wishing for spring, and a citrus tart

“Why can’t it be summer?”

My six-year-old asks me this question nearly every weekend these days. He has asked it since at least November, when we started making him wear long pants instead of the shorts he favors.

“Because it is not,” I tell him. “Be patient.”

He is not satisfied with my answer, and he harrumphs and stomps off. I don’t blame him. It’s a crappy answer, though a true one.

citrus tart | the merry gourmet

As I was finishing my morning cup of coffee yesterday, the kids reminded me that it was Groundhog Day. Madeline speculated on whether the cute little groundhog would see his shadow or not, and Oliver wished loudly that it would JUST BE SPRING ALREADY.

So, being the tech-savvy mom that I am, I found the video of Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction online. The kids hovered over my shoulders, one on each side of me, and we watched the computer screen while a well-dressed man in a black tuxedo and top hat read the groundhog’s proclamation. When he read the line that ended, “an early spring for you and me,” both kids cheered and clapped.

citrus tart | the merry gourmet

I didn’t remind the kids that, because we live in Florida, we nearly always have an early spring. I didn’t point out that the oak trees are already shedding pollen, that a film of the greenish powder already covers the front porches of the house, or that the azaleas and redbud trees at the park are already blooming.

Instead, I cheered with them. Hooray! An early spring!

citrus tart | the merry gourmet

Later, when the day’s playtime was over and the kids were showered and settled in, we celebrated with slices of citrus tart. The dessert’s bright flavors, with just the right amount of tartness to balance the sweet, sang of spring and warmth and sunshine.

And so this morning, I let Oliver wear shorts, knowing that he would be chilly, but deciding to give in to his pleas anyway. After playing outside for a little while, in weather in the high 50s, he stomped back in with an angry look on his face.

He put on his jacket, which he had forgotten earlier, and he scowled at me and asked, “Why can’t it just be summer already?”

citrus tart | the merry gourmet

Yield: 1 9-inch tart.

Citrus Tart with Shortbread Crust

Creamy and tangy, this citrus tart tastes mostly of lemon, with the addition of orange juice to mellow the flavors a bit. And while it needs no accompaniments, you would not do the tart a disservice if you sprinkled powdered sugar on top or served a heaping spoonful of whipped cream along side each slice.


Ingredients for Tart Crust:

1-3/4 cups (210 grams) all purpose flour
1/2 cup (60 grams) confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Ingredients for Tart Filling:

2 lemons, washed well and dried
1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1-1/2 cup (300 grams) granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 9-inch tart shell, partially baked and cooled


Prepare Tart Crust:

Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt; add these dry ingredients to the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter pieces to the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely incorporated. Stir the yolk to break it up and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When egg yolk is fully in, process in long pulses of about 10 seconds each. The dough will start coming together after about 4 to 6 of pulses; just before, the sound of the food processor will change. Turn the dough out onto work surface and knead together a few times to capture any dry ingredients that have escaped.

Butter a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Tear bits of the dough ball off and scatter over the bottom of the tart pan. Press dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides. Freeze the tart crust for at least 30 minutes prior to baking.

Partially bake the tart crust: Heat the oven to 375 degrees and place oven rack in the center of the oven. Press a piece of nonstick foil down tightly against chilled tart crust, nonstick side down. Place tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes. If crust has puffed up, press these areas down gently with back of a spoon. Transfer crust to cooling rack and let cool to room temperature.

Prepare Filling and Bake Tart:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment and place tart pan on it.

Slice the lemons in half, and juice each half to collect 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice. Reserve any extra for another use. Chop one squeezed lemon half into small pieces, taking care to remove the seeds. Add the 1/3 cup lemon juice and the chopped lemon pieces to the bowl of a blender. Add orange juice and sugar, and blend until smooth. Add remaining filling ingredients (eggs, egg yolks, heavy cream, and butter) and pulse until filling is smooth and evenly mixed. Bang the blender bowl gently on counter to get rid of bubbles, and then pour the filling into the partially baked crust.

Carefully transfer the baking sheet with the filled tart pan to the oven, being very careful since the tart crust will be very full. Bake for 20 minutes, and then increase oven temperature to 350 degrees. Bake for an additional 25 to 30 minutes. The tart should be set, but perhaps still slightly wobbly in the middle. Transfer tart to a cooling rack and let it cool to room temperature. Serve at room temperature, or place in refrigerator to chill prior to serving.

Inspired by and heavily adapted from the lemon tart recipe from Dorie Greenspan's book, Baking: From My Home to Yours.


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22 Responses to “wishing for spring, and a citrus tart”

  1. 1

    Aw MJ – Oliver is too funny! What luck for you that your spring is so close – even though an “early spring” is predicted, it’s FREEZING up here.. Your story and citrus tart made me feel a little bit warmer this afternoon. Thank you. Also, please send a slice of that up north here…

  2. 2

    PS: “Because it is not” = best answer ever!! (perhaps not for Oliver…)

  3. 3
    Brian (A Thought For Food) — February 3, 2013 @ 5:03 pm

    I get that way this time of year as well. I’m tired of the bitter, cold days. I’m ready for sunshine and long days relaxing outside. But, for now, this beautiful citrus cake will have to do

  4. 4
    Macaroni Mama — February 3, 2013 @ 9:27 pm

    I love this. I want to haruuumph! and say, “Why can’t it be spring or summer!”

  5. 5
    Gail — February 3, 2013 @ 10:17 pm

    You told this story so perfectly, MJ. Love it.
    And, the tart ain’t bad looking, either.

  6. 6
    DessertForTwo — February 3, 2013 @ 11:15 pm

    How beautiful. The white tart is gorgeous!

    Hooray for spring! 🙂

  7. 7
    Robyn Stone | Add a Pinch — February 4, 2013 @ 8:18 am

    Such a gorgeous tart, Merry! But, your answer was perfect and sounds so much like something I would say, too! 🙂

  8. 8
    Lana @ Never Enough Thyme — February 4, 2013 @ 10:52 am

    I’m with Oliver – “Why can’t it be summer?” Cold weather makes me uncomfortable and irritable. I’m ready for warm sunshine on my face! Maybe I’ll make your citrus tart and dream of warmer days 🙂

  9. 9
    Paula — February 4, 2013 @ 12:42 pm

    I’m with Oliver, *why can’t it just be Summer already* Beautiful tart 🙂

  10. 10
    Ina — February 4, 2013 @ 2:30 pm

    Tarts are one of my all time favorites. Thank you for the recipe!

  11. 11
    Mallory — February 4, 2013 @ 9:32 pm

    I am just like your youngster…can it be spring already? He definitely isn’t the only one wishin’ and a hopin’!
    Love the tart…love citrus desserts!

  12. 12
    Kathryn — February 5, 2013 @ 2:44 pm

    I know exactly how he feels!

  13. 13
    Rachel @ Bakerita — February 6, 2013 @ 2:16 am

    Wow – this looks so good! And I totally agree with your son – it needs to be summer ASAP!

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  15. 14
    Katie — February 10, 2013 @ 12:35 am

    Oh MJ… what a great story. I’m right there with Oliver–I wish it was summer already. This citrus tart just screams summer in Florida!

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  17. 15
    Gwen @SimplyHealthyFamily — February 13, 2013 @ 12:43 pm

    My mouth is watering just thinking about tasting this. Lemon pie is one of my favorite treats in the world. I will most definately have to make this tart!

  18. 16
    Cheryl Arkison — February 14, 2013 @ 10:37 am

    Send him up here!

  19. 17
    Elizabeth — February 16, 2013 @ 8:59 pm

    This is the most beautiful lemon tart I’ve ever seen. I love the shortbread crust (which seems to have not crumbled at all), and adore the vivid color. Just lovely.

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  21. 18
    Saee Khandekar — March 8, 2013 @ 9:27 am

    This is totally my kind of tart–I can taste the sharp, citrusy flavors in there!

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