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Easy Gluten Free Lemon Tart

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With this lemon tart recipe, I set out to push the envelope for what it meant to be gluten free. There have always been challenges when developing alternative recipes for baked goods as most of them depend on gluten. But with more gluten free options than ever and plenty of experimentation, I was able to develop a tart that is delicious and easy to make.

I love a recipe that yields great results without a lot of active cooking time or ingredients. If not including decoration, this lemon tart only requires six ingredients which should be easy to find. If your local grocery store doesn’t stock gluten free graham crackers, they are available online.

There are three layers to this tart. The first is a simple graham cracker crust using gluten free graham crackers. Followed by a three ingredient lemon custard layer. Topped with a layer of Lemon Jell-O and decorated with lemon slices and mint leaves.

When creating this recipe I had actually wanted to make a gluten free key lime pie. It’s iconic in Florida and perfect for those who love citrus and the balance of flavors they bring to desserts. Unfortunately, that just wouldn’t come together. I switched tactics and tried a lemon tart instead to much more favorable results. When it comes to baking, sometimes a change of plans will take you somewhere unexpected but even more special.

Ingredients

  • Gluten Free Graham Crackers-There are plenty of gluten free options on the market, although you may have to order them online depending on your area. A few examples of brands that sell gluten free graham crackers are Pamela’s, Kinnikinic, Nairn’s, and Annie’s.
  • Butter-Any stick of butter you have available will work just fine.
  • Condensed Milk-Condensed milk is cow’s milk which is clarified and heated to 185–194°F to evaporate some of the water and then sugar is added. This process extends the shelf life of milk for years without refrigeration if unopened.
  • Heavy Whipping Cream-Heavy whipping cream, also called heavy cream, is a cream with a minimum of 36% milk fat.
  • Lemon Juice-Fresh squeezed lemon juice makes this recipe but you can use bottled if it’s what you have. Meyer lemons are especially delicious if you go for fresh squeezed.
  • Pack of Lemon Jell-O is used in baking the same way gelatin is but it already contains artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners, food coloring and sugar, which can save you time in the kitchen.
  • Mint Leaves-These are for decoration and can be left off if you don’t care for mint, but they do make for a beautifully finished tart.
  • Lemon Slices-As with the lemons for juicing, the higher the quality, the better the flavor.

What is the benefit of a Jell-O topping?

Gelatin has long been used as a thickening agent in fruit pies. When used as an additional Jell-O layer it becomes so much more. The Jell-O provides a textural contrast with the creamy filling and graham cracker crust. It also provides its own lemon flavor, which will enhance the citric notes of this dessert.

A Jell-O topping is also beautiful to look at, especially once decorated. The binding nature of the gelatin helps to hold the shape of your tart, even once sliced. Just remember to search for a vegan Jell-O mix if you or someone you’re cooking for has that dietary restriction.

What is the origin of the lemon tart?

The exact origins of the lemon tart are unknown. There are reports of lemon tarts being made by Protestant Quakers in 18th century America. In France, lemon tarts are called tarte au citron and have been popular since the French Revolution. A Swiss pastry chef named Alexander Frehse has also claimed credit for inventing the lemon tart.

What is clear, is the role the Industrial Revolution played in making sugar more accessible to the masses. While the lemon tart predates industrialization the lower cost of mass produced sugar certainly popularized it. This likely led to many bakers creating their own version around that period, thus clouding its country of origin.

Why use a graham cracker crust instead of a pastry crust?

When it comes to tarts and pies, there are two basic types of crust to choose from: pastry and crumb. A pastry crust is formed from a dough which can be formed into a shell for your tart. A crumb crust is made with premade ingredients, such as cookies, graham crackers, or maybe nuts that have been crushed into crumbs, mixed with melted fat and pressed into your pie pan to form a shell.

While equally delicious, both types of crust excel in different uses and can’t always be exchanged. A pastry crust is best for any pie or tart that requires a relatively long baking time, generally exceeding 25 minutes, such as fruit pies. Crumb crusts are very easy to make and best for fillings that require little to no baking, such as set custards. For these reasons, we’re using a crumb crust for this recipe.

Step-by-step instructions

  1. Preheat the oven at 350°F.
  2. Grind graham crackers either in a food processor or crush them by hand in a ziploc bag. 
  3. In a bowl add your graham cracker crumbs and melted butter. Mix well and transfer to a nonstick fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Spread the mix evenly and press to the edges and bottom to form a stable crust.
  4. Place it in the freezer for 10 minutes.
  5. In another bowl add heavy whipping cream and lemon. Whisk until thickens for about 6 minutes, then add the condensed milk and whisk until incorporated.
  6. Pour the filling mixture inside the tart shell and spread the mix evenly. Be sure to leave space for the Jell-O top.
  7. Put the pie in the oven for 10 minutes, then set aside to cool.
  8. After 1 hour, in a new bowl pour the lemon Jell-O powder and mix in 1/3 cup of warm water until the sugar dissolves.
  9. Pour over the cooled tart and decorate with the sliced lemons, and mint.
  10. Leave it in the fridge for at least four hours before slicing and enjoy.

Gluten Free Lemon Tart Recipe

First, gather your ingredients: 

  • 300g (about 10.5 oz.) gluten free graham crackers
  • 1/2 cup of melted butter
  • 14 oz. can of condensed milk
  • 1 cup of heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup of lemon juice
  • 1 pack of lemon Jell-O
  • Mint leaves for decoration
  • Lemons, thinly sliced

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven at 350°F.
  2. Grind graham crackers either in a food processor or crush them by hand in a Ziploc bag. 
  3. In a bowl add your graham cracker crumbs and melted butter. Mix well and transfer to a nonstick fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Spread the mix evenly and press to the edges and bottom to form a stable crust.
  4. Place it in the freezer for 10 minutes.
  5. In another bowl add heavy whipping cream and lemon. Whisk until thickens for about 6 minutes, then add the condensed milk and whisk until incorporated.
  6. Pour the filling mixture inside the tart shell and spread the mix evenly. Be sure to leave space for the Jell-O top.
  7. Put the pie in the oven for 10 minutes, then set aside to cool.
  8. After 1 hour, in a new bowl pour the lemon Jell-O powder and mix in 1/3 cup of warm water until the sugar dissolves.
  9. Pour over the cooled tart and decorate with the sliced lemons, and mint.
  10. Let the tart chill in the fridge for at least four hours or overnight.

What to serve with lemon tart?

A lemon tart is a fantastic way to end a nice dinner, be it to impress your guests at your next house party or a simple Sunday meal. The flavors go particularly well with a heavy meal as the lemons provide an acidic counterpoint.

I’d recommend a complimentary meal including roasted leg of lamb and vegetables, mac and cheese, or even fried rice. You can serve the tart itself with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, salted caramel sauce, or even maple syrup.

I’d love to hear from you if you made this lemon tart for. Come back and let us know! 

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