I was never a fan of lemon desserts (lemon torte, lemon sorbet, lemon drizzle cake, lemons in general!) until I was introduced to it by the chef at Lambert House in Hull (I was based in Hull for 8 months on a project where I was happily spoiled by the chef and staff at Lambert House). Every night, my colleague and I were given a menu and a choice of starter, mains and dessert (or pudding as they’re called here). I remember it being at the start of spring when the chef introduced lemon torte in his dessert list. Even though lemon desserts have never really enticed me, I was compelled to try the lemon torte, and may I say, I was converted! I wish I had taken pictures of the lemon torte to remind me of how delicious the torte was! I have since tried to recreate my version of the torte (after 5-7 attempts!) and I think I may have come up with something that tastes almost similar to the lemon torte at Lambert House, minus the meringue (I still haven’t fully mastered the skills of making meringue but when I do, I will definitely post it up here).
This recipe makes a batch of 3 mini tartlets (4″ tart tins) and I made 2 batches. I prefer to work in small batches as it is easier for me to work the butter quickly when the batch is small. Working the butter too long makes the butter melt and overworking the dough makes the pastry tough.
Short crust pastry
35g superfine flour (to make the pastry light and buttery, I use superfine 00 grade pasta flour which lends a buttery flavour to the dough. You can substitute this flour with custard flour (tepung kastard) to have similar effect ).
15g corn flour (to make the pastry crispy)
50g plain flour (to hold the pastry’s shape)
3-4 tbsp cold water
A pinch of salt
1 whole egg
50ml lemon juice (juice of approximately 1 lemon)
150ml almond milk (or cream)
2 1/2 tbsp vanilla caster sugar (used vanilla pods kept in a jar of caster sugar)
1 egg for egg wash
1. Measure out the plain flour, corn flour and superfine flour, and sieve into a mixing bowl. Add a pinch of salt to the flour mixture.
2. To the sieved flour mixture, add 50g of butter which has been cut into smaller pieces. This will help the butter bind with the flour more easily. Using the back of a spoon, work the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles crumbs but with pieces of butter still visible. Work quickly and avoid direct contact with the mixture the prevent the butter from melting.
3. Add cold water to the dough by the tablespoon and mix with the spoon until the dough just come together. Transfer the dough onto a parchment paper, and using the paper, work the dough into a ball. Refrain from overworking the dough. Wrap the dough in the parchment paper and leave the dough in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest. While the dough is resting, warm up the oven and the baking tray at 170C.
4. After 30 minutes, take the dough out from the fridge, place it on a floured work surface, and divide it into 3 equal pieces. Tear the parchment paper into 3 pieces, each piece covering the surface of the pastry tin. Crumple the parchment paper and set aside for later use.
5. On the floured surface and using a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough into round shape until 2-3 mm thick. I’m using a pastry mat, but you can approximate the size of the dough to be slightly bigger than the tart tin. Work with the pastry quickly and avoid overworking the pastry.
6. Transfer the pastry into the tart tin and fit the pastry into each corner of the tin. Cut out any excess pastry. The excess pastry can be used to patch up crack or tear in the tart shell. Pierce the tart shell using a fork to allow the tart shell to ‘breath’ when baking. Let the tart shell sit in the fridge for 5 minutes. Do not discard the excess pastry as it can be used to make a free-form tart which I call peek-a-boo tart using any fresh fruits. See my next post for recipe.
7. Open up the crumpled parchment paper and place them onto the chilled tart shells. Pour the baking beans onto the parchment paper, making sure the beans fill the tart shell base. Place the tart shells onto the hot baking tray and bake the tart shells at 170C for 10 minutes. This process is called blind baking. Note: If you don’t have baking beans, you can use any type of beans or uncooked rice.
8. After 10 minutes in the oven, take the tart shells out from the oven, remove the paper and beans and let the tart shell rest for 5 minutes. Brush the tart shells with egg wash to prevent the tart from becoming soggy from the filling and also to give the shell a nice colour. Continue to bake the tart shells for another 10 minutes at 170C. After 10 minutes, remove the tart shells from the oven and sit them to rest on a cooling rack. Remove the tart shells from the tins after the shells have cooled down.
9. While the tart shells are cooling, prepare the lemon filling. Crack 1 egg into a mixing bowl, and add 2 1/2 tablespoon of caster sugar to the egg and mix well. Add 50 ml of lemon juice to the mixture and continue to mix.
10. Heat up the almond milk slowly (or cream) until almost come to a boil. In a separate pot, boil water to prepare for the double boiler process. Add the heated almond milk 1 table spoon at a time to the egg mixture. Mix well between each addition and continue to add the milk until finished. Sieve the lemon filling mixture into a separate bowl and place the bowl on top of the pot of boiling water for the double boiling process. This process cooks the lemon filling until the filling thickens slightly. Lower the heat to medium and stir the lemon filling continuously for 5-7 minutes.
11. Once the lemon filling has thickened slightly, scoop the filling equally into the tart shells. Bake the tart at 120C for 10 minutes.
Take out the lemon tarts from the oven and leave them to cool on the cooling rack. The lemon tarts are now ready and can be served with whipped cream and fresh berries 😀 Dust some icing sugar and grate the zest of a lemon for added special touch.
Have fun making your tart and be creative with your filling.
All the best,