This last summer, I was at a picnic hosted by a French-German couple we’re friends with here in Berlin. It wasn’t the first time their Tarte au Citron made an appearance and was an instant hit. I’d seen it before and wondered if there was a way to make a vegan version. The original, like many famous French culinary creations, consists largely of butter and eggs.
We got to talking at dinner two weeks ago. I was telling them more about the vegan cookbook, and then the Tarte au Citron came up again. “Sure, we’ll give you the recipe! Maybe you can find a way to put it in the cookbook.”
When I got the recipe a few days later, I unfolded the paper anxiously and scanned the list of ingredients. How am I going to do this? I thought to myself. I’m not really a whiz kid when it comes to baking, but I do know the advanced basics of egg replacement, and I have a few pie and quiche crusts I do well. And I can sometimes force myself to actually follow instructions and not tweak everything like I usually do. This was going to be a major challenge. It would certainly require a lot of tweaking.
The original recipe already had plenty of cornstarch for the filling, so instead of the eggs I decided to try silken tofu. Partly because I had it in the fridge from making crazy delicious vegan brownies earlier this week. As soon as I started mixing the filling, it looked… well, let’s just say I wasn’t expecting much from the finished pie. I continued anyway, and threw it in the oven.
Within 15 minutes the apartment certainly smelled like a fantastic Tarte au Citron. I was getting more hopeful. When the crust appeared done, I removed the pie from the oven. Definitely one of those desserts that needs to be chilled before you play with it, I thought. So I let it cool a bit on the balcony in the crisp autumn air, then slipped it into the fridge.
Fast forward two hours. I’d just finished up another recipe and decided to check on the lemon pie. Whoa! It looked great! The filling had congealed fantastically. But how would it taste? I cut off a slice, put some confectionery sugar on it – for fun and good looks, at least – and sat down. As the first bite of pie dissolved in my mouth, I felt tremendously happy. Sure, some of it was the sugar rush. But mostly: I was just so pleased to have pulled it off!
This vegan Tarte au Citron tastes almost exactly like the original French lemon pie it’s based on. Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself!
Tarte au Citron - French lemon pie
8 slices / time 60 min
- 1 1/4 cup / 155 g flour
- 1/4 cup / 50 g margarine
- 3 Tbsn / 30 g sugar
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- pinch salt
- 1 tsp apple vinegar
- 2 Tbsn water
- Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt in a large bowl.
- Mix vinegar and water in a small bowl.
- Add margarine, vinegar, water to large bowl. Mix well, knead to form smooth dough.
- Cover, set aside for 30-60 min.
- 1/4 cup / 50 g margarine
- 1/2 cup / 100 g silken tofu
- 3 Tbsn cornstarch
- 1/3 cup / 80 ml lemon juice (2 lemons)
- 2 Tbsn lemon zest
- 2/3 cup / 140 g sugar
- Melt margarine in a pot on low heat.
- Blend silken tofu, cornstarch, lemon juice in food processor, or whisk until as smooth as possible. Add to pot, stir.
- Stir in lemon zest and sugar. Simmer on low until it thickens, stirring constantly, 5 min.
- Preheat oven to 400°F / 200°C / level 6.
- Grease a medium pie tin or bake form (about 8 in / 20 cm diameter).
- Press, spread dough evenly on bottom, pinch up along sides. Poke bottom several times with fork. Pre-bake (empty) crust 7 min.
- Remove crust from oven and pour in filling. Spread evenly.
- Bake 30-40 min, until crust is done, surface and edges are lightly caramelized. Allow to cool. Chill for at least two hours before cutting.
- Garnish with powdered sugar and chopped fresh mint leaves and/or lemon zest.