For the pastry
- 300g plain flour
- 150g unsalted butter
- ½ tsp salt
- 120g icing sugar
- 3 large egg yolks
- Seeds from ½ vanilla pod
- Finely grated zest of ½ lemon
- 1 egg for the egg wash
- For the filling
- Finely grated zest and juice of 5 lemons
- 300ml double cream
- 390g white caster sugar
- 9 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1. Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the flour, butter and salt on low speed until it becomes a sand like texture (approximately 2-3 minutes).
- 2. In the meantime, in a tall container blitz together the icing sugar and egg yolks with a hand blender.
- 3. Add the vanilla seeds and lemon zest to the egg yolk mixture and then add to the bowl in the mixer and continue to mix on low speed until fully combined and a very soft dough has formed (approximately 3-5 minutes).
- 4. Mould the dough into a flat rectangle and wrap it in clingfilm before placing in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
- 5. Roll the pastry between two sheets of baking paper to a thickness of 2mm, using two stacked 2 pence coins as guides, then place in the freezer for 30 minutes.
- 6. Pre-heat the oven to 190ºC/gas mark 5. Line a 26cm tart tin (2.5cm deep) with the pastry making sure to press it into the edges and leaving the pastry hanging over the edge.
- 7. Take a sheet of baking paper and scrunch it up several times to eliminate any sharp edges. Prick the dough with a fork all over the surface. Place the baking paper on top and add enough coins (or baking beans) to fill the casing ¼ of the way up. Place in the preheated oven to bake for approximately 20 minutes or until fully cooked.
- 8. In the meantime, mix some of the leftover dough with an egg using a hand blender.
- 9. After 20 minutes, remove the baking paper and coins and, using a pastry brush, brush the entire surface of the tart with the dough and egg mixture. This ‘liquid pastry’ will ensure that any holes will be sealed. Return the tart to the oven for an additional 10 minutes.
- 10. Remove the tart from the oven and allow to cool completely.
- 11. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 120ºC/gas mark ½. Place the baked pastry case in the oven to warm up.
- 12. Put all the filling ingredients into a bowl and mix together using a spatula. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and allow to warm up until the temperature reaches 60ºC. At this point, strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a jug. With a spoon, remove the bubbles from the surface of the liquid.
- 13. Slide the oven rack out a bit, then pour the mixture into the warm pastry case inside the oven. Fill the case to the top, slide the rack carefully back in, and bake the tart for approximately 25 minutes or until the temperature of the filling reaches 70ºC. Allow to cool completely at room temperature.
- 14. Just before serving, trim the overhanging pastry by running a sharp knife round the top of the tart tin and discard.
I need to confess first that the picture here is not of the tart that I actually made - although it looks pretty much identical (honest). However, because I made this to take to a party, I didn't actually get a chance to photograph the tart in all its magnificence. I made a 30cm version (scaled up by 50% from the recipe below) which was not too tricky, but was in the words of the Blessed Mary a Real Showstopper.
I think opinion is divided about Heston's food and recipes (the 2 are not the same!) and must confess that usually I fall into the "life is too short" camp to stick to the over-controlled nature of his work. Don't get me wrong, I am a great fan of "process" in cooking, and what he does is analyse and analyse the processes involved in making something and then refining the processes until he understands what drives the results and then optimises for the results he is looking for. Anyone who has worked in industry will recognise the approach - and it produces excellent results (as with this recipe) but for me sucks some of the joy out of the creative aspect of cooking. But I suppose that is because I am more of a rustic cook than a Michelin one!
Anyway, I have made this three times now and it has worked everytime. Like a lot of people, I think a good lemon tart is one of the best puddings in the world. Tart and sweet and rich and pastry. But, if you default to it in a restaurant when you are out, you are very often disappointed. It fails on one or other of the metrics you want - the texture of the filling, a soggy bottom or over-thick pastry, not lemony enough - and on and on. This one exceeds expectations on all of those measures. It is puckeringly tart, smooth, just firm and with a crunchy base. It is rich and indulgent.
So, in summary if you want to make a pud to impress, give this a go. Hopefully you wont be disappointed. It REALLY helps if you have a thermometer to check the temperature of the filling when you are heating it prior to putting in the pastry. Because it is still liquid you can use a jam thermometer if you have one. Be careful with an IR thermometer because it ends to under-read and you could end up setting your custard in the pan. If I remember my O level Biology, protein sets at 67 C, so there is a relatively small margin for error here, so watch it carefully.