Are you ready? Like REEEEEALLY ready? Because this isn’t your standard lemon tart. It is a TART tart. A creamy tart with pucker power but tempered with sweet agave nectar. It is the princess of tarts that will make you dream of fresh flowers, warm picnics, and lemon trees even when it is still stupid cold outside.
I have been slightly obsessed with lemon tarts lately. I made piss poor lemon bars last weekend and was out for vengeance. I didn’t like the filling and was dead set on making a creamier version that could be placed into a tart crust. So the hunt began for a lemon tart recipe that satisfied my obsession. I studied several recipes and finally settled on an amalgamation of Julia Child’s Tarte Au Citron, Cookie and Kate’s Honey-Sweetened Citrus Curd, and Dave Lebovitz’s Lime Meringue Tart.
In the end, the curd recipe was adapted from Kathryn’s recipe. I swapped agave nectar for the honey because I didn’t have honey on hand. Kathryn’s curd was a bit sweeter than this lemon curd, which could be due to the sweetener swap. If you prefer a sweeter lemon curd, you might stick with honey which will provide that pronounced honey flavor or you could increase the quantity from 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup. But I liked using the neutral-flavored agave nectar which allowed the tartness of the lemons to be the leading lady of the lemon curd. I also love tart things over sweet. Give me Sour Patch Kids any day of the week over Smarties. EEW.
When making the curd, be careful when using the direct heat method to thicken the curd. Use nonreactive saucepan and either a wooden spoon or metal wire whisk. Plastic will make your curd curdle like curdly curdy curd. Hehe. Just keep your heat on low and STIR constantly with a wire whisk. It’ll be fine. However, if you get a little bit of cooked egg or lemon pulp in the curd, you can always strain the curd before placing it into the tart crust. This lemon curd can also be made in advance and refrigerated for several weeks. It’s SO dreamy stirred into greek yogurt.
The almond flour-based tart crust pairs incredibly well with the lemon curd filling. This grain free tart crust is amazing and can be used as a basic crust for a multitude of fillings. I adapted the recipe from the Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook by Elana Amsterdam. I used Dave Lebovitz’s method for making a basic french tart crust where he places butter, oil, water, sugar, and salt in a bowl and melts it in a hot oven before adding the flour. The butter begins to brown, giving it a wonderful complex and nutty flavor. So simple!
I also should note that this is a prebaked tart crust. Because almond flour tends to burn easily, keep the heat slightly lower when prebaking and allow the shell to slightly brown. After filling it with the prepared lemon curd, bake the filled tart until the filling has set (about 10 minutes). If the edges of the tart begin to brown too quickly, place aluminum foil around the crust edge to protect it from burning.
You can top the lemon tart with meringue (like me) or fresh seasonal fruit. Once my blueberry and raspberry bushes begin to fruit, you can bet your butt that I will be topping these tarts with a gaggle of berries. But in the mean time, I piped a small amount of meringue around the edge of the tart using 2 reserved egg whites. I made a metric poop-ton (actual measurement) of meringue and was sad to see it go to waste. I nearly made a second and third tart JUST to give that beautiful meringue a home.
Grain Free Lemon Tart (adapted from recipes from Cookie and Kate and Dave Lebovitz)
Tart Crust Ingredients
- 3 Tablespoons unsalted grass-fed butter, cut into pieces
- 1 Tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 Tablespoon water
- 2 Tablespoons agave nectar or honey
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 1/2 cups almond flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Lemon Curd Filling Ingredients
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 3 large eggs
- 3 egg yolks (reserve whites for meringue)
- 1/3 cup agave nectar (or honey)
- 2/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 to 4 large lemons)
- 1 Tablespoon lemon zest
- pinch of salt
- 2 reserved egg whites
- pinch of salt
- 3 Tablespoons agave nectar or honey
Tart Crust Instructions:
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Place butter, coconut oil, water, agave nectar, and salt in a Pyrex bowl.
- Place bowl in preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Allow the butter and coconut oil to begin bubbling. The butter will begin to brown on the edges (a.k.a. browned butter).
- Remove the Pyrex bowl from the oven. Be careful because the bowl will be hot. Add almond flour, vanilla extract, and baking soda and stir quickly until a ball forms.
- Transfer dough ball to a 9-inch tart mold with a removable bottom. Use your fingers to spread dough into the base and up the edges of the tart pan. Prick the bottom all over with the tines of a fork.
- Partially bake for 7 to 10 minutes at 350 F. You don’t want to fully bake or it will get too brown when later baking the filled tart.
- Remove the partially baked tart shell from the oven. Set aside and allow to fully cool before filling.
Lemon Curd Instructions:
- In a saucepan over low heat, heat butter, lemon juice, zest, and salt until butter is melted, but not boiling.
- In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, egg yolks, and agave nectar for 1 to 2 minutes until combined and slightly frothy.
- Temper the egg mixture by adding a bit of the heated butter-lemon juice mixture to the eggs and whisking constantly. This will warm the egg mixture without cooking your eggs. After the eggs are slightly warmed and tempered, add them slowly to the warm butter-lemon juice mixture, whisking constantly.
- Increase the heat and cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly until the lemon curd mixture begins to thickens with a consistency of jelly. DO NOT LET IT BOIL!!! It is done the whisk is lifted from the curd and the mixture holds its shape when it falls back into the saucepan from the whisk (see picture below).
- Remove the curd from heat. Place the prebaked tart shell onto a rimmed baking tray. (Be careful with the tart shell and the removable bottom!!! I have ruined a few tart crusts by accidentally pushing through the mold.) Scrape the filling into the prebaked tart shell.
- Bake at 350 F for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven. You can either top with marshmallowy meringue (recipe below) or fresh seasonal fruit. Allow to cool completely before slicing.
Marshmallowy Meringue (makes 3 cups):
- Heat 3 tablespoons of agave nectar in a microwave safe dish for 30 seconds (watch out because this might boil over).
- Add 2 egg whites and a pinch of salt to the bowl of a mixer. Turn on high and whip with whisk attachment until soft peaks form. Gradually drizzle in the heated agave nectar and a few drops of vanilla. The meringue will become shiny and slightly stiff.
- Scrape the meringue either into a pastry bag fitted with a fancy tip or (like me) scoop it into a Ziploc bag and cut the end off of the corner. Pipe the meringue in a ring around the tart. Or you can also spread the meringue with a spatula around the tart. (You will have meringue left over which either can be used for a second tart or stored in a mason jar in the refrigerator for 24 hours).
- Turn on the broiler in the oven. Place the tart under the broiler, watching VERY carefully because it will brown quickly! After the top begins to brown and darken, remove the tart from the oven and cool completely before slicing.