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Eric Akis: Easy crust makes lemon tart a snap

One option is to make a crust for the tart that requires no rolling
This tangy, sweet lemon tart is made with a press-it-in-the-pan, no-roll crust. ERIC AKIS

If you like the look and flavour of a sweet and tangy lemon tart, but aren’t great at making and rolling out pastry, there are a few solutions.

One of them, of course, would be to work on your pastry-making skills. Another would be to simply bypass the process and buy a lemon tart from your favourite bakery. A third option is to make a crust for the tart that requires no rolling, which is what I did for today’s recipe.

To make that crust, you start by making a buttery, sweetened, loosely holding-together flour mixture. That still crumbly looking mixture is then transferred to a tart pan and firmly pressed into it, creating a crust for the tart. The crust is then chilled to firm it up and make it hold together better when baked.

To make the filling for the tart, eggs are beaten and then blended with sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice. When the crust has chilled, you pour in the filling and bake the tart until the filling is set and the crust is cooked through and light golden.

You can make the tart up to a day before serving it (see recipe method for details). I garnished the tart with lemon slices and mint sprigs, and served it with whipped cream, which can be dolloped on top. If desired, you could also serve the tart with fresh fruit, such as berries.

Lemon Tart with No-roll Crust

The crust for this lemony, sweet and tangy tart is simply pressed into the pan, no rolling required.

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: 28 to 30 minutes

Makes: eight servings

For the crust:

• vegetable oil spray

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus some for your fingertips

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup cold butter, cut into tiny cubes

1/4 cup ice-cold water

For the filling:

4 large eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

2 tsp finely grated lemon zest

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (see Note 1)

• icing sugar, for dusting

• lemon slices and mint sprigs, for garnish

• whipped cream, to taste (optional)

To make the crust, combine 1 1/4 cups flour and 1/4 cup sugar in a mixing bowl. Add the butter and with your fingertips or a pastry cutter, take a few minutes and vigorously work it into the flour mixture until thoroughly distributed and only very tiny bits of butter remain. Add the water to the bowl and mix well until a very lumpy, crumbly mixture forms (the crust will hold together once pressed into the pan).

Lightly grease the bottom and well into the sides of a 9-inch, non-stick, fluted, false-bottom tart pan with the oil spray (see Note 2). Spoon and spread out the crust mixture into the pan. With lightly floured fingertips, firmly and evenly press the dough into the tart pan and completely up the sides of it. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Then cover the crust with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated until ready to bake the tart (the crust can be made many hours in advance).

When ready to bake the tart, set an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 350 F. Place the eggs for the filling in a clean mixing bowl and beat until well blended. Now beat in the 1 cup granulated sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice. Remove the crust from the refrigerator. Press and smooth out any uneven parts in the crust, if there are any. Wrap the bottom of the pan in foil (this will prevent any melting butter in the crust from seeping out of the pan.)

Pour the filling into the crust. Carefully transfer the tart to the oven and bake 28 to 30 minutes, or until filling is set and crust is cooked and light golden. Cool tart on a baking rack to room temperature. Carefully remove the tart pan’s outer ring. Refrigerate tart until ready to serve. It can be made a day before needed. Tent it with plastic wrap once chilled.

To serve, dust the top of the tart lightly with icing sugar, cut into wedges and plate them.

Top each serving with a dollop of whipped cream, if using, garnish with lemon slices and mint sprigs, and serve.

Note 1: One lemon, when squeezed, should yield about 3 Tbsp of juice. I suggest you buy 4 lemons to get the 1/2 cup (8 Tbsp) of juice needed here and the slices of lemon you’ll use for garnish. Zest one of the lemons to get the 2 tsp you’ll need for the filling before juicing it.

Note 2: Non-stick, false-bottom tart pans are sold at hardware and kitchenware stores. The one I used was three centimetres tall.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.