Genius Recipes

Tartine Bakery's Lemon Cream

By • March 2, 2012 • 37 Comments

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Every week, FOOD52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: What butter can do for curd when it comes in at a different cue. Meet your new tart filling, scone spread, and trifle layer -- and the best lemon pudding you'll ever taste.

tartine's lemon cream

- Kristen

We've already seen lemon do some miraculous things on FOOD52 (Posset. Lazy tarts. Sorbet. Sponge cups.). And we've witnessed the magic of emulsification.

Now we get to talk about them together. With butter. I'm so happy right now.

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FOOD52er sarabclever taught me about this delightful substance, a lemon cream that comes from the legendary Tartine Bakery in San Francisco and its namesake cookbook. (Sara went ahead and did this with it too.)

Tartine's recipe takes the traditional lemon curd process and reverses it, not only saving time, but also producing something richer, silkier, and just better in the end.

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A typical lemon curd starts with lemon juice, egg (yolks or a mix), sugar, and sometimes butter melted together and whisked over a double boiler until it thickens. It's delicious. Lemon meringue pie, pavlova, and trifle have been known to depend on it.

But Elisabeth Prueitt, Tartine Bakery's pastry chef and co-owner, holds off on adding the butter till after the other ingredients have gotten to know one another. And then she adds a lot of it, violently -- a technique inspired by Pierre Hermé. You'll see!

elisabeth prueitt  tartine cookbook

Naturally (this is an iconic pastry book, after all), there are specific temperatures involved, but I've made this with scalawag thermometers that couldn't be trusted, and just went by looks. It's very forgiving.

You just do that whisking-over-a-double boiler thing till it gets thick and glassy and leaves a lingering trail behind your whisk (or you can go rogue and cook it over low, direct heat -- just be prepared to strain out any cooked egg bits).

Then you pull it off the heat to cool while you slice your butter into neat tablespoons and pull out your blender.

lemon curd lemon curd butter

Here comes the violence: You scrape the curd into the blender and let it rip, dropping in pats of butter one at a time. Each one is greeted with a satisfying -- suck! glurgle! -- as the lemon curd drinks up the butter and slowly swells.

The chunks of chilled butter cool down the mixture and thicken it faster than the traditional all-stovetop method would, while the blades of the blender beat in extra air.

tartine's lemon cream

The result is a buoyant, stable buttercream that stays spreadable in the fridge for days. It's smoother and more mellow than curd, which is often so severe in its pucker that you must take measures to lighten it after the fact -- a mousse folded in; a thick, sweet layer of meringue piled on top. You won't need, or want, to do that here.

You will, however, sweep it onto your scones or toast, lard it through the middle of a layer cake, or smooth it into a tart crust. (Please consider garnishing with Tartine's mohawk-esque dollops of cream and flower petals if you do.)

lemon pudding

And I will go down fighting if anyone tells me I can't eat this as a pudding.

Tartine Bakery's Lemon Cream

Note: If you're looking for a genius tart shell to stick this in, try Paule Caillat's Brown Butter Tart Crust.

Adapted very slightly from Tartine by Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson (Chronicle, 2006)

Serves 4

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 cup unsalted butter


See a slideshow and the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

lemon cream tart

Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

Photos by James Ransom


Tags: genius, lemon, lemon cream, tart, dessert, pastry, baking, emulsification, curd

Comments (37)

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over 1 year ago mudpuppy

I have not tried freezing it because there is never any left. I just made a batch tonight. I have a beautiful Myers lemon tree in my front yard. I did make a couple of changes because I like a lot of lemon power. I double the lemon juice, then blended a really ripe medium to large Myers lemon in my Vita Mix. I then added the creme from the stove to the blended lemon, I finished as per the recipe, OMG! the best I've made yet! It will be part of our Christmas feast! (If it makes it that far!)

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over 1 year ago marieeve

Did anyone ever freeze this? I've made this recipe many times...min fact, I no longer consider any other recipe, but always ate it right away. I find myself with a lot of meter lemons to take care of.... Would love to make a few batches and have on hand for the holidays. Will it keep its texture?

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about 2 years ago inspiredbyyou

kristen, terrific piece! i have not done the comparing but maybe you have?>> should i now be able to just take a jar of gifted lemon curd, heat it, throw it in the blender and add the butter? i.e. is the pre-butter part of the recipe basically a lemon curd? thx much!

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about 2 years ago saltandserenity

I would never dream of fighting you if you tried to eat this as a pudding. I'm too wise and know enough to stand between a girl and her pudding!! Thanks for another genius recipe. I may have to try this just so i can hear the "satisfying -- suck! glurgle! " of the blender.

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about 2 years ago MsDivinaLoca

I will definitely try this version. I've made Ms. Greenspan's lemon cream and prefer the texture of the product to a curd where the butter is melted. Ms. Greenspan includes lemon zest in addition to juice - which I loved (the more lemony, the better), but I'm interested in trying a version with a little less butter.

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about 2 years ago Giggles

I'm in love with all things lemony and I would certainly get this as a pudding. I have no issues eating lemon curd like pudding either. Would a food processor work in place of a blender?

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about 2 years ago Joy (My Turkish Joys)

Love lemon curd - tarts, sandwich filling for cookies, scones, and great for French toast! I also like brushing my tarts with a bit of melted dark chocolate. Chocolate + Lemon = great combo!

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about 2 years ago lisas156

I'm sure this is wonderful, but isn't it the exact same technique that's used in Dorie Greenspan's "The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart"? Greenspan credits Pierre Herme with coming up with this technique. She too puts the cooked ingredients into the blender and then, after it's cooled for 10 minutes, blends in the butter rather than making it like a traditional curd. It is indeed silky and wonderful, but clearly the provenance of this technique is in question!

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about 2 years ago teamom

Lovely recipe!
I tend to make indivual tart shells vs. an 8/9" tart shell (have kids - I use muffin tins for this). Let the baked shells cool, then coat them with melted chocolate, let cool, then turn in the lemon cream. The chocolate compliments the lemon, and prevents the pastry from becoming soggy. Whipped cream is a la minute.

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about 2 years ago bluechefk

this looks like a fantastic & really useful addition to the lemony/creamy part of my 'love these recipes' file! one question: i'd love to use this as tart filling - usually, when i make a lemon tart, i'm filling the shell with curd & then baking for a little while to set. would this filling also require baking in order to set the way it has in the photo above? - love that nice clean, firm slice! or should i be using the cream cool, as is?

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about 2 years ago Roquette

Ummm, I've always made curd by whisking in cold butter at the end. I'm pretty sure that's the standard. I love Tartine and am sure the recipe is delicious, but I'm not sure it's as revolutionary in its method as the author thinks it is.

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about 2 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

We (the Food52 crew) had all made lots of different curd recipes, but we all thought this one was definitely markedly different -- and great. Try it and see what you think!

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about 2 years ago Trillinchick

Oh, how I wish my dearest friend, and anchor of my adult life, was still alive. I wish it for many reasons selfishly, but Kathleen adored anything lemon-y. She made my first taste of lemon curd from scratch and we spread it on warm bran muffins (Kellogg's box recipe?). Like Proust's madeleine cookie, I will always cherish the sensory and emotional satisfaction of that moment. I have not eaten it since being diagnosed with diabetes. Does anyone know how much (if it's possible) to substitute Truvia or Stevia, and maintain its deliciousness? Cheers!

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about 2 years ago Sarag

Swoon....recover, one more spoonful, swoon again.

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about 2 years ago Sarag

Swoon....recover, one more spoonful, swoon again.

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about 2 years ago Elisabeth Prueitt

Kristen, I got your email forwarded by the bakery, but there wasn't a return email included, so I'll post about your question here!
Kristen's question was, essentially, is my Lemon Cream recipe from Dorie Greenspan, Pierre Herme, or my own creation. I don't know Dorie personally, although I hold her in high esteem; her recipe uses only whole eggs and is sweeter than mine. My recipe was inspired by Pierre Herme. His version has significantly more butter and different ratios of sugar and lemon juice as well. Where the real inspiration came in is in how the butter is incorporated. I thought it was brilliant. Amazing how one single change in how a recipe is put together changes the whole result. Glad everyone is enjoying the recipe!

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about 2 years ago ALittleZaftig

Elisabeth, I sincerely didn't intend to cast doubt on whether or not this recipe should be credited to you when I commented that Dorie credits Herme with the twist of emulsifying butter into what would have been a lemon curd. I love your original recipe and your work. I apologize.

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about 2 years ago Bingobobbo

I've made this recipe numerous times with great success. All my friends love it every which way. It is not at all eggy. Makes a great key lime tart, too. I make it using a Kitchen Aid mixer and tried it with an immersion blender. All work well.

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about 2 years ago mcs3000

Tartine is my fave bakery and I love this book, especially this recipe.

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about 2 years ago Erin Powell

This recipe is delicious! I am making it with Meyer Lemon juice right now. I also love it with passion fruit and many other citrus flavors. Yum!

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about 2 years ago STC

I making up pie dough right now...this just screams Spring and here in Seattle, we sure could use a change!

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about 2 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Oh, how wonderful. So, I have this dream dessert idea in my head that involves layers of amazing lemon pudding, dark chocolate ganache, and whipped cream, and this would be the perfect lemon layer. The dream can become reality!

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about 2 years ago Meatballs&Milkshakes

I've been wanting to get that cookbook for a while! I love Tartine and still have dreams about their delicious baked goods and sandwiches!

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about 2 years ago BlueKaleRoad

I'm rearranging my menu for this weekend to include this lemon cream...looks divine. Thank you for sharing!

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about 2 years ago MrsWheelbarrow

Cathy is a trusted source on Pickling/Preserving.

I first encountered this in Dorie's book, just like Rivka, and I make it shamelessly every winter. It freezes really well, if you don't eat it all first.

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about 2 years ago EmilyC

I've also tried (and love) the Dorie version, which actually calls for *more* butter (1 cup + 5 T), the zest from three lemons, and a bit more sugar. I've never frozen it, so thanks for the tip! Looking forward to trying the Tartine version.

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about 2 years ago monkeymom

I absolutely love this lemon cream and make it often. Sometimes I use meyer lemon juice...though using also some regular lemon to give some tartness. I also find that the full amount of butter called for is very very rich. I use half the amount in the recipe and still it makes a luscious cream. Also, I've use a regular whisk, an immersion blender, and a regular blender. They all work well. The texture is slightly different with each. I actually prefer to use a regular whisk and some elbow grease. Thank you for highlighting such wonderful recipes! I love this feature of the site!

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about 2 years ago Ms. Tweetley

Can an immersion blender be used?

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about 2 years ago Arathi

Seriously, I think I have bought like 5 cookbooks after recipes from them were featured in Genius Recipes. This series is killing me! (in a good way :))

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about 2 years ago Rivka

I love this recipe. I originally encountered it in Dorie Greenspan's Baking from My Home to Yours, and I think she got it from Pierre Herme.

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about 2 years ago ALittleZaftig

Yes, that's what popped to mind. Greenspan credits Herme for the inventive twist transforming lemon curd to lemon cream.

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about 2 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

I typically prefer a yolk only curd, but am thinking this recipe needs the whites to achieve the volume. Does it have an "eggy" taste when finished?

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about 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Senior Editor of Food52

Not one that I picked up on -- but I'd love to hear your take on it if you give it a try. (Reposting as myself instead of Genius Recipes -- d'oh.)

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about 2 years ago Erin Powell

It's not eggy at all. It's absolutely delicious. I make it with passion fruit, mango, orange (with a bit of lemon), it's fantastic. It's so universal too. Happy baking!

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about 2 years ago dineomite

Erin, do sub out a 1:1 ratio lemon for passion fruit puree? I'd not even thought about trying to do that, but can say that my wife would be gobsmacked if I laid on of those on her. Pretty sure a parade would be held in my honor.

This lemon cream BTW is a huge favorite in our house. Tartine and Bourke Street Bakery are my two "go to" books. Very well written cookbooks.

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about 2 years ago Erin Powell

I've always had success doing a 1:1 ratio of citrus or other fruits. I just weigh out my juice/purée for this recipe and am on my way.

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about 2 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

This is genius, I love this recipe! Thank you for posting it.