A Little Plate of Sunshine

A carriage ride for our princess A.

We’re now on to our new international cooking destination. Mike is at the helm this time and has selected our neighbor to the north, Canada. Canada is the second largest country in the world, next to Russia, so we’re breaking it into regions and starting with Ontario.

On our epic road trip, we spent about a week in Ontario between Niagara-on-the-Lake and Toronto. One of our favorite days kicked off with a carriage ride through the downtown area of Niagara-on-the-Lake for Miss A, who was turning three the next day. You should have seen her little smile getting to ride in a princess carriage. πŸ™‚

After our ride, the guide recommended a little place, Balzac’s coffee, for coffee, lemonade and in her words, “an amazing lemon tart.” Sold! Miss A and I both decided that we needed lemon tarts. So while dad and Mr. N enjoyed their beverages, Miss A and I gushed over our tarts. I don’t know if it was because I was hungry, that it was vacation or that this was just really that good; but this was the most delicious lemon tart I ever tasted. Even Miss A finished off her entire tart, and that’s saying something.

So for our first Ontario recipe, we’re making, what else?! A lemon tart! We started with my favorite part, the pastry crust. We mixed the flour, sugar and salt together in a large mixing bowl and then added the zest of one lemon. Next we cut in the butter and some fat free cream cheese.

Using the pastry blender we created a coarse meal, then mixed together two tablespoons of water and a 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

We sprinkled the vanilla water over the flour mixture and after some gentle kneading we formed the dough into a ball and wrapped it in plastic wrap.

While the dough refrigerated for 30 minutes, we began to slice and mince the peel of one lemon for the tart filling. By mincing, rather than zesting, the lemon peel it provides little surprising bites of deliciousness in the tart filling.

We then returned to the dough, rolling it out for the mini tart pans.

Miss A then helped me to add the pie weights into the tart shells for baking to prevent any bubbling of the crust.

We baked the crust with the weights for about 15 minutes, removed the weights and baked them for another 5 minutes. We then set them aside to cool completely.

In the meantime, Miss A and I prepared the filling. We started by juicing the lemons. Look at her go!

We then whisked together the minced lemon peel from earlier, sugar, eggs and lemon juice in a small sauce pan. Next we cut in the butter and let the mixture cook over medium heat until simmering and the butter melted. Make sure that it doesn’t boil. Once the butter melted, we brought the heat down to a simmer and stirred it constantly for 7 minutes.

Once the filling cooled it was ready to pour into our tart shells. We used about 1/4 to 1/3 cup per tart.

They were then ready to refrigerate.

I almost couldn’t wait until the next morning to try these, but they were worth the wait. The crust was perfect – with an ever so subtle sweetness – and the lemon filling was rich and full of lip puckering goodness. I like my tarts more sour than sweet and these hit the mark.

These little plates of sunshine easily got my 4 spoon vote. They weren’t quite like Balzac’s, but if I can say so myself, they were better! Dad also gave these 4 spoons, as did Mr. N and Miss A. Looks like we have another winner on our hands!

Print this recipe: Lemon Tarts

46 thoughts on “A Little Plate of Sunshine

  1. Kim Bee says:

    I am bookmarking these to try out on a cool day. I love the pic of your little one with the lemon tool. So cute. As an Ontario resident I give this two oven mitt clad thumbs up.


  2. Caroline says:

    Lemon curd is my weakness. I would gladly eat it straight out of the bowl. These mini tarts are adorable and look so delicious! I’ve been wanting to purchase some mini tart or pie pans, because everything mini is better, right? πŸ™‚ Love the carriage ride photo.


    • Kristy says:

      It’s funny you say that – I’ve had these tart pans for nearly a decade now and this is the first I’ve used them! I’ve normally only made the 9″ tart, but you’re right – mini is so much more fun!


  3. Eva Taylor says:

    Your trip sounds great, so glad you chose Ontario, it truly is wonderful. In Niagara-on-the-lake there are many really good restaurants and wineries. A kid-friendly one is Chef DeLucca’s The Old Winery Restaurant, they serve very tasty pizzas. http://www.theoldwineryrestaurant.com/ Also, you should drive by Picard’s Peanuts! Very tasty testers too! http://www.picardspeanuts.ca/home. There are also wonderful wineries, this is a great source to plan your trip http://winecountryontario.ca/. You can’t go down this path without a visit to Niagara Falls! I would avoid most of the restaurants at the Falls as they are just bad, but there is one cute little French bistro in old Niagara Falls called Paris Crepe Bistro http://www.pariscrepesbistro.com/Home.html Hope you have a great time. You picked the perfect time of the year to visit.


    • Kristy says:

      Hi Eva! Sorry for the confusion…we were just in Ontario. It was our first stop on our road trip in July. I wish we were going back soon though – I do love this time of year and I love it up there! We’ve made the trip twice and just love the region. Niagara on the Lake is one of my favorite stops – the wineries are fabulous! Next time we get there we’ll have to try Chef DeLucca’s. I’m pretty sure we saw it. πŸ™‚ We did drive by the falls this year, but Miss A wasn’t feeling very cooperative at the time and was in desperate need of a nap, so we snapped a photo and drove on. We did stop there on our first trip when Mr. N was three. I remember I was pulled from the crowd for a magic show and wrapped in a straight jacket! Mr. N and Mike thought it was hilarious! I did once I figured out how to get out of the thing. πŸ˜‰


    • Kristy says:

      Thanks Josh! I had never thought to try lemon tarts until I realized that I have an obsession with lemon bars (particularly Greg’s version over at Rufus’), so these seemed like a natural extension of that obsession. I was right. Sooooo good.


    • Kristy says:

      Thanks Jessica! She just loves that little juicer. It’s a bit hard for her to do, but she tries so hard. I think her favorite part is sucking on the lemon half when she’s done though. πŸ˜‰


  4. sallybr says:

    Another admirer of the simplicity of the dessert, as well as the pie weights. I’ve been using the same bag of black beans forever, but real cute pie weights are much nicer

    and, that pink dress with the yellow lemon squeezer…. what a gorgeous shot!


    • Kristy says:

      Thanks Sally! My mom gave me the pie weights as a gift when I first started getting into baking pies. They’ve come in very handy. πŸ™‚ And I’m with you and Kelly – I love simple desserts. That’s Miss A’s favorite outfit lately. She’s so colorful (literally and figuratively) – I love it!


  5. Kelly says:

    Ok, this may sound like national pride but I’m rather thrilled to discover your new destination – (and possibly even more delighted about this lemon tart!!) I adore citrus desserts and these look SO good – I love the simplicity of the service – no sugar topping or other bebelles – just the pure deliciousness of the lemon. My lips are puckered – yum! We’ll have to check out Balzac’s the next time we’re in that neighbourhood (good that I am learning about Canadian haunts from my American friend :)) – love the crust weights! (have not seen those before).

    Have a great day and, wish us luck, we are braving the east coast after all…


    • Kristy says:

      Yay! I’m so happy you get to head to the east coast! I can’t wait to hear about it. Glad it’s all working out. I read somewhere that the Balzac’s in Niagara on the Lake closed, but they do have other locations. And maybe it’s still open, I couldn’t confirm it one way or the other. If you get there – definitely go for the tart. Fantastic! And we’re excited about Ontario too. I have some recipes I’ve been dying to try. πŸ™‚


  6. Charles says:

    Mm, I don’t often go to the mall near my office for lunch, but when I do I have a hankering for a lemon tart. You can’t beat a good lemon tart… perfectly tart (excuse the pun) and acidic, while sweet at the same time, a delicious, crumbly pastry, mmm. Damn, now I’m hungry :p (P.S. I’m seeing the improvements in your pics after you got that book, especially the the last three!)


    • Kristy says:

      Exactly – it’s got it all. Tartness, sweetness, acidity, pastry and rich curd. I have one left…. Thanks for the feedback on the photos. I’m working at it. I figure if I practice a little bit each day, I’ll keep getting better. Did you get your new props?


  7. Kay aka Babygirl says:

    Miss A is definitely my kind of girl. I love the lemon press too lol. I’d squeeze anything in it if I could lol (don’t ask). But I love this lemon tart. I love discovering something delicious from a local town or state. I am definitely making these for my nieces bake sale. I think she will get some attention with these. Thanks girl πŸ™‚


    • Kristy says:

      LOL! Mr. N would be right beside ya squeezing that thing. He loves it too! You’ll have to let me know if you make these. They are so bright and happy and would definitely stand out at a bake sale. πŸ™‚


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