I have researched, tested, and tweaked many variations of this recipe with several experts contributing to its success including recipes from David Lebovitz , Dave Blom, Pastry Chef at the Fairmont Sonoma Inn and Spa , and my friend Pierre, who lives in Nice. He gets to pluck lemons off the tree on his terrace, which just happens to overlook the Côte d’Azur.
Before diving in (which is what you’ll want to do after your first bite) here are a few recipe hacks to ensure your tart turns out delicious. 1) Making pastry dough is not an exact science. Adding more or less liquid is determined by the moisture content of the four being used; 2) the curd has gelatin and cornstarch in it and will set-up quickly so be sure the tart shell has been blind baked before you start making the curd; 3) infusing lavender into the curd gives it a delicate floral accent which complements the tartness of the lemon; however, it is totally optional; 4) it’s important to allow the curd to boil for a good minute so that the cornstarch fully cooks. It won’t boil like water, it will be more like bubbling lava; 5) whisk in the “bloomed” gelatin while the curd is hot to that it melts.
Simca’s Pâte Sublime  (Delicate Sweet Pastry Dough with Cream)
Yield about 1 ½ pounds pastry dough, enough for two 8 to 9 inch tart shells or 8 individual 3-inch tart rings
9 ounces (2 cups) all-purpose flour
1 ounce (1/4 cup) cake flour, not self-rising
1/8 ounce (1 teaspoon) baking powder
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) granulated sugar
5 ounces (10 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
zest of one medium orange, preferably organic (optional)
4 – 6 tablespoons heavy cream, beaten with 1 large egg yolk*
2 tablespoons orange juice, freshly squeezed (optional)
Place dry ingredients in bowl of a food processor and process 2 seconds to combine. Evenly distribute the butter around the bowl of the processor and pulse on/off for 8 to 10 seconds (about 20 pulses) or until mixture resembles coarse oatmeal.
*If using 2 tablespoons orange juice cut back on the amount of cream by the same amount. More or less liquid may be needed depending on the amount of moisture already in the flour.
With the processor running, add the egg mixture through the pour-tube and process just until the mixture starts to hold together. Turn the motor off, remove the lid, and pinch the dough with your fingers. If it doesn’t hold together pour another tablespoon of cream (or orange juice) over the mixture and pulse again.
If the dough holds together when pinched turn out onto a floured surface and quickly smear together with the heel of your hand to blend, gathering it back onto itself with a bench knife. If making two tarts, divide it evenly into two disks, otherwise it’s fine leaving it in one disk for the individual tartlets. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Chill for at least 1 hour prior to rolling or up to one day in the refrigerator. It can also be frozen for up to one month.
If making an 8 or 9-inch tart, roll out one disk of dough in a circle about 1½ inches larger than the tart pan. Roll the dough over the rolling-pin and unroll on top of the tart pan. Gently work the dough into the pan pressing the dough up the sides and folding any excess back onto itself.
If making individual tartlets, roll out to about 3/16-inch. Set a tart ring on the dough and cut around it about 1-inch larger than the ring. Gently form the dough in the ring. After it is formed, cut off any dough sticking above the ring.
Set on a parchment or Silpat lined sheet pan. After the tart(s) have been formed, prick them with a fork and place them in the freezer for at least an hour. As well, once frozen they can be tightly wrapped and kept for up to a month.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the tart(s) with parchment paper and pie weights and cook for about 30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove the pie weights and parchment paper and return to the oven for another 15 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. If the edges start to get too brown, cover the edges with a “pie-shield”, pieces of aluminum foil or an inverted tart ring that is the next size larger.
4 ounces (8 tablespoons or 130 grams) unsalted butter
2 large eggs
3 egg yolks (from large eggs)
1 gelatin sheet
zest of 2 lemons, organic if possible
3/4 cup (6 1/2 oz/180 ml) fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon lavender buds (optional)
1 3/4 cups (7 1/2 oz/210 g) powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons (5 g) cornstarch
pinch of salt
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan and allow to cool. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and yolks; set aside. In another small bowl add the gelatin sheet and submerge in cool water. Allow to completely soften (to bloom, as they say) about 10 minutes. After it has completely softened pour off some of the water so that it doesn’t disintegrate and set aside.
In the saucepan with the cooled butter add the lemon zest, juice, lavender (if using), powdered sugar, cornstarch and salt. Whisk in the beaten eggs. Place the mixture on a low to medium fire and, constantly whisking, slowly bring the mixture to a boil. Allow the curd to boil for about a minute. Remove from the heat. Squeeze out any remaining water from the “bloomed” gelatin sheet and whisk it into the hot curd mixture. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer directly into the blind baked tart shell.
3 1/2 ounces (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
3 tablespoons water
2 egg whites (2 ounces) at room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
In a small pot over low heat, combine sugar, corn syrup and water. Swirl the pot over the burner to dissolve the sugar completely. Once the sugar has dissolved, stop stirring. Increase the heat and boil to 240°F using a candy thermometer to get it right. Wash down the inside wall of the pot with a wet pastry brush, which helps prevent sugar crystals from forming around the sides and falling in, causing a chain reaction.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the eggs whites on low speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar, increase the speed to medium and beat until soft peaks form. With the mixer running, pour the hot sugar syrup in a thin stream over fluffed egg whites. Beat on medium-high speed until the egg whites are stiff and glossy, about 4 -5 minutes. *Meringue can easily be doubled using 5 egg whites if you like a lot on top of your tart.
If making individual tarts, divide curd between them. Meringue can be spooned on or use a pastry bag with a 1/2-inch star or plain tip and pipe any design that you like. Using a blowtorch (the same kind as is used for crème brûlée), brown the meringue and serve immediately.