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 have not only increased 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 can be found 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.
For the crust:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup almond flour
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons honey
For the dairy-free lemon curd:
- 1 cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons lemon zest
- 4 large eggs
- 4 large egg yolks
- 2/3 cup honey
- 3/4 cup virgin coconut oil
- Pinch of salt
For the orange blossom whipped cream:
- 1 cup coconut cream or heavy cream, very cold
- 1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water
- 2-4 tablespoons of honey (to taste)
To prepare the crust:
- Preheat oven to 350F. In a food processor, pulse together the flours and salt. Add the coconut oil, egg and honey and pulse until dough forms and holds together when pressed between your fingers.
- Evenly divide the dough between four 4.5-inch, individual tart pans and use the bottom of a flat glass to press the crust into the bottom and sides of the pans.
- Place the filled crusts on a baking sheet. To help the crusts hold their shape, line with foil or parchment paper and use pie weights or beans to fill each tart.
- Bake for 10 minutes then remove from the oven, remove the lining and weights and bake for another 5-10 minutes or until lightly golden.
- Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
- While the tarts are cooling, prepare the lemon curd filling.
To prepare the lemon curd:
- Place a medium saucepan on the stove and fill with 1-inch of water. Bring to a simmer.
- In a medium heatproof bowl (it should sit nicely on top of your medium saucepan without touching the water) combine all of the curd ingredients and whisk well. Place on top of the pan of simmering water and whisk until smooth and all coconut oil is melted.
- Continue to cook, making sure your water is simmering and not boiling, and whisk constantly until the mixture has thickened and coats the back of a wooden spoon, about 7-10 minutes. It’s important you whisk the entire time otherwise you risk scrambling the eggs.
- Once thick, strain through a mesh sieve to remove any pieces of cooked egg and divide evenly between the four baked tart crusts. Place the tarts in an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or until the curd is set.
To prepare the whipped cream:
- Add the cold cream to bowl of a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment.
- Beat on medium high until the cream starts to thicken. Add the orange blossom water and honey and continue to beat until cream thickens.
- Garnish tarts with orange blossom whipped cream and serve.