Home Cooking: Heston Blumenthal’s Lemon Tart

So, I’m going through a pie-making phase. Why not? All purpose. Slightly retro. Who doesn’t like a piece of pie… or tart, as the case may be?

But the last time I made a lemon tart, I remember that it was OK… but didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped. It’s hard not to think of those lemon tarts in French pastry shops which the shimmering shiny yellow surface.

Having offered to bring dessert to a dinner party on Monday, and having some lemons that I needed to use up, I did a google search and saw Heston’s recipe on the SBS website. The question was, considering that it looked considerably more fussy than other recipes, would it be worth it?

IMG_3830Dear reader, I had no idea. First of all, the timing on the recipe says something like 30 minutes of preparation and an hour of cooking. But once you add an hour of chilling, and another half an hour of freezing, and hey, I’m a cooking conundrum: it looks like a hurricane has hit whenever I’m making something but I’m actually moving at a snail’s pace, just faster than an escargot. All up, this took HOURS.

Making the pastry was comical. I started the mixer too quickly so of course, the flour flew out of it on the counter and on the floor. The same goes for the poor advice about a hand blender to whip together icing sugar and egg yolks. The blender attachment on our little stick mixer is the least usable of what it came with, and the icing sugar, on the other side of the counter also flew up and around a wide perimeter before I managed to mix the two ingredients together.

Then chilling, and rolling dough between baking paper, and into the freezer and… why does one do this? Since afterwards, the dough is too frozen to mold properly into the pie tin. In any case, after it had defrosted enough, and I’d basically ended up using my fingers to press the dough in place, I thought that it looked very thick and reminded me of a complete disaster of a dessert I’d once made where the pastry and (accidentally way-too-hard) toffee layer on top of it made the whole thing so hard that one flew out from under a guest’s fork, across the room, like a hockey puck (Canadian reference there) and landed with a thud on the floor.


The filling was not nearly as difficult. I decided to nutri-bullet the lemons to see if I could get any extra juice out (and shouldn’t have bothered with zesting them before), though the seeds were fiddly to extract. Our handy baking thermometer was perfect for both warming the filling to 60 degrees and then checking that the pie in the oven had reached 70 degrees (as well as the two small ramekins with leftover filling; even though my handy Drommar IKEA pie dish was supposed to more than big enough).

And the verdict? So, the filling is smooth and the tart does look attractive, albeit not super-smooth nor shiny. The dimple above is from my food thermometer. I’m not sure the technique to cover that up. My eggs did not have particularly yellow yolks, which I think made the colour particularly pale.

But the thing is the taste. It is far superior to the last tart I made. It’s rich and luscious and tart and lemony. It’s one of those tarts where a small sliver will do (meaning I will be serving this up to friends for a week!). And the crust! Hurrah. It’s more like a biscuit base than a pie crust, and certainly not the thin flaky variety. It’s substantial but not hard, just hard enough to support the lemon goodness.

A success. And although cleaning up after myself took ages, I think it was worth it. Next time perhaps I’ll have learned to be cleaner and more efficient…

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