Italian Lemon Almond Tarts
A wonderfully mouth-watering burst of lemon fills this Italian influenced tart base, made a part-almond pate sucree crust, along with flaked almonds on top. Makes 14-16 mini tarts, or one 9-10 inch full size tart. The tartness of a French Tarte au Citron meets the sandy & buttery Italian style crust!Jump to Recipe
Lemon and Almond
Even though lemons have been growing in and around the Italian regions since before ancient Roman times, it was the Romans who first used lemon as a perfume. As a flavor, lemons took a little while longer to thrive in the Mediterranean climate.
Soon enough, lemon was cherished for its ability to brighten a freshly caught fish, its preservation uses, and its citrus infusing flavor being added into everything from pasta to coffee (yes indeed, with a slim rind), to so many classic Italian desserts, like biscotti to amaretti. I can tell you all that, from the nearby Croatian perspective, we add lemon (and orange) zest to the vast majority of our sweet breads and doughs.
Let’s not even get me started on almond with lemon. Italians know its power and, hopefully, I have helped unleash it here in this Italian Lemon Almond Tart recipe!
I have been on a sort of furlough for some time, job wise. While taking this opportunity to concentrate on this blog, my food writing, food photography, and recipe development, I stumbled upon an ad for WoodSpoon, an app that lets home cooks and bakers sell to their borough in NYC.
I’m so thankful for WoodSpoon. Though I’m still feeling it out, and the late summer is a little slow, I have sold some orders of mini tarts, the first round being these Italian Lemon Almond Tarts. I’m selling mini versions of my French Fruit Tarts this weekend too, and then hitting Brooklyn with my Croatian specialties, which I have mostly been sitting on until fall, when they truly shine…
If any readers out there happen to live in Brooklyn, NY, well, I hope you enjoy A Quarrel of Feasts’ recipes, writing, and photos, but feel free to download WoodSpoon and look out for my bakes and dishes!
Since I started out by making the Italian Almond Lemon Tart into 4 inch mini tartlets for WoodSpoon, I approached the recipe this way, but, you can just as easily make one 8-10 inch tart shell and fill it with one batch of this super tart lemon custard filling. Regardless of the size of your tart(s), here are some tips for making sure you help to create the most lemony and almond filled flavors for this simple, but bold tart.
- This tart begins with a great pate sucree, wherein part of the flour portion is replaced with almond flour to give it a sandy, nutty texture. The dough stays really fresh when wrapped in plastic wrap in the freezer, and, one you’re ready to roll out, the slightly wet dough begs for flour as you roll. The flour doesn’t dry out the dough, but gently softens it even more.
- Make sure to grease your tart pan/pans with baking/cooking spray or butter and flour. I trust the cooking spray the most, and it is much quicker!
- I have made a lot of these tarts at this point, and, especially where small tarts are concerned, the process is easier and faster than I thought it would be. After rolling out the dough to 1/4 inch or so, lift it up and gently lay it down into the greased tartlet tin. Then, still quite gently, pick up the edges of the overhanging dough with one hand and lightly guide the dough into the grooves and bottom corners of the tin.
- You don’t have to press so hard; you will get another chance in just a moment.
- Roll the rolling pin over the top of the tin, cutting the dough around the top edges. Now, you can more properly press in the bottom corners of the dough into the grooves.
- With one hand, hold the outside of the dough grooves at the tops of the tin, and with the other hand, press the dough slightly in and up near the top edge, so the dough grooves pop out just a little bit. This way, the dough has somewhere to go when it inevitably shrinks from the blind bake and bake.
- For the lemon custard, keep the heat under your pan on medium (depending on your medium) and make sure it doesn’t start to bubble. If it does, you can remove from heat for a few moments and keep whisking until the heat is lowered. I used to make this filling without straining, but it takes only a moment and WOW–what a difference. The filling is somewhere between silk and velvet and all I can say is, strain, Strain, STRAIN:)
- The tarts are blind baked–I like use the same mason jar of pinto beans over two layers of tin foil. I used to avoid blind baking when my edges got too dark, but now I know to cover the edges with double foil, which prevents this. You will blind bake for about 30 minutes if a large tart, 10 minutes if mini tarts; then, remove the foil and pie weights and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes if a large tart, and 5 minutes or so if tartlets.
- The great thing about this recipe is that you can save almost every part of it. You can keep the dough in the freezer for weeks; you can keep the dough filled tart pans for 48 hours if properly wrapped up in the freezer, and you can make the lemon custard filling and keep refrigerated overnight, or up to two days. The filling sets really well when left alone to chill overnight. Once baked, you can keep the tarts frozen for up to a week. Save away!
Italian Lemon Almond Tarts
- 3-4 inch mini tart tins or one 9-10 inch tart tin
Pate Sucree Tart Shell
- ½ cup unsalted butter, cold and diced
- 1½ cups all purpose flour
- ½ cup almond flour
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 egg yolks, beaten with 1 tbsp lemon juice
- Pinch salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1-3 tbsp cold water
- Rind of 4 lemons
- 1 cup lemon juice
- ¾ – 1 cup granulated sugar (the tart is, well, tart, so I use closer to the maximum of sugar, but do as you like best)
- ¾ cup unsalted butter, diced
- 4 eggs
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup flaked almonds
- confectioners sugar for serving
For the Pate Sucree Tart Shell
- To a food processor, add the butter, flours, sugar, and salt. Pulse 10-12 times until the mixture resembles fine grains of sand.
- Add in the egg/lemon mixture, vanilla extract, and 1 tbsp of the cold water. Process until the dough comes together and pulls away from the sides. If it remains a little dry, add a second tbsp of cold water, and so forth.
- Knead the dough a few times on a floured surface and shape into a disk. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 30 minutes, or until ready to roll out.
- Grease your tart tin or tins.
- When rolling out, allow the dough 10 minutes to come to room temperature if taking from the freezer after an extended time. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to ¼ inch thick or so, cut out the area you need if making smaller tarts, and fold the dough over your rolling pin.
- Gently lay the dough over the greased tart tin and unfold. Gently tuck the dough into the sides and bottom of the tin. Roll the rolling pin over the top of the tin and trim the edges. While turning the tin around, gently tuck the dough again into the bottom sides and start pressing up the dough slightly above each side groove as you create a little lip of dough over the top. It doesn't have to be huge, just a little extra to make up for blind baking shrinkage!
- Wrap the tart/s in plastic wrap and freeze until ready. If blind baking right away, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Gingerly add a double layer of aluminum foil to the tart tin/s, making sure to cover the top edges of the tart dough. Add pie weights or baking beans into the center of the foil and blind bake for 30 minutes if a full sized tart, or 10 minutes if mini tarts.
- After the baking time has elapsed, remove the foil and weights/beans and continue to bake for 5-10 minutes if a full sized tart, and 5 minutes if a mini tart.
- If saving the blind baked tart shells, leave in the tins and refrigerate.
For the Lemon Filling
- Into a medium sized saucepan, add the sugar and zest of the lemons. Whisk the sugar and lemons together until a fragrant lemon sugar is created. This step is crucial – it makes all the difference in the blooming of the oils of the lemon zest into the granules of sugar that are just waiting to soak it up.
- Add the other ingredients to the pan, now over medium-low heat. Stir until the butter dissolves and then start whisking.
- Keep whisking until the mixture thickens and you can see trails when lifting up your whisk. If the mixture starts to bubble, remove from the heat and keep whisking until the heat is lower.
- Pass the lemon filling through a sieve into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap onto the top of the filling so a skin doesn't form. Refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours.
- Separately, toast the flaked almonds over medium-low heat until they give off that toasted almond smell and are a nice mixture of light and darker golden tones. Set aside.
To Assemble / Bake
- Preheat oven or leave on if baking right away to 350 degrees.
- Spoon the chilled lemon mixture (which you have whisked up to soften) into the blind baked tart shell/s. Top with toasted almonds and bake on a baking sheet just until the lemon filling has set, about 10-15 minutes tops for a larger tart, and 5-7 minutes for smaller tarts.
- Allow the tart/s to cool for 10-15 minutes on a wire rack, and then pop out the side and bottom of the tart tin/s. I place the larger tart on a canister and loosen the sides until it comes free, or, if small tarts, remove each tart with oven mits on. Allow the tart/s to cool completely. Refrigerate until serving. You can also freeze the tart/s for up to a week.
- When serving, dust with confectioners sugar and enjoy!