No one really knows the origins of this desert. If we do know the long journey of lemon before arriving in France and settling in South France (in particular in the pretty town of Menton where there is an incredible lemon festival each year in February), several assumptions persist about the origin of lemon tart.
Lemon had a growing success, especially in the 17th / 18th centuries on the ships of the great expeditions, as it was a medicine to prevent from scurvy (a disease caused by vitamin C deficiency, lemon was then the ideal remedy). It’s on these boats that lemon juice based deserts might have been made for the first time. The first version would be, according to historians, kind of a cheesecake with a biscuit base and a mix of eggs, sugar and lemon juice.
Another possible origin of the lemon tart could be a French adaptation of the American key lime pie – a pie originally made from biscuits chips and a filling with lime and condensed milk covered with meringue – created in the 1850s from a fishermen of the Key region in Florida recipe. The key lime pie was promoted official pie of the US State in 2006.
Note to my American readers, I hope I have this right.
There are also French lemon pies (from Menton and Toulouse French towns) that could also be the ancestors of our present lemon tart.
So, a French specialty or the French interpretation of a legendary American desert? Who knows.
Recipes vary from one to the other (ingredients and baking methods). Lemon tarts in France are often served with a meringue topping (tarte au citron meringuée) to bring softness to lemon acidity. I think it adds too much sugar to this desert so I prefer to add some orange juice (only a little, it doesn’t change the taste).
It’s a very quick and simple to make desert that always have a great success here in Paris.
There are 2 ways to prepare even faster your lemon tart: buy already made pie pastry (choosing of course “pure butter”), the French uses them a lot, and do not pre-bake the pastry. It works well. The only thing is that, in order to obtain a well baked crust, you have to use a metal or aluminum pan rather than a ceramic pan. Depending on your oven, choose a program that will use the below heater. You might also have to bake it a little longer.
Conventional method: prepared the pie crust and to pre-bake it. Melted butter, prepare zests, juice orange and lemons. Mix all ingredients before filling the pie crust. Bake. Even faster method: Prepare all ingredients (butter, zests, lemon and orange juice). Mix all ingredients, fill in the pie crust and bake. It won’t take more than 10 minutes maximum.
Portions: 8 shares
Prepare the lemon cream filling