If you had asked me five years ago if you could make a rich, creamy lemon curd without using a whole stick of butter, I may not have scoffed at the idea, but I certainly would have questioned your motive. Why in the world would you want to make a butter-less curd? Isn’t the butter the what makes it delicious? The answer to the second question is still yes. But the last few years and the mainstream focus on food sensitivities that they’ve brought about, (not to mention the meeting, dating and marrying of lactose intolerant man) have not only resulted in my education in using alternative fats (sorry, butter) but also sparked a curiosity and creativity that more a more traditional approach to baking sometimes lacks. In short: traditionally butter rich desserts made with alternate fats are delicious. No ifs, ands, or but(ters)s about it.
These dairy-free lemon tarts are a shining example. Instead of butter, they’re made with a combination of coconut oil and egg yolks for an incredibly smooth and creamy texture that acts as the perfect vehicle for the bright tartness of the lemon juice. The coconut oil lends lovely tropical undertones, which, assuming you’re fans of a good umbrella-garnished cocktail, is an unexpected but delicious complement to a traditional lemon tart. If you’re not a coconut fan, you can use a refined coconut oil which has a much milder flavor. The crust is a cross between a traditional tart dough and a shortbread crust, that leverages almond flour for texture and flavor and coconut oil again as our glue. In the oven it becomes lightly sweet and toasty and acts as the perfect, easy-to-make vehicle for our star ingredient lemon curd.
I’ve sweetened the curd with honey instead of granulated sugar for a softer warmer sweetness that lightens the sugar content without sacrificing flavor. Wildflower honey works perfectly here since we’re pairing the tarts with floral forward orange blossom whipped cream. Speaking of, for a unique twist and a nod to spring’s flowers, I chose to garnish these tarts with orange blossom-spiked whipped cream. Note that the whipped cream in the photos is made with dairy cream, but for a strictly dairy-free dessert you can use coconut cream in place of heavy cream for an equally delicious topping. Orange blossom water at your local international market, but for a more traditional approach you could simply add a little lemon or grapefruit zest to the whipped cream for an added boost of flavor.