Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Long-Delayed Reveal: Tarte au Citron with Sugar-Roasted Mexican Lime

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It was what -- March? -- when I gave you all a glimpse at this recipe. Three months, six kind comments requesting an expanded post, and three-thousand miles later, this considerably overdue recipe is finally here.

The truth of the matter is that it's absurdly simple, and it utilizes techniques that we've already featured on this website with previous posts. The filling, a simple lemon curd, is a variation on the filling for our Grapefruit Curd Tulips, while the crust is taken straight from our French Fruit Tart with Vanilla Crème -- and to be honest, if you cheat and use a frozen pie crust...well, I'm not going to tell anyone.

Let's get right to it.

[Editor's Note: There's one difference between this recipe, and the one featured in March. No blood oranges, of course! To be honest, even in March, they were going out of season; by June, there's hide nor hair of them anywhere. In southern California, of course, the Mexican Lime is ubiquitous -- they practically give them away to you. I figured it would be an appropriate and attractive (if more tart) substitute. If you're set on blood oranges, which are, to be honest, much better for this recipe, just sub them in during the wintertime.]

Tarte au Citron with Sugar-Roasted Mexican Lime
Makes 12 Small Pastries

1 1/2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
2 heaping Tablespoons Sugar
8 Tablespoons (one stick) Sweet Cream Butter
1 Tablespoon Vanilla
1/8-1/4 Cup Water

3 large lemons (enough to produce 3/4 Cup juice), and their zest
3/4 Cup Sugar, plus more for dusting
2 large Eggs
3 large Egg Yolks
1 Tablespoon Sweet Cream Butter

2 Mexican Limes

Zest your lemons into a large bowl, then juice them, adding the juice to the zest.

Add in your sugar, and then taste. If you desire a sweeter tart, add more sugar. Whisk until sugar is dissolved.

Add your eggs and egg yolks to the lemon/sugar mixture. Whisk everything once again, or until eggs are fully integrated.

Cook the mixture over low heat, stirring constantly as it thickens. If you're nervous about overcooking (letting it get too hot too quickly will turn everything into lemon-flavored scrambled eggs), feel free to heat the mixture over a double boiler.

Once the curd becomes thick (but before solids begin to appear, at about the eight minute mark), remove the pan from heat, and whisk in your tablespoon of butter. This will smooth things out and stop the cooking process. Once the butter is melted and whisked in, pour your curd into a bowl. Place the bowl into the refrigerator and let it sit until completely cooled, about one hour.

Meanwhile, make your crust.

Start by tossing the flour, the two heaping tablespoons of sugar, and the stick of butter (cut into little chunks) into your food processor. Pulse until well mixed. Next, get a one-eighth of a cup of tap water, and, turning the processor on full blast, slowly add it in through the feed tube until the dough just starts to gather into a ball.

Add in a tablespoon of the vanilla, and pulse until it’s mixed in. If the dough doesn’t gather, add more water, again, very slowly, and just until you have a somewhat sticky ball of dough, as pictured below.

Take your warm ball of dough and, tearing it into chunks, smush it into a greased tart or pie pan (you can grease it by rubbing it with the inside of the butter wrapper, but a piece of butter or cooking spray is best). You want to get it nice and thin. Once you’ve coated the bottom (and sides) of the pan with dough, it’ll be time to bake things off. Save a little chunk off to the side for “repairs” later, just in case you need it.

Take a piece of aluminum foil that is just larger than the pan and grease it well. Push it down unto the surface of the dough, and fill the cavity with dried beans, rice, or some other disposable dry good that will weigh it down. Crank the oven up to 425 F (no need for preheating), and pop everything in there for 20 minutes.

Take the tart from the oven. If there are holes in it, patch them with the leftover chunk of raw dough. Even if there aren’t any cosmetic problems, place the entire thing back into the oven for an additional 10 minutes, or until the shell turns golden brown.

[Editor's Note #2: Now do you see why I suggest you just use frozen pie dough? If you do, roll it out into your pan, weigh it down with the beans, and do the 20 minutes/10 minutes blind-baking method.]

Set the crust aside to cool. Meanwhile, coat your lime slices in sugar. From here, there are two different ways you could go. If your crust is already pretty dark, go ahead and roast your limes under the broiler separately before placing then over the curd-filled crust. If the crust is still light in color, then pour your curd into the crust, and layer the sugar-coated limes on top, as seen in the below photograph.

Assuming you haven't roasted the limes yet, place the entire thing under the broiler, and, watching it carefully, let the sugar caramelize over the limes, creating a hard shell. Let everything cool for about five minutes, and then serve! The final product:

This is a pretty easy, and, you have to admit, visually attractive dish. Not only that, it's a neat variation on a French classic. I hope you'll try it.

Music: Citron -- "Radegast"

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