Thyme Lemon Tartlets

Thyme Lemon Tartlets


I struggle under the weight of my tiring body as I sledge through the dense forrest. Fallen men litter the makeshift path I trek. I try not to notice them. I force my eyes to find the horizon through the dense brush and heavy smoke filling the putrid air around me. My ears ring in pain, barely able to grasp any auditory clue as to my enemies whereabouts; they’re only alerted to activity by the deep rumble of a far away explosion.

This is not a good place to be alone. I pick my pace up. My tired, cold hands grasp my weapon tightly. It is my rifle. I know there are many like it, but this one is mine. It is my life at this moment. And even though without me my rifle is useless, without my rifle, I am far more useless. Out here nothing survives. I’ve just been lucky.

“Grenade!” a distant foe yells.

I stop in fear as a pinecone rolls up to my feet. I let my eyes slowly rise to my opponent as a frown forms on my disappointed, dirty face.

“Hey! I threw a grenade. You’re dead…” my foe insists. “Die.”

I fall to the ground. These are the rules of war.

“Mas! Russ! Lunch is ready!” the pleasant call of my mother rings out through the cul de sac.

I hop to my feet and run up to my front door. My wounded brother follows close behind. As we make our way to the kitchen we argue about who lived the longest. It was me. Despite the homemade spread my brother and I skip the little sandwich triangles, piles of chips and pickle wedges. We go right for the lemonade.

As soon as we finish a couple cold glasses of freshly squeezed, just sweet enough lemonade,  my brother and I rummage for the left over lemons. Our sour-obsessed tongues crave the sort of refreshing feeling only raw lemon can provide. My mother seems shocked at my young brother and my desire and capability to eat raw lemons. We leave the rind behind but little else as we devour the last of the remaining lemons in our kitchen.

“Thanks, mom!” we both ring out as we dart out the door, back to a beautiful summer day filled with elementary versions of imaginary war, street hockey and other frivolous games.

While I no longer play war, or run around outside for days on end until I’m nauseous, I do find myself captivated by super-tart lemon treats. The lip-puckering flavor you can’t find anywhere else seems to fit the growing, warming days perfectly.

When paired with sweetness and the almost-savory flavor of thyme, a wonderful balance is created giving this tart a subtle difference from the classic lemon treat. The snap and crunch of the crust plus the caramelized sugar coating plays nicely with the smooth lemon filling. The addition of sugar on the top also adds a little sweetness to this otherwise very tart dessert.

Cooking with Lemon: Lemons have a very in-your-face, bold flavor. A little can go a long way. A lot can give you incredible flavor. The juice of the lemon will impart tartness and the acidic attributes of lemon whereas the zest will give the dish the lemony aroma and flavor. If you are are looking for a slightly less tart version of this dish, try substituting half the lemon juice with water but leave all of the lemon zest in the recipe.


Thyme Lemon Tartlets

Difficulty: Intermediate
 6, 6″ round tartlets
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Baking Time: 35 minutes
Assembly Time: 10 minutes


Rolling pin
6, 6″ round tartlet pans
Parchment paper
Pie weights or dry beans
Large baking sheet
Kitchen torch
2 pounds Cinnamon Cornmeal Crust (recipe below)
1 quart Thyme Lemon Filling (recipe below)
3 tablespoons sugar (for sugar crust)
1. Prepare the crust and filling according to the instructions. Set each aside. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
2.  Roll the Cinnamon Cornmeal Crust out to about 1/8th inch thick. Cut six, 8 inch circles out of the dough. Place the dough disks in the tartlet pans, gently pushing the dough (careful not to stretch it) into the corners and crevices. Cute the excess dough from the top so that the crust is level with the top of the pans.  Line the dough with parchment paper, forming it so it is the same shape as the dough int the tartlet pans, leaving an extra couple inches of parchment paper sticking from the top of the pan for easy removal. Fill the paper cups with pie weights or dry beans.
3. Place the lined and filled tartlet pans on a baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes until the visible edges begin to brown.
5. Remove the pie weights or dry beans by lifting the parchment paper. Take care in this step to not pull up any dough. Place the now-naked tartlet pans back in the oven and bake for another 5 to 7 minutes or until the dough appears dry and is barely firm to the couch.
6. Pour enough filling in each tartlet pan to fill it just to the top (level with the crust). Lower the oven to 350°F and bake the filled tartlets for another 15 minutes or until the tartlets are set.
7. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
8. Sprinkle a light, thin layer of sugar on the top of each tartlet. Using a kitchen torch, carefully torch the sugar until it begins to melt and turn a caramel-brown color. Take care to keep the torch moving as the sugar will burn easily if the torch is left in one place too long.

Short Dough: Most tarts use a form of short dough to create the base. Short dough is essentially a cookie dough (butter, sugar, eggs & flour). Unlike pie dough that is flaky, short dough becomes firm and rigid allowing the tart to stand on its own. Because short doughs often contain a lot of butter and sugar in relation to flour, they are a very wet/soft dough. Short doughs must be refrigerated for an hour or more before rolling out.

The cornmeal in this dough gives the crust a crunchy texture and depending on the crunch you are looking for you can use corse ground of finely ground cornmeal. The honey in this recipe will help dry the dough out more giving it a crispier texture. Honey also aids in browning.


Cinnamon Cornmeal Crust

Difficulty: Easy
 2 pounds or enough for 6-8, 6″ round tartlets
Prep Time:  10 minutes


Stand mixer with beater attachment or
Large bowl & spoon
Parchment paper

12 ounces unsalted butter
8 ounces sugar
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon salt
2 ounces honey
Zest from 1 lemon
8 ounces flour
8 ounces cornmeal
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1. Mix the butter, sugar, egg yolks, salt, honey and lemon zest together until blended well.
2. Add the flour, cornmeal and cinnamon and mix just until a dough forms.
3. Form the dough into a disk and wrap in parchment paper.
4. Place in the refrigerator and chill for a couple hours.
Thyme Lemon Filling: This is a basic lemon filling recipe that includes finely chopped thyme to add additional flavor. Since there is cornstarch in the mixture, this can be cooked over direct heat though care should still be taken to not overheat the mixture.

Thyme Lemon Filling

This recipe is adapted from a Bo Friberg Meyer Lemon Filling recipe.

Difficulty: Easy
 1 quart filling
Prep Time:  10 minutes
Cook Time: 15-20 minutes


Heavy bottomed pot
Pairing knife
Chefs knife
Fine-mesh sieve
Wooden spoon or whisk


12 ounces sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
6 eggs
2 egg yolks
Zest from 3 lemons
1 1/4 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
1. Mix all of the ingredients together in a heavy-bottomed pot.
2. Place the pot over medium-low heat and cook until thick, stirring constantly.
2. Taking care not to overheat or boil the mixture, remove from the heat once the mixture is thick enough to coat a spoon (this will take about 15 to 20 minutes).
3. Set aside until ready to use.


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AUTHOR - Russell van Kraayenburg

Food nerd. Cookbook author. Founder of Chasing Delicious. Pastry cook at Fluff Bake Bar. Lover of hot dogs. Russell van Kraayenburg founded Chasing Delicious in 2010 and has been chasing delicious recipes ever since. Russell is author of the cookbooks Haute Dogs and Making Dough.


  • Ilan (IronWhisk Blog)

    Wow this looks so good!

  • Brian @ A Thought For Food

    Thyme and lemon are a natural pairing, but I don’t think many people consider including it in dessert (the thyme, that is). This is going on my list of desserts to make because it really does look lovely.

  • Jennifer (Delicieux)

    You have two of my favourite ingredients in your gorgeous tarts. I absolutely adore lemon and thyme, and your lemon and thyme tarts just look heavenly. Definitely bookmarking this one to try. Another brilliant recipe Russell!

  • Stephanie

    Loved your childhood backstory about your love for lemons and tartness. This looks like an amazing pairing, thanks!

  • Jen @ Juanita's Cocina

    Simply divine! Since lemon is my new best friend, I must make these!

  • Rikki

    That is such a sweet little memory. Your writing is so captivating! And the combination of the lemon and thyme sounds wonderful in these little tartlets. Beautiful [:

  • Marcello

    looks it’s amazing *.*

  • Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar

    Oh my! These are beautiful! Love this idea!

  • Miriam @ Overtime Cook

    This looks beautiful, and I love your intro!

  • dassana

    liked the shine and gloss on the tartlets. looking really good.

  • thelittleloaf

    I’m reading a book about Taste at the moment that explains that children have a particular love of all things sour between the ages of 5 and 9 – you and your brother clearly fell into this category! The tarts look lovely, and I love the addition of thyme too – the perfect counterbalance to all that sharp sweetness.

  • Kathryn

    I made lemon and lavender tartlets the other other day, the floralness (is that a word?!) of the herbs seems to work so well with the punch of the lemon.

  • Thyme (Sarah)

    Really lovely story of your boyhood paired with equally lovely little thyme tartlettes. I’m intrigued by the ingredient combinations. I think the pairing of lemon and thyme in a dessert could work for me…perfect for this time of year.

  • Jenn Baker (@jbakernyc)

    Your pictures are just too gorgeous! And I know the end result was amazing!

  • kitchenriffs

    Well, anything with lemon has my attention – one of my favorite flavors. And mixing it with thyme? My favorite herb! Good combo. Really nice job – thanks.

  • Beth Michelle

    I do love lemons but Im not sure if I could eat them raw without puckering my lips! These tartlets look lovely. Lemon and thyme are so perfect together.

  • Jen @ Jen's Favorite Cookies

    I just love thyme and lemon together! Actually, I love thyme with just about anything. This looks amazing! I can’t wait to try it!

  • Sandy @ tinytinyfork

    Gotta love a pine cone grenade and a perfect lemon tart :) Great post!

  • Sharyn Dimmick

    I do love tart lemon desserts and I like your pairing the crisp sugar top with the filling. I find cookie-type crusts too sweet, though, and prefer plain pastry.

  • Carolyn

    Thank goodness you survived your grenade-laden childhood to turn out tarts like these ;)

  • Jeanette

    I really enjoyed reading about your childhood memories, so vivid and playful. I’ve paired lemon with thyme in savory dishes but not sweet – so nice to see it here in these beautiful tartlets.

  • Sommer@ASpicyPerspective

    Russel, you really had me going at the beginning of this post. I couldn’t help but wonder why I didn’t know you had been in the military and what that had to do with tarts!!

    Beautifully written and beautifully made. Thyme makes everything better!

  • Reem | Simply Reem

    Once again what a well written Post!!!
    God Russ you are so talented!!!

    These tarts look fabulous, I love cooking with lemons.. Need to try these sometime soon…

  • Kim Bee

    These tarts are absolutely fabulous. For a minute I thought you were talking about playing video games. Then I was drawn in. Great story. You know you always amaze me with your beautiful writing.

  • Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen

    I love the light and mood of the first image, so inviting!

  • Amy @ FragrantVanillaCake

    At first I thought you were telling a story about really being in the army at the beginning of the post, funny how to us as children these fantasies are so real! Great memories! These tarts sound amazing! I love that you have used a cornmeal crust here with a touch of cinnamon, it would be so delicious with the lemon thyme filling!

  • Alison @ Ingredients, Inc.

    this is so fabulous! Great combination of flavors and photography!

  • The Wimpy Vegetarian

    This looks fantastic – both the recipe and your amazing photos. I’d say you’d caught delicious.

  • Bee (Quarter Life Crisis Cuisine)

    Wow! These are GORGEOUS! And the flavor combo is so gourmet. Well done :)

  • RavieNomNoms

    Wow, look at these beauties. I love your combination of the thyme and lemon. So delicious!

    I love that bold flavor you talk about with lemon. One of my favorites!

  • sarah

    These tarlets are beautiful. I love these photos.
    And your post! superlove. I thought you were going to be playing video games, but there you were, with your little brother. It was lovely and brilliant.

  • TidyMom

    Stunning and delicious!

  • tracy

    why does the filling have to be baked? it seems like it is already cooked? tx tracy

    • Russell

      Baking the filling in the tart helps it set up completely. Without the additional cooking, the filling will still be too thin.

  • Sarah

    I am personally in love with the backgrounds-not just on this post but on so many of your posts. As a “transplant” (I grew up in the boondocks of Northern PA and now live in Brooklyn, NY) the whole country feel is incredibly soothing. Excellent work, as always!

  • vanessalillian

    I’ve had pasta with lemon and thyme on but never considered turning the concept into tarts. Sounds great!

  • Liren

    Ah, so here are the tartlets! Ever since I saw the tweet, i couldn’t wait to see the final product. Beautiful. And what memories! I remember summer afternoons with my cousins outdoors, there would be similar tussles in the grass, even as girls we liked to play war too!

  • Maria

    Divine little tartlets!

  • Jessica

    Ohhh yes! I need these babies in my life right now!

  • tracy


  • Jacqueline @How to be a Gourmand

    Eating a whole lemon? Now that is quite a skill! Beautiful recipe and a wonderful way to set the scene. Just wondered if the flavour would be more intense if lemon thyme was used instead of thyme – have you used it with this recipe before?

  • Maureen @ Orgasmic Chef

    These are gorgeous!!

  • foodlvr

    This sounds so good, almost slightly fancy. It would be great for entertaining. Not sure if I would like the cinnamon crust though.

  • Amy at Gastronome Tart

    I absolutely love bringing herbs into desserts and I love lemon tarts. Can’t wait to try this!

  • Tom @ Super-fit

    They are a great dessert for Sunday brunches. Made it and my guests loved it. The wooden bench and divine tarts combination in the pic is extra ordinary.

  • Kristina

    I stumbled across your blog the other day. Based on this post, I’m fairly certain we’re the same person.

  • Thyme and Lemon Tartlets | Friendly Nettle

    […] I just made these tonight, so writing this post while I am eating one of them. Absolutely yamm…! I like the cinnamon/cornmeal crust (I know! odd! But it defiantly works) and really impressed with my new sugar crusting skills (this is my first time to use cooks torch) as I managed without burning the house down! Try it for yourself, the recipe is here. […]

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