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Lemon Basil Lemon Tartelettes

Lemon Tartelettes - Late Afternoon

I know I talk a lot about my family back home and the times, desserts and events shared over there but I also have a strong sense of my being and living here in the States, in the present moment. And I am always very aware of things coming up this fine weekend of May. It’s Mother’s Day. Except it does not phase my own mother much because that special day is not celebrated until the end of the month in France. However she enjoys the fact that with my being here and celebrating Bill’s mom, I can’t wait another two weeks to tell her anyway. And I realized while making these lemon-basil infused lemon tartelettes that there was a whole of "mothers" going into them.

My mother-in-law is "mama Ruth" to me. She welcomed me to the family like a daughter and she treats me as such and never refrains anything, the good, the bad and the ugly, just like a mom does. She also has what I call a very acute "pantry 6th sense". I can be thinking that I need sugar and Bill comes home with a bag courtesy from his mom (they live 10 minutes away). It’s downright freaky some days. Sometimes we shop in doubles like we did last week and I found myself with three big bags of lemons which is why you get one more strawberry free – not yet blackberry post. "Mother moment #1".

I started coming up with various recipes to use all these lemons and since I had some pate brisee left from another project, "tartes au citron" easily came to mind. I have a recipe typed up in my brain from the restaurant menu but I also like to try new ones and it was a good opportunity to flip through the pile of cookbook I own but rarely have time to open. I picked up Pierre Herme’s Larousse Des Desserts that my mom sent me last year, figuring that he, of all people would have what I needed. "Mother moment #2".


I settled on a very simple and 100% lemon recipe for the tarts but changed a couple of things around nonetheless. PH uses a shorbread crust but I had pate brisee in the freezer and used it instead. I also wanted to had a little depth to the lemon filling by infusing the melted butter called for in the recipe with lemon basil. I almost wished I had added more than I did. It really gave the filling a lovely grassy quality. I had to refrain though as I am trying not to deplete too fast that lovely lemon-basil plant Mama Ruth picked out at the nursery for me. "Mother moment #3".

As I was baking, I started to think about all these "mother moments" and began to smile bigger and bigger with each step of the process. From prepping and baking to photographing. A lot of you send emails asking me about the props I use and the answer is almost always "mom". My mom. The best personal shopper a food stylist could ever dream of. Rolling pin, tart rings, microplane, pretty lemon bowl…Mom. Care packages with ingredients, tablecloth, napkins, jars, cups and spoons…Mom. She really gets a kick out of it and I am always floored by the cool stuff she finds in the most unexpected places.

So you see, even if I did not intend to make the lemon tarts for Mother’s Day, it became quite clear that they really ought to be blogged about this weekend. Thank you Mama Ruth and Maman for all the things you say and do. All the love and forgiveness. Happy Mother’s Day to all of you reading this and being celebrated this Sunday!

I also want to thank Suzanne from S.HopTalk for including one of my pictures in this amazing Why Moms Matter video. Pass it along to any mom you know! I hear an ebook is soon to follow…

Lemon Tart-2

One year ago: Lemon and Honey Tangerines Gratins.
Two years ago: Meet My Sugar Daddy.

Lemon Basil Tartelettes, adapted from Pierre Herme:

Makes six 4-inch tarts

For the pate brisee:

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
5 tablespoons butter, cold and cut into small slices
3 to 4 tablespoons ice cold water

For the filling:
5 tablespoons (80gr) unsalted butter
1/4 cup lemon basil, chopped
3 eggs
1/2 cup (100gr) sugar
5 lemons, zested and juiced

Prepare the dough:
Mix together the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or a fork until the mixture forms pea-sized pieces. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of water over the flour mixture and toss with fork until moistened. Repeat with the remaining water, one tablespoon at a time and gather the dough into a ball with your hand. Do not handle the dough too long. Wrap into a sheet of plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. This will allow the dough to relax and make it easier to roll, keeping it from becoming tough. Roll dough on a lightly floured surface, applying pressure from the center to the edges until it is about 1/4-inch thick. Cut out six 6- inch circles onto the dough and press them into the tartlet molds or rings (or one 9 inch pan if making a larger tart). Place the rings or molds on a baking sheet. Prick the dough with a fork, apply a piece of parchment paper inside the molds and fill with dry beans or pie weights. Refrigerate 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350F and when ready, bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cool completely and remove the pie weights and paper. Keep the oven at 350F.

Prepare the filling:
In a small saucepan set over medium heat, cook the butter and lemon basil until the butter is just melted. Let cool and strain to remove the lemon basil. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, the juice and zest from the lemons and the melted butter. Divide evenly among the tarts and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve room temperature.

At The Flower Shop

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Nic May 8, 2009 um 7:56 pm

Gorgeous tarts Helen, and a lovely post!

Unknown May 8, 2009 um 8:07 pm

this post just screams, how can you not love spring!!!

cindy* May 8, 2009 um 8:09 pm

what great thoughts to send to your mil and mom helen!

i’m making lemon tarts for mother’s day too, haha.

Dessert Lover May 8, 2009 um 8:20 pm

These tarts are gorgeous and sounds like they would be delicious! I love your photos too!

Lucy May 8, 2009 um 8:52 pm

Stunning photos and delicious tarts = fantastic post 😀

Ivy May 8, 2009 um 8:58 pm

You have a true tartelette gift!
Have a lovely weekend!

Irene May 8, 2009 um 9:34 pm

So beautiful, Helen. Happy Mother’s Day to you and Maman and Mama Ruth!

Engineer Baker May 8, 2009 um 9:55 pm

What a wonderful tribute to your mothers 🙂 The tartelettes look amazing, but I absolutely love the bowl the lemons are in.

Y May 8, 2009 um 10:01 pm

What, no more strawberries? 😉

What a beautiful tart, and I love that last picture of the flowers – just stunning! My mother and I are not terribly in tune, but I love her all the same. Yours is a fitting way to celebrate Mothers Day.

anna May 8, 2009 um 11:36 pm

Those look so tasty! I’m planning something lemony for Mother’s Day, too.

The Duo Dishes May 9, 2009 um 12:36 am

Impressive as usual! The tarts look amazing. Love the combination of flavors.

elly May 9, 2009 um 1:14 am

I just love lemon and basil together. These look so good! Great post, too.

cedar May 9, 2009 um 1:46 am

These look so darn tasty!

Deeba PAB May 9, 2009 um 2:23 am

Beautiful & touching post Helen…just gorgeous. And the tartlettes as well. They are so you, refreshing!! Congrats on being included in 'Why Mom's Matter'…

La Cuisine d'Helene May 9, 2009 um 2:23 am

So nice to have your mom sends you all the gifts.

Happy Mother's Day to your mom & mother-in-law!

Sunshinemom May 9, 2009 um 5:08 am

God bless all the mothers of the world! It is such a blessing to have someone on whom you can depend anytime. BTW, my mother and sister get me quite a lot of quaint stuff too. Most of my earthen and brassware belong to my mum:). The tartlettes look great as always!

Cakebrain May 9, 2009 um 5:46 am

I can almost taste your tart…my salivary glands are working right now! the crust looks so crumbly-golden-good!

Anonymous May 9, 2009 um 6:09 am

What a gorgeous combination!
Super-pretty photographs, as usual!

Ria Mathew May 9, 2009 um 6:27 am

Beautiful Tartelettes!! And a lovely write up! 🙂

• friX • May 9, 2009 um 7:18 am

This last picture is truly lovely !

Diletta May 9, 2009 um 8:46 am

Marvellous freshness!!! I need to find lemon basil now….
A smile from the other side of the ocean,

Dominique May 9, 2009 um 8:49 am

Très touchante "déclaration" Helen, et la recette me fait envie… cela fait si longtemps que je n’ai fait de tarte au citron. Mes hommes l’aiment "meringuée", je rajouterai donc une étape. Bonne fête aux mamans US!

Graphic Foodie May 9, 2009 um 11:09 am

Beautiful and fresh.

I absolutely adore basil in desserts.

Mallory Elise May 9, 2009 um 10:39 pm

mmm that shot of the flowers in the box is brilliant 🙂

pigpigscorner May 9, 2009 um 11:54 pm


Joyce May 10, 2009 um 5:40 am

Helen a perfect dessert! I love anything tarty. Enjoy! xoxo

Cakelaw May 10, 2009 um 7:12 am

Wonderful! Lemon is a mother’s favourite. Hope you enjoyed a lovely Mothers Day with Mama Ruth.

Snooky doodle May 10, 2009 um 8:52 am

beautiful tarts! Your mother in law seems to be such a nice person 🙂 Happy mother’s day

Lori May 10, 2009 um 12:38 pm

You know what I think of here, Its a Wonderful Life… all the ways in which we touch each others life from the miniscule to grandiose. Whether we are a Mom or not, this is the way we mother each other with kindness and thoughtfulness. You too, mother all of us with your love in your recipes and what you write. The way you Mother those around you, your friends and neighbors. We should never underestimate the power we have to touch each other!

Marc @ NoRecipes May 10, 2009 um 2:26 pm

This totally reminds me of the first "fancy" restaurant I went to as a child that served a lemon basil sorbet. I remember thinking the combo was odd back then, but I’ve come to associate the combination with good food. Your tartelettes look gorgeous as usual.

lynda May 10, 2009 um 6:16 pm

Lovely post both in sentiment and photographs. The tarts look delicious!

Bren May 11, 2009 um 12:44 am

geeesh, i haven’t been here in so long, and what a lovely recipe to see upon my return! Lemon basil anything works for me! have you tried a cocktail in the same fashion? Amazing!

Maki May 11, 2009 um 3:18 am

I’ve been craving lemon dessert lately. It looks so tangy good!

Cannelle Et Vanille May 11, 2009 um 10:15 am

how refreshing Helen! I am sorry I missed so many posts but loved seeing this one first thing this morning. Cheered me up!

Anonymous May 11, 2009 um 10:50 am

Tarte au citron is always my favourite when it comes to the crunch – and as one of my favourite herbs is basil, I’m going to have to try this recipe very soon. Your photos are always so gorgeous and inspiring too 🙂

Penny May 11, 2009 um 12:01 pm

Love the flowers in the jardin crate. Beautiful tarts.

emiglia May 11, 2009 um 12:39 pm

Lemon and basil are gorgeous together… and this is such a lovely post about mothers. You’re lucky to have two such great mother figures in your life!

Manggy May 11, 2009 um 1:20 pm

Happy mother’s day Helen– I hope all is well with your family, esp. your mum 🙂

NKP May 11, 2009 um 1:50 pm

What beautiful photos, I would love one of those tarts on Mother’s Day.

Candice L. May 11, 2009 um 2:16 pm

may i know what camera u use? i go on ur blog pretty much everyday. and love the reciepes (have only worked up the courage to try a few) and the photographs and was wondering wat camera u use.
Thanks =)

Jo May 11, 2009 um 2:54 pm

Great post and happy belated mother’s day. Also such lovely looking tarts too.

Anonymous May 11, 2009 um 5:10 pm

Oh my! Finally back from vacay and all these lovely posts to catch up with…my afternoon is looking good but not as goo as these…

You’ll never cease to make me happy!


Helene May 11, 2009 um 5:12 pm

Hi Bren! Good to see you 🙂

Thank you all but I am not a mom…I just love all moms!

As a side note, lemon-basil is quite more delicate than regular basil, so I am not sure the results will be the same.

Stacey May 11, 2009 um 8:09 pm

Oh wow, this looks so delicious. Perfect for spring or summer. And especially perfect for a dessert at a baby shower or wedding shower.

Love your blog!

Helene May 11, 2009 um 11:06 pm

Candice L.: for the most part I use a Canon Rebel XTI but I have had a few other cameras as loaners by several shops over the past few months like Canon Mark II or Nikon D700. It all depends what I get to play with.

Christelle May 12, 2009 um 12:05 am

I don’t know if I prefer the tarte or the photos, ouch, I can’t they are both excellent!!

Giff May 12, 2009 um 2:55 am

I so rarely make dessert, but get my fix by coming to your blog. This looks and sounds delicious and I’d like to give it a try!

AmyRuth May 12, 2009 um 3:34 am

I only got this far….and will "continue" reading in a moment but I wanted to tell you how I loved reading about your affection for your "momma Ruth," and the like mindedness you share. Very real.

thepassionatecook May 12, 2009 um 10:39 am

what a coincidence! i was at momo’s, a morroccan restaurant and tea room in london on sunday and have a fabulous lemon tart there – but the weird coincidence it that you should style this photo using a morroccan tea glass… what a beautiful shot (again)!

Hayley May 12, 2009 um 2:05 pm

What a beautiful and thoughtful post. Glorious recipe and pictures as always. Thanks for sharing!

Patricia Scarpin May 12, 2009 um 4:41 pm

You are such a dear, Helen – these are gorgeous little treats! I’m sure your mom is very proud of her talented and precious daughter. 🙂

unconfidential cook May 13, 2009 um 12:43 am

Hmmm, lemon and basil–what a great combo, and what beautiful little tarts.

Anonymous May 13, 2009 um 1:48 am

I’ve been admiring your blog for a while, and wanted to come out of the shadows to tell you this post was just beautiful. ( :

Mallory Elise May 13, 2009 um 3:21 am

trop. mignon. i have to say, i am a vertical shot snob, but it is quite nice to see your horizontal, i think i may start adding in more than one or two during my shoots 😛

ps. my desserts at my party went absolutely brilliantly, the party was amazing, i couldnt believe i actually made 100 macarons and an army of cupcakes and a layer cake. and on top of it all i graduated and moved out of my house, all at the same time! but i must thank you for your advice 🙂

jb May 13, 2009 um 5:41 am

These sound absolutely amazing and so fresh for spring!

Jaime May 13, 2009 um 5:42 am

I love it!
Too bad we’re not neighbors. We could trade food all week. But then I’d weigh 15 extra pounds. Maybe it’s just better I ogle over your pictures from here.

Christy May 13, 2009 um 8:16 am

I love your mother moments helen!! Isn’t it funny the way mothers know about things? Love how the tarts are pure and unadulterated lemony (does this make sense?)!!

Nostalgic Nosh May 14, 2009 um 3:57 am

Delicate and lovely. They look so perfect. I also love that glass…

Anonymous May 14, 2009 um 5:36 pm

I am drooling a bit…

Adi May 14, 2009 um 8:36 pm

Happy birthday Helen!
I love your new banner.

Hillary May 15, 2009 um 3:43 pm

Any recipe that has lemon in it twice is delicious in my book!

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