Friday, January 12, 2007

Lemon Tart (Sugar-free)

I'm not as good at taking food porn shots as some bloggers so excuse my detached crust.

This recipe is a modification of a regular recipe for a lemon tart on "Joy of Baking". If you don't want to go sugar-free, I suggest following the original recipe. If you do want (or need) to go sugar-free though, this is one of the best pastries you can make. In fact, it's so good that you wouldn't know it was sugar-free unless you were told. Note that this recipe has the benefit of being pretty easy and foolproof. You mix both the crust in the filling in a food processor and you can't over mix or mess them up unless you measure incorrectly.

I had planned to make this recipe as dessert for guests over the weekend but, because I got sick, I didn't have the chance to do so. However, I had already bought all the ingredients and made one anyway. My husband loves this, especially when it's fresh. When fresh (but cooled), this is an extremely light dessert. After cooling, it has more of a light cheesecake feel to it because the lemon tartness smooths out a bit and the crust becomes denser as it absorbs moisture from the filling. Either way, it's delicious.

Note that you must use fresh lemons and fresh zest. For a dessert that relies so heavily on the lemon for flavor, the best quality is essential. I can buy two small lemons for 100 yen at the local QQ so I just zest them first then juice them. The recipe calls for 1/2 cup of lemon juice but, if your lemons don't yield enough juice, just add enough water to bring the liquid level up to a half cup. The zest contributes as much to the lemon flavor and scent as the juice.

(Sugar-free) Lemon Tart recipe:


1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granular Splenda
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 cup cold butter (cut into pieces)
2-4 tablespoons cold water


5 ounces/140 grams cream cheese (cut into pieces)
1/2 cup granular Splenda
1/2 cup powdered skim milk
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 eggs
zest of 2 small lemons

For the crust: Place the flour, granular Splenda, and salt into a food processor and pulse it a few times to mix. Add the cut up pieces of butter and process until the butter is completely integrated (it should resemble cornmeal).

Add cold water one tablespoon at a time until the flour forms a dough (see picture above). Depending on how cool your kitchen is and how cold your butter, the dough can be quite toothpaste-like. Warmer butter can make a very pasty dough but it's not a problem if this happens. Just be careful not to add more water than necessary. Usually, I need to add 3 or 4 tablespoons though I have gone as high as 5.

Spread the dough into an (un-greased) pie plate or tart pan. I don't bother to spread up the sides because the filling is relatively thin and a shallow cheesecake-style crust works fine.

Bake the crust at 425 degrees F. (220 degrees C.) for 10-14 minutes until it has browned and cooked through. The base should resemble a big, crispy cookie. Set aside until needed.

For filling: Place the cream cheese and granular Splenda in a food processor and process until smooth. Add the eggs and process until well-incorporated. Scrape down the sides and re-process as needed. Add the powdered milk and process until well-mixed. Add the lemon juice and lemon zest and process (and scrape down) until thoroughly mixed. The mixture should resemble a thin custard. Pour the mixture over the cooked shell (it does not have to be cooled but final baking time will be reduced if you pour the filling over a hot shell). Bake at 350 degrees F. (175 degrees C.) for 15-20 minutes until the center is just set. Serve with whipped cream. If you want to make your own sugar-free whipped cream, the recipe follows.

Sugar-free whipped topping recipe:

1/2 cup (120 ml) whipping cream
2-3 packets Splenda (not granular)
dash of vanilla essence
1 teaspoon pectin

Pour the whipping cream into a large (preferably cold) bowl and sprinkle with Splenda and pectin and add vanilla. Use an electric whisk on low speed to mix everything and introduce some bubbles. Turn up the speed and mix until stiff peaks form.

Note that the addition of pectin is not strictly necessary. If you've ever made homemade whipped cream, you'll see that it tends to separate after a day or so. Pectin won't stop this from happening entirely but it will slow it down greatly as well as make for a stiffer whip for a longer period of time.

Additionally, keep in mind that granular Splenda (which measures like sugar) is not to be confused with Splenda sold in packets. Packet Splenda is equivalent to 2 teaspoons of sweetness and granular Splenda measures precisely like sugar. If you were to use as much packet Splenda as granular, the sweetness would be overbearing and awful so be careful to use the right one.

I've experimented a lot with making desserts sugar-free and I've found that, in general, granular Splenda can be used as a substitute for powdered sugar in baked goods with little adjustment. If you use it in place of granulated sugar, you start to have problems because granulated sugar absorbs liquids and adds moisture. It also adds crispness and browning. In the case of this tart, the butter accomplishes the browning and crispness in the crust and the filling's loss of moisture absorption is made up for by the addition of powdered milk.


YETTE said...

oh my! that looks absolutely yummy!! my diet is ruined. i think i gained 5 pounds just looking at the photo. =D

but really, it looks amazing. =)

Shari said...

Thanks, Yette. :-) It really is very good. When you're not on a diet, I recommend you give it a try.