lemon tart

Raymond Blanc

A showstopping dessert is the ultimate way to seduce your guests. Raymond Blanc guides you through the classic techniques to success

‘I have always adored desserts. They are the last dish of a wonderful celebration — a final flourish. To me, they represent the perfect opportunity to win the heart and soul of your guests ... leaving them with a smile. The starter and main course are serious business; the dessert is a chance to flirt! It is no secret that this is one of my favourite times of year — though I love all the seasons for what they bring to our tables. I do hope you enjoy creating this little selection of desserts, hopefully adding something sweet and special to your spring celebrations.’

Lemon tart
This is one of my favourite desserts. The contrast of sweet and sour is a real crowd-pleaser at any dinner party and the perfect way to end a meal.

serves 6-8 people

for the sweet pastry
120g unsalted butter, diced, at room temperature
75g icing sugar, sifted, plus extra for dusting
3 medium free-range or organic egg yolks
250g plain flour

for the lemon cream
5 medium free-range or organic eggs, beaten
150g caster sugar
85ml lemon juice
2 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
150ml double cream

01 In a large bowl, using a spatula or wooden spoon, mix the soft butter and icing sugar to a cream, then beat in two of the egg yolks. Add the flour and, with your fingertips, rub the butter mixture and flour to achieve a crumbly texture. Add 2 tbsp water and press the mixture together to form a ball.

02 With the palms of your hands, knead the pastry on a lightly floured work surface until it has an even consistency. Do not overwork the pastry or it will be hard and lose its crumbly texture. Flatten the pastry slightly with the palm of your hand, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for 30 minutes to rest and reduce shrinkage during cooking.

03 Sieve the beaten egg to remove any large lumps. Then, in a large bowl, mix in the sugar, lemon juice and zest and whisk for a few seconds. Add the cream and whisk it in, then place in the fridge.

04 On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the pastry into a circle 3mm thick. To line a 24cm tart ring, place the ring on a piece of greaseproof paper, roll the pastry over the rolling pin and unroll it into the tart ring. With one hand, lift the pastry, and with the other, gently press it into the bottom edge of the ring so that it fits tightly. Be careful not to stretch it.

05 Cut off excess pastry by rolling the pin over the top edge of the ring. Then, using a small ball of the leftover pastry, press gently around the base of the tart to ensure a snug fit. Prick the base of the pastry all over with a fork and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 160C (180C non-fan).

06 Line the pastry ring with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and lift out both the paper and beans. Return the tart to the oven and bake for a further 20 minutes. Brush the inside of the pastry with the remaining egg yolk and return to the oven for 1 minute. The beaten egg will create a seal on the pastry and prevent it becoming soggy when the lemon cream is added. Turn the oven down to 140C (160C non-fan).

07 Pour the lemon cream mixture into a saucepan and warm it gently, being careful not to heat it too much or it will scramble. Pour the warm mixture into the pastry case and bake for 25 minutes, until barely set. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for at least 1 hour, then dust with icing sugar and serve.