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Lemon Cheese Tart

April 11, 2011

This time of year is probably my least favorite time to bake.  It’s that awkward in between season weather where technically it is spring but it is still cold and dreary and often wet outside.  I’m tired of the heavy comfort foods of winter but spring produce isn’t exactly ready around here and I can’t really say that lemon meringue pie is the “comfort food” I want to come home to after running errands in 45 degree rainy days.  In the mean time I find myself on a constant search for recipes that are somewhere in between.  Fresh flavors of spring marrying the more comforting ingredients of winter to create a balanced relationship that is refreshing and provides substance.

This Lemon Cheese Tart grabbed my attention.  Fresh flavor of spring?  Lemon. Check.  More comforting ingredient?  Cheese. Check.  Irresistible creaminess in a buttery tart shell?  I’m sold.  As simple as this recipe is, it actually took me quite some time because it was completely in Italian.  Google translator helped but some words and phrases just don’t translate well, like stomachevolezza…yeah, I’m at a loss but hey, if you’re reading this, speak Italian and would like to enlighten me, please, by all means do so.  But back to the tart, you can use a couple different types of cheese here; mascarpone, cream cheese or italian style ricotta.  I used mascarpone first and it was very good but I wasn’t really happy with the look (very bubbly on top) and it was not quite creamy enough.  The second time I added more butter to the crust and used italian style ricotta-fantastic!  It’s the perfect treat served with an afternoon cup of cappuccino or espresso.

Stir together flour, powdered sugar and salt

cut the butter in until it resembles course crumbs

add in eggs and water

Roll out the dough

and bake the crust.  Yes, those are lentils, we’ll talk about that later.

beat together sugar and lemon zest

add lemon juice

and some eggs, vanilla and cheese.  and that’s it, pretty easy 🙂

pour into baked crust and bake some more

eat!  this is the tart made with mascarpone-you can see it’s not as creamy.  tasty, just not smooth creamy.

this is the tart made with ricotta, smooth and beautiful.

Lemon Cheese Tart
Adapted from Trattoria da Martina and Maxime Clark’s Sweet and Savory Pies
Yields one 9 (or 9.5) inch tart


2 cups flour
2 Tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, cold
2 egg yolks
3 Tablespoons cold water

Half a Lemon (about 2 tablespoons of juice and 1/2 -1 teaspoons of zest)
3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup cheese, ricotta, mascarpone or cream cheese
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk, white reserved in another container
1 teaspoon vanilla


1. For the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, powdered sugar and salt.  Cut in cold butter using two knives, a pastry blender or fingers until the mixture resembles course crumbs.  In a glass measuring cup beat together the 2 egg yolks and cold water.  Drizzle over the flour butter mixture and stir with a fork just until the dough starts to come together.  Gather the dough with your hands and knead one or two times until the dough sticks in a rough messy ball.  Lay on a floured board and flatten gently into a rectangle (it will still be crumbly and have loose butter and flour bits laying around) and let it rest about 10 minutes.  Gather and fold each side toward the center (like a letter), sticking the bits into the dough.  It will be pretty messy until you get to the end, then cover it with parchment or flour your rolling pin and roll out the dough to a 1/4 inch thick.  Press the dough into your tart pan and cut off the excess around the edges.  Cover with plastic wrap or parchment paper and stick it in the freezer for 30 minutes or so until hard and cold.  Prick the bottom with a fork all over and then cut a clean piece of parchment paper to cover the tart.  Fill that with dry beans or lentils-this keeps the dough from getting too puffy, alternately you can place a glass pie pan inside the parchment but that won’t get the edges.  Bake for 15 minutes, then remove parchment and beans and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until the crust is golden.  Remove from oven and set aside.

2. For the filling: While the crust is baking, zest and juice half a lemon, placing the zest in a large mixing bowl with the sugar and filtering the juice through a sieve into a small bowl.  Beat the sugar and zest until combined.  Add the filtered juice from half the lemon and blend until combined.  Add egg, egg yolk, cheese and vanilla.  Blend until frothy and fully combined.

3. Brush the bottom of the tart crust with the egg white reserved from the yolk used in the filling. Pour the filling into the tart shell and bake for 25 minutes or until the filling is set.  Let cool on a wire rack and serve at room temperature or cold.


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