (oops, Nigella’s) lemon cream.

A little bit of recipe serendipity.

So, first the pastry, which Giorgio reassures us is  ‘a very good, very easy sweet pastry that isn’t difficult to work with and won’t break if you roll it‘. He is right you know, even in my doomed pastry hands, I’d say it’s a bloody marvelous pastry. I was anxious to start, knowing another failure could nudge my pastry anxiety into pastry phobia, but once I got going; beating the butter and sugar adding the eggs and flour; bringing everything into a ball with cold hands and it feeling as reassuring as play dough, not too sticky not too dry; rolling it out without the dreaded cracks; lifting it into the tin without a shaggy tear, baking it blind and watching it turn golden brown, it was as nearly as exciting as flinging myself into the deep end! Ok, not quite as exhilarating but certainly as satisfying in a ‘what on earth have I been waiting for, just look what I did’ kind of way.

Making the filling, mixing the mascarpone, cream, milk, sugar, lemon and then whisking in the eggs yolks felt familiar and comfortable after all my lemon cream practice. Pouring this disconcertingly liquid mixture into the tart case is a little nerve-wracking as is the instruction ‘cook till the center is set but still the slightest bit wobbly’ suggesting a crucial moment you need to catch, rather like a ball. I needn’t have worried about either, my pouring hand was surprisingly steady and the tart was set but still wobbly (a nudge of the tin ascertained this) after the suggested 30 minutes.

So, the tart, which I have made three times now – I thought I should before I started enthusing and prothlesizing about it here – is as lovely as I hoped it would be. The pastry is delicate and buttery, the pale yellow filling soft and creamy, sharpened and lifted by a lip puckering tartness of the lemon. I like the intense satiny lemoniness of it all, the way it trembles and wobbles ever so slightly as you cut a slice

I’m sorry I didn’t get a picture of the whole tart, but in the rush and tumble of an afternoons cooking and a messy rabble of friends for supper photo’s were forgotten. It was pretty – a little bit wonky but most things I make are a little bit wonky – and it was a good end to a supper of spinach and ricotta lasagna followed by thin slices of rare roast beef with potatoes.

The pictures here are the morning after the night before, Sunday at about midday when we had a sweet second breakfast of the last three slices with more coffee. I know the tart looks rumpled (rather like us, we’d all had a big night) the icing sugar has dissolved away, cracks have appeared like they do, but you get the idea I hope. I think it was actually more delicious the morning after.

Last things, these instructions look quite complicated and long-winded, they’re not really, just heavy on the pastry and blind baking advice which I for one really appreciated. Once you have made and blind baked the pastry it’s all very straightforward, probably a breeze for you seasoned tart makers.

Lemon and mascarpone tart

From Giorgio Locatelli’s Made in Italy

For the pastry.

This will make a double quantity, enough for 2 tarts but apparently a larger volume mixes better and you can freeze the other half.

  • 220g grams butter
  • 150g icing sugar
  • 2 medium-sized eggs
  • 450g plain flour (Italian 00 is perfect but not necessary any plain flour will do)
  • another 2 egg yolks to glaze tart

For the filling

  • 300g mascarpone cheese
  • 50ml whipping cream
  • 50ml whole milk
  • zest of two large unwaxed lemons
  • 100ml lemon juice
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 120g egg yolks
  • icing sugar, to finish

You need a 28″ non stick tart tin, loose based is really best.

First make the pastry;

Food prosessor method; Put the butter in the food mixer with a paddle and whiz until soft. Add the sugar and keep mixing until the mixture is pale and very creamy. Add the eggs and then whiz again until they are incorporated. then add the flour. Continue to mix until the flour is incorporated and you have a neat ball of dough. Divide into 2 balls and put one in the fridge or freezer for another day


By hand method;  Leave the butter out of the fridge for a few hours so it is nice and soft. Beat the soft butter with a wooden spoon in a large bowl until it is creamy and then add the sugar. Keep beating and stirring with the wooden spoon until you have a soft fluffy, mixture. Add the eggs and beat until they are incorporated. Gradually add the flour and first using the spoon and then your (cold) hands bring the mixture into a ball. Divide into 2 balls and put one in the fridge or freezer for another day.

Preheat the oven to 170°Roll out one of the balls of the pastry into a large circle on a well floured surface – use the tart tin in as rough template, the circle should be large enough that the pastry will hang over the edges of the tin by about 1 cm and can be easily lifted out

If it is non stick, butter and flour the inside of the tin. Carefully lower the pastry into the ring, press it down gently, making sure it fits into the corners. Line the pastry case with circle of greaseproof paper and weight it down with dried or baking beans.

Bake the case for 5 minutes then take it out of the oven, remove the beans and the paper and put it back in the oven for 10-12 minutes until golden.

Take the tart out of the oven and while it is still hot brush it with the beaten egg yolk. Put the case back the oven for another 2 minutes. This forms a skin so even if there are tiny holes the filling won’t seep through and burn.

Allow the tart to cool a little then very gently cut off the overhang with a serrated knife. Set the tart case aside, lower the oven to 150°C while you…

Make the filling

Mix together the mascarpone, cream, milk, lemon juice and sugar in a bowl. Whisk the egg yolks separately then add to the mascarpone mixture and incorporate quickly with a hand blender.

Very carefully pour the mixture into the tart case and then carefully slide it onto the middle shelf of the oven for 30 minutes until the center is set but still the slightest bit wobbly. Leave to cool by which time the topping will have firmed up.

Dust with icing sugar


A day after posting this Wonderful Jordan noticed that I had omitted the rather key word Flour from the ingredients list and I then realised I had also written the wrong measure of flour – unforgivable really. I’ve now amended the recipe so it is proper and correct, 450g plain flour (Italian 00 is perfect but not necessary.) I do hope nobody tried this with the old measurements beacause I will have given you serious pastry trauma. Sorry, I will be more attentive in future.



Filed under cakes and baking, food, lemons, Puddings, recipes

31 responses to “At last, lemon tart.

  1. Sniffle…I’m so proud (big smile). Beautiful writing, as always. So sad when each chapter ends. And the tulips are perfect as well.

  2. I love me some wonky pie. That aside, your tart actualy looks delicious and beautiful. Congrats on the crust and thanks for the recipie it sounds wonderful.

  3. Rachel Z

    I have been absolutely hooked by your blog in this past week, and now that you have serendipitously posted this recipe, I will have to make it! I just received my mother’s ancient tart pan (so that she can buy a new one), and while I have no fear of pastry dough, I am quite intimidated by “slightly wobbly” fillings. I look forward to conquering that with this tart.

    • rachel

      From one Rachel to another I suggest diving in with abandon, especially with your new tin. By the way, I was nearly as afraid of ‘wobble’ or ‘just set’ as I was of pastry….

  4. Hurray and applause for conquering a food fear–I, too, resisted making my own pastry for years, had my excuses, “too much trouble” or “too time consuming.” But, like many things in life, it’s easy when you know how.(although I still fret a little when I blind-bake.) Your recipe is similar to mine and I have found that the egg yolks in the crust make it very pliable and forgiving.

    Thanks for those gorgeous tulips—heart leaps for spring!

    • rachel

      Forgiving, thats such a good way to put it, because thats exactly what it is. I suppose that makes my past pastry unforgiving, which it was, very.

  5. Jordan

    I may just be tired…but please, is this:
    ■250g plain (Italian 00 is perfect)
    Olive oil? Or oil?

    I think I’m going to make this for myself for my birthday….It sounds wonderful!

    And I, too, have been hooked by your blog. One day, while bored at work, I actually read almost a year of your blog. 🙂 It’s fantastic and making me miss Italy terribly.

    • rachel

      Oh thankyou Jordan I have just ammended the post to
      450g plain flour (Italian 00 is perfect)…..It is the flour, I forget to write the most important word, not only that I wrote the wrong quantity – unforgiveable really. You are clearly not as tired as I was when I wrote this post.
      Have I said Thankyou, now I don’t look so stupid.
      Thankyou for the message too and if it makes you miss Italy any less the weather is horrid horrid today.

  6. Josie

    I just recently started reading your blog and I’m loving it. It really is inspiring and better than any cookbook I own. Love the photos too!

  7. Well, for someone who has conquered the pastry fear you seem to have done it with a bang, that lemon tart looks absolutely divine. I especially love the idea of it being a second breakfast.

  8. I think it’s perfectly fine that you didn’t get a photo of the whole tart – especially since the ones you did get are just so beautiful. I wish I had some lemon zest leftover, but really all I have is a ton of naked lemons, after making all this limoncello. This sounds fantastic though, wish I had a slice right now.

  9. Lemon tart has to be one of my favourite puddings and really love the sound and look of this one, even more so with the addition of mascarpone!

  10. I’m happy for you that you’ve had pastry success and can toss those fears in the trash once and for all! Though I’m even happier for ME because I’m sure it means more delicious posts from you with pastry in it. ps the broccoli pasta addiction is not abating…

    • rachel

      haha the brocolli pasta addiction – we know all about that.
      As addictions go, it is a pretty good one.
      Umm talking pastry i just tried a new recipe for a savory crust which has set me back a little,
      but I am determined. – onward.

  11. I am so with you on the pastry thing – I couldn’t help grinning whilst reading it as I too have a pastry phobia. So maybe I need to make a lemon tart and sort myself out!

    • rachel

      Somebody pointed out that sweet pastry is not the best (easiest) place for
      a pastry anxiety sufferer, beginner to start – but hey, it worked for me.
      Yes, I suggest a tart, I am with you in pastry spirit !!

  12. we should be friends. i’m sitting here just thinking to myself how much i want to dive into that tart. first i need to conquer a gluten-free version of the crust. what do gf italians do in a baking situation like this? do tell.

    • rachel

      Hi elicia
      I am terribly ignorant about gluten free cooking but I will ask around
      to see if I anyone can suggest a good gluten free crust for this tart and let you know

  13. whoa. so gorgeous. the first sniff of summer i am making this. so beautiful. i needed these colors to lift my spirits today.

  14. Rachel, your writing is lovely and I am enamored with this mouth puckering lemon tart. I relate to your pastry fears – My mother was/is a pastry pro, but I somehow always find a different sort of dessert to make instead. I have some 00 flour in my pantry I need to use and I adore mascarpone cheese – I hope to make this before long.

  15. Pingback: Lemon Mascarpone Tart « Experiments from a Tiny Kitchen in Shanghai

  16. Ciao Rachel,
    provo a fare la torta limone/mascarpone. La porterò a Venezia questo week end. Poi ti dico com’è venuta. Baci,

  17. Pingback: A chocolate tart « rachel eats

  18. Such an awesome recipe! Thanks for sharing this with us. I have always wanted to make lemon tart at home. Will surely give this recipe a try. It would go really well with a hot cup of coffee with beans grounded fresh from one of myespresso grinders Awesome post! Thanks.

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