When I think of Easter, I think of my childhood. My mom, always the best gift-giver, would wake my sister and me up and we’d run into the living room to see our Easter baskets. Hidden within the vibrantly-colored cellophane grass were chocolate bunnies, jelly beans, and, our favorite, Cadbury Cream Eggs.
I remember every year getting all dressed up in a fluffy dress and my shiny white Mary Jane shoes. After emptying out our baskets, we’d meet up with our extended family at church and then go Easter Egg Hunting. Before the day ended with a giant supper, my dad or grandmother would take what felt like 1,000 pictures of my sister and me in our dresses in the grass. I remember that — always in the grass, or next to a tree, or sitting in some patch of flowers.
Now that I’m older and live far from my family, Easter is a little more mellow around these parts. But that doesn’t mean we don’t still celebrate with food. This year I decided on a vibrant and springy dessert for the holiday: Coconut Lemon Tart.
Creating this lemon coconut tart recipe
The crust of this lemon coconut tart is partially made from pulverized coconut, which imparts both flavor and added moisture (seriously, I kept eating the crust on its own). I’m definitely making variations of this crust again. I just loved it!
The middle is a lovely variation of lemon curd. I wanted it to be fully cooked so that it didn’t all spill out when you cut into it, and I wanted a recipe that didn’t involve tempering eggs. So to make the lemon filling you just whisk everything together and bake! So, so easy.
Then there are the toppings: whipped vanilla bean crème fraîche and candied lemons. I know it sounds like a lot, but both are incredibly easy and make such a difference on top of this tart. I mean, just look at it! Finished with a sprinkle of toasted coconut flakes, this tart is the essence of spring.
Tips for making lemon coconut tart
Plan ahead — Although the individual steps of this coconut lemon tart recipe are really easy, it does take quite a bit of time to assemble. First you have to make the candied lemons, then bake the crust, then bake the filling in the crust, then let the whole thing chill in the fridge for 2 hours. So most of your time is spent waiting for the coconut tart to bake or chill, but still. Plan ahead!
Use fresh lemon juice — For the tangiest, best flavor, use freshly squeezed lemon juice in this lemon coconut tart recipe. The bottled stuff doesn’t hold a candle to the juice straight from the lemons.
Use unsweetened coconut — Double check that you’ve bought unsweetened shredded coconut and not the sugary stuff. You want the flavor of coconut, but you don’t want this tart to be cloyingly sweet.
Let the tart cool completely — I know how tempting it is to eat desserts straight from the oven, but if you slice into this coconut lemon tart while it’s still warm, the filling will ooze out. You need to let this tart rest in the fridge for a few hours to give it time to set fully. Trust me, the wait is worth it!
8 oz vanilla bean crème fraîche (I used Vermont Creamery)
1/4 cup toasted coconut (optional)
to make the candied lemons
In a small saucepan over low heat, mix the sugar and water until no sugar crystals remain. Add in lemons and simmer for 1 hour, swirling occasionally. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and allow to cool completely on parchment paper.
to make the tart
Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a circular tart pan with butter and set aside.
In a food processor, pulse the flour, shredded coconut, and granulated sugar until they reach a powdered consistency. Pulse in salt, melted butter, and vanilla extract until everything comes together.
Remove from food processor and knead into a ball of dough. Press dough firmly onto the bottom and sides of the prepared tart pan, spreading evenly to the edges.
Prepare the crust to be blind baked. Using a fork, poke 8-10 holes into the dough, then carefully line the dough with parchment paper and fill with dried beans or rice. Bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven, and turn heat down to 350°F.
While the crust is blind baking, make your filling. In a large bowl, whisk all ingredients except for the flour. Once mixed, whisk in flour, making sure to whisk away any lumps.
Pour mixture into partially baked crust, then bake for an additional 20 minutes to set the filling.
Remove from oven and cool for at least 2 hours in fridge.
Whisk the crème fraîche by hand until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Spoon over tart, then top with toasted coconut and candied lemons!