Atlantic Beach Tart (lemon tart with a saltine cracker crust!)

Before going on vacation, I was memorized by something I saw on Martha Bakes so it was one of the first things I made when we got back home.  It was an "Atlantic Beach Tart", a lemon tart featuring a very unique (certainly, to me) saltine cracker crust!
A really easy lemon tart, featuring a saltine cracker crust and sweet-tart lemon filling
I was intrigued by this crust, which I'd never heard of!  I've used graham crackers, digestive biscuits, Oreo cookies, and chocolate wafer cookies for easy press-in crusts but never thought about using saltines - those crackers I have on standby at home in case of upset stomachs!  I was really curious and eager to try and have a taste.

But first, back to the tart itself...I learned that the Atlantic Beach tart has its roots in North Carolina.  It was a dessert commonly served at seafood restaurants along the North Carolina coast.  I saw it called a "lazy" lemon tart because of how easy it is to make! The crust is a basic press-in one you'd make much like any other similar ones, and the lemon filling (which you could also make lime or a combination of lemon and lime) is beyond simple, as it only involves whisking sweetened condensed milk with egg yolks and lemon (and/or lime) juice.  
Happily, I was rewarded with a really delicious lemon tart after this experiment.  For me, the best part was that crust!  The saltines - crushed and ground together with butter and some sugar, then baked - makes for this salty-sweet shell that is kind of irresistible.  I thought it tasted very much like a salty shortbread/pate sucree tart crust.  So very interesting and definitely worth a try for anyone else as curious about it as I was.  
And the filling is distinctly lemony and tart but also sweet because of the richness and sweetness of the condensed milk.  It's thick, dense, and creamy - perfect for those who like their lemon tarts a little less puckery and a bit sweeter, like my husband who turned out to be a big fan of this recipe.  Once topped with some whipped cream, you could even sprinkle a few flakes of coarse sea salt on top to accentuate the salty vibe going on.  Somehow, I really can picture myself sitting at the seaside and ordering a slice of this Atlantic Beach tart after a seafood dinner!
I have to correct myself and note that I actually ended up with "a few" great lemon tarts because I divided my half-recipe and made 3 mini tarts.  I was very relieved when they all (even the 2 smaller tarts baked in a tart tin without a removable bottom) popped out successfully.  
Clearly, there is always something new and interesting to try in the kitchen, and I am grateful for that!

I've been watching Martha Stewart for a long time now and I still learn something new when I least expect it and oftentimes, I see classics with a new, updated spin.  Even with something as deeply rooted as cooking and baking, it evolves.  Food can be both a history lesson and a new adventure.  It truly nourishes us and brings us together; it's a beautiful thing!

So there I was a couple of weeks ago, watching one of Martha's shows on DVR and not expecting to see anything unusual when my head snapped up at the sound of this saltine cracker crust.  I had to try it.
As I do so often, I divided the recipe in half (the recipe listed below is for the full-size tart). For me, that meant 2 ounces, or 17, saltine crackers, 4 tablespoons of butter, and 2 tablespoons of sugar into the food processor.  You can imagine the salty-sweet vibe starting already.
For some reason, I do not have a 6-inch tart pan so I grabbed a few of my mini's. One is about 4.5" in diameter while the other two I used are just about 4-inches wide.  The larger has a removable bottom while the smaller two do not; thankfully, I find that tapping them slightly and inserting a sharp knife into an edge of the mini tart pans does the trick of getting the tarts to pop right out.
The tart shells bake for about 20 minutes, or until lightly golden (they'll smell marvelous).  Now, the interesting thing that I want to note is that about midway through baking, I noticed the tart crust had puffed up.  Seeing that, I removed them from the oven and used a spoon to press the crust down before continuing to finish the baking.  With that, they came out just the way I wanted.  There was no mention of this need to press the crust down in the recipe but I recommend keeping an eye on it and doing so if necessary.
Now, the filling...it is undeniably easy to make!  I took half a can, or 7 ounces, of sweetened condensed milk and whisked in 2 egg yolks.  Then, I whisked in 1/4 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice from about 2 lemons (again, you can use lime or a combination of both) and it is done!
Pour the filling into the cooled tart crusts and they are ready for the oven.  It only took about 12 minutes for my filling to set and the tarts were ready to be removed from the oven and allowed to cool.  Once fully cooled, chill it completely.  I let it chill over night before digging in.
To finish, a light topping of freshly whipped cream goes on top.  You could add a sprinkle of flaky sea salt on top of that if you wish.  
I can see why those smart seaside restaurants designed this dessert.  It's easy and casual, like summer and beach days should be, and the salty-sweet as well as tart, bright flavors are what people want in the summer.
This tart crust made with saltines is wonderfully salty and sweet, with a shortbread-like texture.  It's familiar yet different...with the crackers finely ground like this, I don't think I would be able to tell/identify that it was made with saltines but it would make total sense once the "secret" was revealed.  Maybe I'll try a Ritz cracker tart crust next?  This has me thinking about what other possibilities I've missed so far!


Recipe:

Atlantic Beach Tart (Lemon Tart with Saltine Crust)
Adapted from Martha Stewart

- For one 9-inch tart (I divided the recipe in half and made a 3 mini tarts) - 

For the saltine cracker crust:
4 ounces saltine crackers (about 34 crackers)
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar

For filling:
One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (you can also use lime juice or a combination of the two)

For topping: Freshly whipped cream; flaky sea salt (optional)

Make crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place saltine crackers into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.  Add butter and sugar, and pulse to combine.  Transfer crumbs to a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom and press into the bottom and up the sides of the pan.  Bake until crust is golden brown, about 18-20 minutes. Check on the tart midway through baking; if it has puffed up, remove it from the oven and press down on it using a wooden spoon to flatten it again.  Remove from the oven and let cool on a cooling rack.

Make filling: Whisk condensed milk together with the egg yolks.  Add citrus juice and whisk to combine.  Pour filling into the cooled crust and bake until filling is just set, about 16-18 minutes.  Let cool on a wire rack, then chill thoroughly in the refrigerator. Before serving, remove the sides of the tart pan and place tart onto a serving plate. Top with softly whipped cream, and a sprinkle of flaky sea salt, if desired.  

  


44 comments:

  1. Awesome! I love that sweet tangy lemon curd filling!

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    1. My husband likes this filling that's a bit thicker, sweeter because of the condensed milk. Me, I prefer a more tart lemon curd...but that salty-sweet crust is really amazing!

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    1. Thanks, Balvinder. Hope you're having a nice, relaxing weekend!

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  3. These tarts are so cute, Monica! I love that you used mini pans and saltine crust sounds so good! I am a big fan of anything sweet and salty and when you combine it with a lemon filling - oh my, sounds absolutely heavenly to me!

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    1. I do love the mini sizes, Kelly! I think we all do. : )
      That salty sweet combo on the crust was so good! Hope you had a great long weekend!

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  4. This sounds terrific! Anything with lemon is appealing to me, and the saltine crust is new to me too. I'd definitely give this one a try!

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    1. Glad to know it's not just me in the dark about this! The crust was my favorite part!

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  5. I too keep saltines around for upset stomaches, and rarely take them out otherwise. I imagine the crust to be light with just a bit of salty flavor,which sounds wonderful with the lemon filling. No wonder you were intrigued and the thought stuck with you even after such an exciting vacation! Thanks for mentioning the need to watch the crusts for puffing while they bake. I have a bad habit of multi-tasking while things are in the oven and only look up when the timer rings!

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    1. Thanks, Wendy. Glad to share and happy to try something new and end up with a tasty result. Hope you had a great long weekend!

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  6. Beautiful tarts Monica! I adore the lemon filling and it must be great with that saltine crust. I used to make a corn pie with cracker crust - but forgot all about it. I'll have to dig it out of my pile one day. These are lovely and I am sure I would love it. Have a great week and hope your son enjoys being back in school. Thanks!

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    1. Hi Tricia! Hope you had a great long weekend. I figure you've probably heard of/made/eaten this kind of cracker crust. The corn pie sounds amazing! I really enjoyed the crust and it was a new experience. : ) Talk soon!

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  7. I am just drooling over this tart!

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  8. Gorgeous tart Monica, I too find the crust very intriging, I bet it is perfect with the filling. Food like this is what inspirs me so, there seems to always be a new twist out there for us all to try. Great post.

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    1. Thanks so much, Cheri. I feel so energized when I see something new/interesting and really makes me want to cook and share it with my family. And when it tastes good, it's another bonus. You know the feeling, I'm sure.

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  9. Indeed very interesting using saltine crackers for tart crust, once over the intrigue, yes, I can see why it would taste nice, salty and sweet...thanks for the recipe Monica...and yes, always learning. Your tart looks awesome, and lemon is sure my favorite.
    Have a wonderful week :)

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    1. It's great to discover something "new" or just a new twist...and there is just so much to try out there. Keeps us busy!

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  10. This looks very cute and delish! Lovely recipe ♥

    summerdaisycottage.blogspot.com

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  11. Monica, this delicious lemon tart is making me feel weak in the knees! Seriously, lemon desserts are my favorite and top chocolate for me hands down. Get the kettle going I will be right over. Sharing!

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    1. Bobbi - thanks for stopping by; hope all is well. Thank you for sharing and wish there was a cup of tea waiting for us to sit over. : )

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  12. Hi Monica, I very much prefer tangy desserts to sweet ones (though chocolate ones are exceptions), so I know I would love this tart to bits!

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    1. I love that chocolate desserts are the exception! ; ) I'm all about chocolate but lemon tarts are another one of my 'weaknesses'.

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  13. Saltine cracker crust!? Wow. Now I am intrigued as well! This looks wonderful!

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    1. I know, right! : ) It sounds weird and enticing all at once. Tasted great!

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  14. This lemon tart is proof that simple is best! This is beautiful. I am loving the idea of the saltine crust too. Thanks for sharing.

    Velva

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    1. The saltine crust was so worth a try. Thank you!

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  15. This is such a great idea!! Just yesterday I was thinking what can I make a crust with something other than graham crackers?! Btw lemon tart is my favorite!!

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    1. How cool is that! Hope you try it. : )

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  16. This looks so beautiful and delicious Monica :-)

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  17. So excited to try this, especially the saltine cracker crust which is genius!

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    1. That's what I thought...and it was totally worth making!

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  18. Wow! What an amazing looking tart, Monica. Such an very interesting way of using saltine crackers for tart crust — super intriguing. Loving this genius atlantic beach tart.

    Anu
    http://www.mygingergarlickitchen.com/

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    1. I'm glad others think it's interesting, too! Thanks, Anu.

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  19. Wow! This tart looks amazing and I can't wait to try that crust. It sounds so interesting. :)

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    1. If you like salty-sweet, you'd like it. : )

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  20. Gorgeous tart! Both the crust and the filling look amazing. A lemon tart with a sweet-salty crust sounds like absolute Heaven to me.

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    1. I love myself a lemon tart, too. And this crust was familiar yet different, a nice thing to try!

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  21. I am so making these tarts! I am a sucker for lemon tarts and these ones look perfect, and I am so curious about the crust. I just hope that these saltines are that what I imagine them to be... some salty crackers?

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    1. Yay! These are the saltine crackers: https://www.amazon.com/Premium-Saltine-Crackers-4-Ounce-Boxes/dp/B000F9Z29K
      They are classics here in the US. Are you familiar with it? If you make it, just remember to peek midway and press down the crust if it has puffed up. : )

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  22. Saltine crackers for crust? That is super interesting! I love saltine crackers, especially when I am sick. They are always perfectly salty and fulfilling. Ok, back to the tart. Yes, salty crust with tart lemons sound really great together. :)

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    1. I had to try it, girl! So glad I did so I could satisfy my curiosity. Really enjoyed that crust!

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