Poppy Seed Crumble Lemon Tart

A lemon curd dessert tart that's TRUE lemon tartness. Topped with poppy seed black salt Milk Bar style crumbles. 

Poppy Seed Crumble Lemon Tart Dessert recipe

This tart is everything in my dessert life right now. I'm very much a salty over sweet person if I have to pick. I will pick chips over sugar any day of the week. But this lemon tart dessert recipe is the best of both worlds. It's truly tart and lemony with elements of sweet and salty (the poppy seed crumbs on the top!). Many times when I've ordered lemon desserts at the market or a restaurant I've been disappointed: too much sugar and no lemon citrus flavor.  We fixed that. So buckle up and be prepared for possibly the perfect lemon tart.

The first big win is that the tart has the right amount of crust to filling. The crust is not too dense and too floury but it does actually hold up to all that lemon curd! How annoying is a dessert that shorts you on filling (or skimps you on what is potentially a great crust and over fills a cheap filling)? Recipes are about balance and when it comes to just the basic ratio of components it can just fall apart before you even have the chance to enjoy flavors. 

Win number two: The lemon filling is basically no fail thanks to the sous vide method. Now, to date we've only shared utilizing the sous vide for meats like this sous vide fried turkey sandwich (our personal typical usage), and infusions like our preserved lemon gin and tonic. But the truth is you can do MANY different methods using a sous vide and making a custard or filling is one of them we had yet to try. So obviously: it works. This was our first try. I've mentioned how some of the recipes on this blog are going to involve different ingredients or techniques (sous vide) but they'll be worth it if we suggest them. This is one of those times. To make the lemon curd you stick the ingredients in a bag, put it in the sous vide for an hour, walk away and then throw the filling in a blender. That's it. Meanwhile, the first recipe that came up when I searched lemon curd involved a food processor, a standing mixer or beaters and stirring constantly over a stove for at least 10 minutes...so, no. We will be using the sous vide method always thank-you-very-much. Because that leaves two hands totally free for a glass of wine and the bottle. 

I also feel like I need to warn most of you ahead of time that the lemon filling is in grams. I know this is really, really annoying if you don't have a scale and to that I say: go get a flipping scale already. It's a very American thing to do recipes with cups and it's way less accurate than a gram measurement. Typically I couldn't give a you know what if I'm using 7 grams of basil in a chicken dish but when it comes to baking....whole different story. I totally believe in cooking off of feel and what smells/looks/tastes right, but for baking...I'm getting out the scale. Chris says we should start a game called 'baker or drug dealer' since the night we made this we had a ton of white powder and baking scales out. It was suspicious.  And actually to back track...one of the reasons I really like the sous vide is that it is way less work for a precisely perfect product each time. So we do use precision for cooking and it is worth it. Just not for basil. 

Poppy Seed Crumble Lemon Tart Dessert recipe
Poppy Seed Crumble Lemon Tart Dessert recipe
Poppy Seed Crumble Lemon Tart Dessert recipe

The last component of this recipe that makes this lemon tart really different are the milk crumbs. If you are not familiar with Christina Tosci or Milk Bar that is going to sound completely not appealing. Milk crumbs (above) are a signature dessert element Milk Bar (the dessert side of Momofuku) uses in their desserts but specifically their amazing cakes. Remember that cake our friend made Chris for his birthday that was a Milk Bar dupe? Those are another example of milk crumbs in the wild. Specifically funfetti. The point being, they are an element you can add to a ton of different things for a bit of crunchy, salty and sweet at the same time in whatever flavor variation your little heart desires. Today we made them into poppy seed crumbles and used black sea salt instead of regular salt. So we took the crunchy topping and made it crackley too. 

The name milk crumb is basically referring to the fact the base is dry milk powder. Don't judge before you try. This will MAKE a dish. 

milk bar crumbles recipe
Poppy Seed Crumble Lemon Tart Dessert recipe
Poppy Seed Crumble Lemon Tart Dessert recipe
Poppy Seed Crumble Lemon Tart Dessert recipe

From a nutrition point of view what I like is the flavors are balanced but bold and not too sweet. I am easily satisfied with a single slice of this. Like I said from the start, I'm a salt lover over sweet. But for dessert, this hits both notes for me. It also covers the texture bases: buttery crust, creamy lemon filling, crunchy milk balls. Also, not from a nutrition point of view: this would also be really good with whipped cream on top if you baked them into mini tart rounds. 

One more thing before we get started: let's talk about the tart pan itself. I feel like sometimes you'll come across a recipe and they leave something out. Usually, it's how they hell they got the tart to look so good. To get the tart out of the fluted pan, you'll need a tart pan with a removable bottom. That's the silver you're seeing in the picture above. It means you can push the tart up from the bottom for a clean release from the sides. They come in many sizes and shapes but just use the term 'removable bottom tart pan' and you'll find what you need. 

Poppy Seed Crumble Lemon Tart Dessert recipe

Poppy Seed Crumble Lemon Tart

serves 10-12

Poppy Seed Milk Crumbs: flavor adapted, using Christina Tosci's base

/// Ingredients /// 

  • 3⁄4 cup instant nonfat dry milk, such as Carnation
  • 1⁄4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1⁄2 tsp. black salt (you can totally use regular but the color is just amazing in this)
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 oz. white chocolate, melted
  •  1.5 T poppy seeds

/// Directions ///  Preheat the oven to 250 F. In a medium bowl add 1/2 cup dry milk, flour, corn starch, sugar and salt and whisk. Add butter to the bowl and with a spatula stir until small clusters form. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the clusters evenly on the sheet pan. Bake about 20 minutes, or until dry and sandy. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely. 

Once cool, add the clusters to a bowl and break up any that are larger than 1/2 inch. Add the remaining 1/4 cup dry milk and toss until everything is evenly coated. Pour melted white chocolate over the top of the crumbs and toss until evenly coated. Check back in ever 5 minutes and toss until the chocolate is cooled completely. It should no longer be sticky. Store crumbs in a sealed container in the fridge up to 1 week (you'll eat them before then). 

Tart Crust: Chowhound recipe

/// Ingredients /// 

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed

/// Directions /// Preheat the oven to 350 F with a rack in the middle. Add butter, sugar and salt to a large bowl. Stir until everything is evenly incorporated. Add flour and stir until a soft dough forms. Sprinkle the dough over the bottom of the tart pan. Using your fingers or the bottom of a measuring cup, press the dough evenly to the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Cover the tart with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Remove from fridge and prick the dough with a fork all over. Bake until golden brown (20-25 minutes). Cool completely before filling.

Lemon Curd Filling: ChefSteps adapted slightly

/// Ingredients ///

  • 4 lemons (150 g juice, 10 g zest)
  • 200 g butter
  • 175 g granulated sugar
  • 120 g egg yolk (about 8)
  • 7 g gelatin, Knox (use slightly less for even creamier filling texture)
  • 5 g citric acid (Seriously! Don't skip it. Flavor secret.)
  • 1 g salt 
  • ice water as needed

/// Directions /// Set sous vide to 167 F/ 75 C. Juice and zest lemons. Combine all ingredients except ice water in a ziplock-type bag. Seal. Put bag in water and cook for 1 hour. Blend curd in blender for 30 seconds to one minute. You're waiting for the color to stop changing (it will lighten). When the color stops getting lighter, you're done. Pass mix through strainer if desired. Place curd in a bowl over an ice bath. Chill completely.  

Put it all together!

Add curd evenly into tart shell. Garnish with lemons and milk crumbs. Store in fridge. 

Poppy Seed Crumble Lemon Tart Dessert recipe

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