P&Q: The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart

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91 thoughts on “P&Q: The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart

  1. I just looked at the recipe today and think it should be pretty easy. Another recipe I don’t have to make a special trip to the grocery store for. Now if I only knew when I was going to have time to make it…

  2. Okay….

    I made the lemon cream yesterday and followed the recipe to the letter. But, I could not for the life of me get the cream up to 180 degrees. The highest it got was between 165 and 170. I changed thermometers three times and bowls twice, and added more water to the pan twice. Is it just me? I’ve used a double boiler numerous times, so I don’t know if it is me or what…

    Anyone else?

    BUT–it is seriously the best lemon filling I have ever tasted in my life. I could sit and eat it spoonful after spoonful. It’s so good.

  3. I also meant to add that it took WAY more than 10 minutes to even get it as high as I did. I’m not joking–I stood there for at least 45 minutes. I timed it because my baby was crying in his crib while I was standing there.

  4. THANK GOD, Lindsey! I made mine last night, and I had the SAME problem…I couldn’t get mine past like 155….and I whisked for TWENTY MINUTES….

    but, I will say….whisking 20 minutes for THIS lemon cream was time well spent….it is COMPLETELY dreamy….so good….

  5. Is anyone else going to make the tart dough by hand? I’m going to have to because I don’t have a food processor and although I’m incredibly excited about this recipe I’m also scared of making the sweet tart dough for the first time.

  6. Does anyone have suggestions about what to do without a thermometer for the cream? Do the indications of texture and consistency that she gives really apply? I can see from above that I shouldn’t just leave it 10 minutes and then take it off. But, anything else anyone can recommend as far as “temperature by sight”? (And no, there are no candy thermometers anywhere in Peru…I *have* looked!)

    Oh, and LyB, I always make doughs by hand…no food processor in my kitchen!

  7. Gretchen I am clueless on that one. Since no one seems to be getting it up that high I would just go with your gut.

    LyB – I always make my dough by hand too (well with a pastry cutter), you should be just fine

  8. I’m not a member of Tuesdays with Dorie but do have the cookbook and love it. And I, too, have made the lemon cream tart albeit the orange version, and I, too, stood over the stove and whisked for at least 25 minutes or more and it never came up to the noted temperature. I finally gave up and put it in the frig to add to the crust the next day. It was fine and tasted fabulous, but . . . . I will be interested to find out what was wrong.

  9. egg question: my friend that I bake with has an egg allergy. She can get away with egg whites, but a lot of yolks will make her violently ill… I won’t go into detail… ew.

    So my question is, how would this come out without yolks or with fewer?

    Any one have any ideas? or scientific/culinary knowledge as to their importance?

    Had a similar issue with DB Lemon Meringue pie (which was fantastic!) She still comes over to help bake, but it’s not as much fun when you can’t eat it!

  10. My lemon cream did reach 180 and only took about 10 minutes, so not much help there! I was surprised by the amount of butter in the cream though and think it could be made with a lot less.

  11. I have just finished the cream, and I whisked for about 35-40 minutes. I never got to 180. I only got to 165-170. And that was after I dumped it out of my double boiler, straight into my pot. So, we will see how it turns out tomorrow when I put it into my shell.

  12. I dont think you do CB – I think you know when it is thick enough even without a thermometer – just like normal curd. Then add the butter 10 minutes later

  13. OK, I’ve been reading the questions here and the recipe from the book and I wonder if there’s a difference between using an “instant-read” thermometer and a candy thermometer (aside from the fact that one is digital and the other is not). Also, you might find this link interesting : Calibrating a Candy Thermometer

    I’ve calibrated my candy thermometer before (should do it again though) and there is sometimes a big difference between the temperature that the thermometer reads and the accurate temperature.

    Gretchen and Nikki57 – Thanks, I’m glad I’m not alone! :)

  14. Re: the temperature issue. I asked a group over at eGullet about that and the consensus was that you must use a metal bowl rather than glass or Pyrex when you make the lemon cream. As soon as I do a butter run, I’ll give it a try and see how long it takes me.

  15. My crust is in the freezer and my cream in the fridge. Yay! I can’t wait to bake off the crust and then fill them.

    My cream never got above 160. I whisked until I thought my little arms were going to fall off and then gave up. But it turned out okay I think. It tastes amazing and that’s all that matters, right?

  16. What consistency did you guys have when you popped the cream in the fridge? I used a metal bowl and got to 180 in 8 minutes, and it was decently thickened at that point. Strained it, cooled a bit, and started whirring the butter around as directed. I even whirred it extra as it seemed too thin. I finally gave up and just now put it in the fridge hoping it will thicken as it cools. It was more like a creamy salad dressing than anything truly spreadable (It is delicious, though–I used 3 big meyer lemons). Do you think it will thicken up–or am I going to have to whirr in even MORE butter to re-emulsify it? Thoughts are appreciated!

  17. No, Bumblebutton, it’ll thicken. Mine was surprisingly thin as well, but even a couple minutes later, it had started to thicken. (I know because I was eating spoonfuls of it, and the spoon was leaving tracks.)

    I used a glass bowl. The temperature got to about 155 degrees (165 if I put the thermometer directly on the bottom of the bowl, which of course you’re not supposed to do). I kept heating and whisking for a few minutes after it reached the creamy stage, then moved on to the blender. I wasn’t worried about it since Elizabeth and Linda B said they had the same problem and it was fine.

    I’m a little unclear if it’s 10 minutes total, or 10 minutes past when it reaches the creamy stage? I did 15 minutes total, about 7 minutes past reaching the creamy stage.

  18. Thanks Bridget, for your words of hope. We just polished off the first batch (I made 6 mini-tarts instead of a larger one) and it was luscious. The cream thickened up nicely–not to thick, but light just as Dorie promised. Thanks for helping me keep the faith alive…

  19. I’ll be making my dough with a pastry cutter as well. Although I’d like a food processor I haven’t quite raised the dough yet. Pun intended. har-har-har. ;)

  20. I just made my tart. Did anyone else find that the recipe made too much filling? I used it all, but now it’s spilling over the side of the crust. I also thought it was a bit runny, but maybe I just didn’t let it chill long enough. I stuck the whole thing back in the fridge…hopefully it will be fine. Nevertheless, even if it’s not pretty, it sure will taste good! ;-)

  21. did anyone have any trouble with the dough. i am making mine by hand. i have added the egg and it still seems crumbly is it supposed to be like that?

  22. love the pun carrie!

    glad everyone is so into their tart-making! i’m going to start mine tonight and finish it off for a birthday party tomorrow night……these comments will be so helpful!

  23. OMG, my arms are tired. I just started to make the dough for the crust, and found that my food processor is too small. So now I’m doing it by hand and I’m whooped….and I’m not even finished yet.

    I’m assuming it will start to look like dough and not like dry ingredients??

  24. i used my kitchen aid to mix in the butter. i just used the paddle attachment kind of like i was making swiss meringue. my dough was really dry i added a couple of teaspoons of ice cold water.

  25. Carlo and I made the cream last night. As with others, we couldn’t get the cream to 180. It got up to around 155 and we kept mixing until we saw the whisk tracks just as Dorie stated in the instructions. So we strained it and moved it to the blender.

    With the butter, I noticed that mixture did get a little thin. We decided to put it in the fridge overnight. I checked it a few moments ago, and it definitely thickened.

    I just made the crust and have the dough in the freezer. I’m looking forward to tasting this one.

  26. I made my dough using a pastry cutter. I had to add 2 Tbs ice water to get it together. Apparently my arms just don’t have the umph that a food processor does! ;)
    It’s in the freezer now and I’m about to start the lemon cream. So excited!

  27. My dough was really dry as well. Dorie just says it should form “clumps and curds” so I thought maybe it wasn’t supposed to form a cohesive ball. I can definitely see why she recommends pressing it into the pan instead of rolling it out.

  28. Ok. Lemon Cream is in the fridge and Tart Shell is on the counter cooling. Since the cream will not be “ready” until 9:30pm, I think I’ll assemble tomorrow morning. That way I’ll have ample morning light for photos! :)

    I was a little afraid of the Tart Shell recipe because it reminded me of the shortbread-like crust I made for the DB Lemon Meringue challenge not so long ago. What a challenge that was! Although I haven’t seen this shell out of the pan yet and it did puff/shrink a tiny bit, it seems to be turning out much more nicely than the DB one did!

    I hope everyone else is having as much fun as I am with this week’s recipe!

  29. Hi- I had no trouble getting my cream to 180 degrees. It happened really fast, but it was really thin at that temperature- My whisk made no tracks at that point. I made the decision to keep it on the heat and it did thicken really nicely at about 200 degrees. I’m really confused by this- I did use a pyrex and usually do for lemon curd and I think they work great. I used about half meyer lemon juice and half regular. I’m really hoping I didn’t make it too thick now.

    I also made the nut crust with almond meal. I can’t wait to try this tonight!

  30. Just finished making the lemon cream with freshly picked Meyer lemons. Using a metal bowl, it took exactly 7 minutes to reach 180 degrees, and it was nicely thickened. I used the blender to add the butter and it got thicker with each addition. It’s now in the fridge to chill overnight. I’ll make the crust in the morning, then fill and devour.

  31. Even though I didn’t get the temp up to 180, after all that whisking it was really, really thick.

    I left a comment on Dorie’s blog asking her about the temperature issue. Here’s her answer–

    Lindsey, about not being able to reach 180 degrees F. I’m not quite sure why with abundant water and high heat, the temperature of the cream wouldn’t mount, but as long as you get the cream to 165, as you did, you’re fine. The temperature usually given for creme anglaise, and this cream is in the creme anglaise family (kind of) is 165 to 170 degrees F. The French pastry chefs like to push it to 180, and sometimes a few degrees higher, but if your cream is really thick, you’ll be okay. After all your work, I’m soooooooooooo glad you liked the cream.

  32. I did manage to get my cream to 180 F and thicken… on med/high heat… It took less than 10 min. I’m not sure what I could have done that would be different from what everyone else did though.

    I used my blender for the cream and I was Skeeeerd! My blender is of terrible quality and actually started to unscrew at the bottom where the blade is while I was adding the butter! It’s supposed to come undone for cleaning but not while I’m in the middle of using it! Luckily I caught it before too much cream leaked out!

  33. I made the lemon cream today and I used a metal bowl. Had no problem getting it up to 180. I halved the recipe, and it probably took less than 5 minutes for it to get up that high.

    I just went to check on my lemon cream in the fridge and saw how hard it was after 4 hours. Wasn’t sure what went wrong so I thought I’d leave it on the counter for a bit to warm up. Then I realized I added twice as much butter as I needed! Ahh. So now I’m going to make it again.

  34. I made small tarts and two of my tarts fell apart when I took them out of their pans. I knew I needed to add water to the dough because it just wasn’t coming together but I ignored that feeling. So now I have a ton of lemon cream in the fridge that I don’t know what to do with.

  35. I made my lemon cream in a stainless steel bowl and also stood over it for at least 20 minutes, before I decided it was thick enough, because my arm was about to fall off! Should have checked in with you ladies, then I would have known that everyone had that problem.

    My lemon cream was refrigerated for at least 4 hours, but when I spooned it into the tart shell, I thought it could have been refrigerated for another hour, because it was quite gloppy when sliced.

    Of course, it tasted sooooooo good, I care not!

  36. Im going to admit, I didnt bother with the thermometer. I have made curd enough to know when its thick enough to quit. I decided not to strain the zest out too. I used the tiny little spot on my box grater for the zest and it was so little, seemed silly to strain it. I used my processor to whip it up. Tastes lovely. Crust is cooling, cream in the fridge. YAY!

    And I didnt even wait till the last day. ;)

  37. I wish I would have come here before making my tart last night. I used a glass bowl for my cream and stood over the stove whisking for a good 40 minutes. I could never get it past 150-ish, but it did thicken a little so I just took a leap of faith and strained it into my blender. I checked it this morning and it set beautifully! The crust is baked and now cooling. I can’t wait to taste it, but am a little overwhelmed by all the butter in the cream.

  38. ummm – i need some help.
    i made my cream – it got to about 177-178 but never 180. figured that was ok. i dont have food processor so i used my kitchen aid w/paddle to incorporate the butter
    its been in the fridge for over 24 hours (since 11am yesterday). it has thickend but it is not thick enough to stand on its own let alone be cut.

    i am thinking to add either
    a) cornstarch
    b) gelatin
    c)dream whip

    any suggestions?

  39. I made the spiced tart dough (which included ground nuts) and it was very moist, not dry at all. Everyone probably already knows this, but I used an aluminum bowl to make the cream and it turned an awful color of pale green. (Inexperience, i know). I added a couple drops of yellow food coloring while it was in the blender to turn it yellow and, well… I will make you wait til tuesday to see how that turned out. I put it in the fridge last night and it is incredibly thick this morning. I had no problem getting it to 180, it took about 20 minutes, but it only registered that high when I stopped whisking and just let the thermometer sit there. Once again, probably common knowledge, maybe helpful?

  40. I also didn’t make it to 180 degrees. I used a Calphalon saucepan as my “bowl” and the heat was almost to 10–I was SO HOT–but no luck. It still thickened up, though, so I moved on.

    I don’t know if I can wait the four hours for the cream to cool!

  41. I figure it’s all right to post even though I’m not officially signed up…

    Zakia – The temperature isn’t the problem. Mine only got to about 165, but it worked fine. It’s very possible that your use of the standup mixer in place of the blender/food processor was the problem – it has to be beaten pretty hard in order to get light and therefore firm. I wouldn’t add gelatin, because if you’re just adding powder it will need water, which you don’t want to put in your cream. I would be reluctant to use the whip, because, well, it seems to me that it would take away from the light airy-ness that is ideal. It would definitely thicken the cream though, so it might be your best option. I don’t think cornstarch would be proper in a dish like this.
    I was only making the cream to eat with a spoon, not to put in a tart. It thickened up beautifully, however. If it were possible for us to trade creams, that would be perfect.

    Mary Ann – I don’t see why the food coloring was necessary – I thought part of the tart’s beauty was its delicate yellow color.

  42. Of course, Zakia, it might be fine not to use a thickening agent at all – I don’t know how watery this cream really is.

  43. so the cream is in the fridge and the crust is in the freezer….but it wasn’t crumbly at all…more like pie crust than tart…and my cream wasn’t very thick so I’m hoping a long time in the fridge will help!

  44. Zakia, I was thinking maybe you didn’t add all the butter the recipe calls for? It seems like with all that butter, the cream should be fairly solid when it’s cold. I don’t know…

    Mine wasn’t crazy thick either – it wouldn’t have held it’s shape on its own, although it did make a pretty clean cut.

  45. I just ate my tart! My lemon cream sat in the fridge overnight and it wasn’t thick like mousse, but more like nice and creamy thick. In the picture in the cookbook, it does look pretty thick but then I wonder if they did something to it (ie. added gelatin) to look better for photo taking purposes? But anyway, I was happy with the consistency of my cream! And the crust part was like a cookie. Yum.

  46. in looking at the orange tart it has gelatin in the recipe and the lime tart has cornstarch in the recipe. so i think i should be ok to add either one to my cream if it doesnt thicken up today.

  47. I made both the orange and the lemon. Neither got to 180 but I rather 170. The lemon was thick (and delicious!). The orange is really runny. I’m nervous. I guess I’ll have to wait four hours and see what gives.

    I used Pyrex. Wish I had used a metal bowl.

  48. I just finished the photo shoot. My lemon cream was very thick — I took a photo of it on a spoon, held upside-down to demonstrate. Once I whisked the cream, per Dorie’s instructions, it was velvety smooth.

    There are a couple of other possibilities for the thinner cream/temperature issue. 1) perhaps the thermometer is not calibrated correctly or not calibrated at all; 2) butter type might make a difference since some have higher water content than others; 3) a stainless steel bowl is preferable to aluminum since it won’t react with the acid from the lemons or give off little aluminum particles while whisking.

  49. I made the cream today using meyer lemon juice and zest. I had no trouble getting it up to 180 – but I had read some of the comments, so I used a metal bowl and my Polder instant-read thermometer (the one that usually checks roasting chickens). It took about 8 minutes. I used the food processor to whir in the butter because as one poster above said, I’m a little afraid of my blender. It’s chilling in my fridge and early taste tests are very promising! I can’t make the tart until Wednesday, as I promised to bring it to a meeting. I don’t know if the cream will survive the next 3 days…

  50. Let me just say… Wow. That lemon cream is tasty! I just made mine and it’s in the fridge chilling. I only made half the recipe and I’m thinking that may be a good thing, otherwise I’d sit here and eat it all. I used a metal bowl and it took 5-6 minutes to thicken. I’m not sure it got all the way to 180 degrees. It definitely got over 165, but I didn’t get a look at the final temp because it thickened all of a sudden and I was whisking like crazy to make sure it didn’t scramble or anything. Now to make the crust…

  51. I am making the orange tart and made the cream earlier. I used a metal bowl and it got up to 180 degrees in about 10 minutes, but it didn’t get very thick at that temperature, so I whisked for a couple more minutes and then strained. After incorporating all of the butter (I used my food processor), the mixture was pretty thin and I was nervous. However, I just checked the fridge (after about 3 hours) and it’s nice and thick. Woohoo! Going to make the tart tomorrow, can’t wait!

  52. OMG! This was soooo tasty put together. I used the spiced nut tart dough and it went really well with the tart lemon cream. But I could eat bowls of the cream by itself! So good!

  53. I just made the cream and put it in the fridge. I didn’t have any trouble getting it to 180. I used limes because that is what we had in the fridge. I also cheated with the tart crust. I don’t have a tart pan. I made the animal cracker tart crust in a pie plate from the Betty Crocker Most Requested Recipes:Brunch magazine. We have a huge box of animal crackers from Sams and my son isn’t eating them as quickly as he usually does. I wanted to help get rid of them. :)

  54. mary ann, if your bowl truly is plain aluminum (and not anodized aluminum) it turned green from the reaction with the lemon acid and the oxidization with the egg yolks. because of that, you may want to perhaps re-do the cream in a safer bowl if you have one, as you may also find the taste to be quite changed from the chemical reaction!

    as for the questions about stainless steel vs. glass, the stainless is often preferred in a double boiler because of it’s heating properties – it’s quicker to heat up and cool down compared to glass. it’s also lighter. glass on the other hand is more even in heat distribution, but that’s not necessarily what is most important in double boiling (compared to the issue of responsiveness because the heat source is not direct). so while there is nothing wrong with using glass, people may find stainless steel to be easier to use and obtain better results.

    i just made my cream. i don’t remember how long, but it surely did not take longer than 10 minutes. it got to be about 175F but it was thick and whisking with tracks so i took it off at that time.

    for “safe” handling, eggs should be heated until 165F. i wonder if the 180F is used a high ceiling safety precaution? meaning, if the recipe only said 165F, then people would be like oh well i got it to 160F so i guess that’s okay. but that’s just pure speculation. maybe those french pastry chefs dorie references just like to show off? :)

    at any rate, it emulsified really well and is now in the fridge. i will bake off the tart shell tomorrow and assemble. can’t wait to see how it turns out!!

    good luck to everyone else!

  55. I just finished making the cream. I used one of my stoneware bowls and it turned out great. It took about 15-20 minutes to get it to the right consistency. It was pretty thin for the first few minutes but thickened up pretty quickly. I don’t eat lemon desserts that often but this was really good. I must say that I liked it better before the butter was added. Would it be wrong to just make the cream and eat it like that for dessert? :)
    I made the tart already and I’m going to put it together tomorrow. I can’t wait to taste it. Hope everyone else’s goes smoothly!

  56. Rosy-Fingered Dawn- I don’t think you can imagine the actual shade of green my cream was. It really was not close to a pale yellow. It was gross looking, but thanks for the reassurance.

    Mimi- Thankfully the taste was not compromised at all- we ate it tonight and it was delicious, very yellow, but very tasty. (I threw out the bowl, as it was a hand me down from my husband’s grandma, so that will never happen again)

  57. ok. all done and totally happy…..but it didn’t turn out perfectly. my cream wasn’t as thick as I would have liked and my tart dough was more like pie dough than crumbly tart dough. It was soooo rich and buttery I couldn’t eat that much!

  58. I made my Lemon Tart yesterday and OMG! The cream was soooo unbelievably tasty! I can’t wait to cut into it later today.
    I didn’t have a fluted tart pan so I used a springform pan instead. Not quite the dramatic look I was going for. This time I read everyone else’s comments BEFORE I made my cream. I whisked my eggs, sugar and lemon in my KA instead of by hand. Why work that hard if you don’t have to? I set the KA stainless bowl right over the pan of hot water and I had no problem getting to 180 degrees in about 8 minutes. In fact, it could have gone higher if I didn’t take it off in time. I used the blender and I was excited that everything went together so nicely! Set up good too!
    I had to slap wrists to keep the dessert wh*res away! Lemon Eye Candy at it’s best!

  59. I reached the temperature in around 10-15 minutes Instead of the pot-over-water method, I opted for a saucepan and whisked on and off heat while checking the bubbles. It’s all in the bubbles.

  60. Checking back in to say the tart was faboo! I did the orange with the spiced nut dough (even though it didn’t mention that one as an option with the orange) and it was delish. The cream held its form when sliced and was very smooth. I never got my cream over 155.

  61. I made the Orange Cream and it was sorta runny straight from the blender but after a night in the fridge it is really really thick. I made mini tarts and I assenbled one and the cream doesnt look pretty. should I heat the cream a bit to fill and then cool agaon? Any suggestions?

  62. Never could get my lemon cream over 150 degrees, and that took 25 minutes. The tart dough came out just like Dorie stated, although the combining of the ingredients was not exactly what I thought it would be, in the food processor, it was more like sand. All and all, everyone raved! It turned out wonderfully.

  63. I am wondering, those of you that never got your cream up to 180F…do you have gas or electric stoves? I had no problem getting mine to 180 so I am trying to figure out why others had trouble.

  64. It seems like there may be a correlation between metal mixing bowls and getting the temperature high enough.

    I used a glass bowl, an electric stove, and my temperature didn’t get to 180 degrees.

  65. once i put the cream in the shell i put it back in the fridge. it actually thickened up more – so i didnt need to do any alterations to the recipe:)

    i didnt get the recipe either but i have it typed up if you want it

  66. I didn’t get an email either, but I figured since there were so many options (with the tarts and doughs) that I should just type it up myself. I typed up the Lemon Cream, Spiced Tart Dough and Raspberry Coulis, so if you want me to email them to you, I wouldn’t mind.

  67. Hi ~

    To everyone who had problems getting to 180 F, I think exuberant whisking can be blamed.

    I used to have this problem too, until I read from Baking Illustrated that stirring with a spatula (scraping through the bottom and corners) is better in that you get to the desired temperature faster.

    I got mine to 180 in six minutes, with no egg residue. :)

  68. Julius–That’s sort of what I was thinking was the real problem. In any case, whisking so much made my cream so thick that we didn’t any problems slicing it.

  69. I’m chiming in late to say that the lemon cream tart was amazing, and that the leftover lemon cream (I had about a cup too much) is very, very good mixed into steel-cut oatmeal for breakfast!

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