The tarte citron is a staple of the Parisian patisserie. Virtually every shop in the city offers-up their own version. Most are edible. Some are quite good. Perhaps half a dozen are notable. And a few, in my mind, are exceptional. My personal favorite? That’s easy. You’re looking at it. Ladurée is the tarte citron master.
Yes, of course, I do love Carl Marletti’s version, and Pierre Hermé’s is phenomenal. But when I think of the purest, most perfect expression of the lemon tart, only Ladurée comes to mind. Macarons aside, for all of the wonderful patisseries they sell, this is one of their great pieces, if not the greatest highlight of their case.
You might be wondering, “PP, if it’s so awesome, then why didn’t it make your Top 17 Best Pastries in Paris?” Good question. That is because 16 of the 17 made the list for being phenomenal, as well as innovative – with only Pain de Sucre’s Millefeuille making the list as a classic, devoid of innovation. But of course Pain de Sucre’s Millefeuille is Divinely inspired; it operates in another dimenion. Ladurée’s Tarte Citron is merely perfect, so it would actually place in the high teens or early twenties, were I to expand the list. Am I being totally arbitrary? Perhaps, but I in no way mean to belittle this tarte, as it is still an incredibly rare and lovely jewel to be savored and celebrated.
Let’s take a bite. What do we notice? The first and most remarkable facet of the tarte is that the pâte sucrée shell is so mild in flavor. Compared to something ultra-earthy, like Marletti’s, or even something middle of the road, like Hermé’s, you might think it to be a bit boring. But, no, ‘tis not. For its buttery goodness, wafts of almond and subtle sugar undertones play host to the most sublime texture one can envision. Crumbly, melting, and gritty all at once and in the right proportions. Perfection. And the creme de citron it contains? Splendiferous. A rich, creamy, magnificently flawless marriage of lemon and sweetness. Just look at the final shot in the post, and you can almost taste it. For real. The image is virtually edible.
Before I sat down to write this, I was going through all of my pastry photos. There are literally in excess of 10,000 of them, as I took 30-40 shots of every piece I ate. And I was just fantasizing about what I’d eat when I got back to Paris. This and the aforementioned Pain de Sucre millefeuille are the top two classics that jumped out as must-haves. It also got me thinking I should one day do an entry of “Best Classics” – best Paris-Brest (La Patisserie des Reves), best Profiterole (Aoki), best . . . you name it. But there’s a lot more “research” to do before I draft that. All good things in time, right?
So, yes, absolutely grab a tarte citron at Ladurée. And maybe a rose Saint-Honoré, Religieuse Rose, Ispahan, Cup-Cake Pistache, Harmonie, Divin, Fraisier, and a Prestige box of macarons. Combined, they’d make an excellent day’s meal Or, if you’re me, a filling lunch. And that’s exactly why I’m going to fly to Paris underweight; I know I’ll be returning 10 kilos heavier at the end of the adventure.
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