September 11, 2010

Savoring the temperate and the piquant

One last summery dessert, in these shifting days between summer light and evenings of autumn breezes. My family has been barbequing a lot over the past couple of months, and every instance is an opportunity for baking some dessert, be it a new one or a riff on something favored from the ever-increasing stockpile of recipes in my files. A lime curd tart may seem better suited to early spring on first thought, but as limes are in season practically year round and this tart is chilled, it seems on further thought more appropriate in the warmer months.

The curd filling has just the right amount of pucker-y tang, the best part about a citrus baked anything. It has a very creamy and smooth consistency, a nice contrast to that tart bite. This recipe would work equally well with lemons, but the lime is unexpected, a flavor not always showcased as often as its yellow cousin. The other factor about this tart making it appealing for summer is that, although rich, it isn't heavy. It doesn't sit heavy in the stomach, and a small slice is just satisfying enough to end a meal off the grill.

Of course, for some, one dessert wasn't enough, so we made a small batch of blueberry ice cream as well. That ice cream machine has certainly been well used since its arrival in the mail this past June. It's so convenient, though, so the effort of making a batch of ice cream at any time is minimal and hard to resist. To make the blueberry ice cream, take this recipe for vanilla ice cream and add about a cup of puréed blueberries.

Aside from baking the tart shell, everything else is cooked on the stove. After straining the curd into the shell, the curd sets up nicely after chilling for a few hours in the fridge. With eight eggs in the mix, there's no need to worry that it won't. Make sure you do strain it, though. Even with the most careful cooking and constant stirring, little bits of egg always end up curdled, and straining ensures a smooth texture. Curd with curdled eggs is not appealing. If you want to make a lime curd based off of this recipe for other purposes, cut back on the eggs, maybe even in half, so that it won't set up so much and will remain in a looser consistency. After cooking, allow it to cool, then transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge for a week or two. This sort of curd makes an excellent spread for toast.

Lime Tart
Adapted from The Cook's Atelier

Pâte Sucrée:
2 Tbsp heavy cream, plus extra
1 large egg yolk
¼ cups plus 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
A pinch of sea salt
8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Whisk the cream and the egg together in a small bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Blend in butter with a pastry blender (or two knives) until you have a coarse meal. Gradually add the cream mixture, and mix until just combined, adding more cream one teaspoon at a time if dry. Be careful not to overwork the dough. Bring the dough together with your hands to incorporate completely. Shape the dough into a disk.

If the dough is soft, put it into the refrigerator for a few minutes prior to rolling. Place it on a lightly floured work surface, and sprinkle with a little flour. Roll it into a ¼-inch-thick circle, flouring as needed. Starting at one side, roll and wrap the dough around the rolling pin to pick it up. Unroll the dough over the 9-inch tart pan. Gently press the dough into the pan, being careful not to stretch it as this will cause it to shrink when baking. To remove the excess dough, work your way around the edge pinching off the excess dough with your fingers. Chill for 1 hour before baking.

Preheat the oven to 375° F.

Prick the bottom with a fork and line the shell with parchment paper. Fill the lined tart with dried beans or pie weights and bake for 15 minutes. Take the tart out of the oven and carefully remove the parchment paper and dried beans. Return the tart to the oven, and bake until golden brown, turning as needed to ensure even color. Set aside on a rack to cool completely.

Lime Curd:
4 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 Tbsp finely grated lime peel
10 Tbsp unsalted butter, chilled, cut into ½ in. pieces
A pinch of sea salt

Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, lime juice and peel together in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the lime curd has thickened and coats the back of the spoon, approximately 10 - 12 minutes.

Remove the lime curd from the heat and add the butter a little at a time, stirring to incorporate each addition before adding more. Season with the sea salt.

Strain the lime curd into the prepared tart shell while the curd is still warm. Chill for at least 3 hours. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream or crème fraiche.

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