Friday, February 24, 2012
Tarts. They're hard to resist. So cute. So small.
Even the pans they're baked in are adorable. Those scalloped edges. The way the little round bottom part of the pan lifts out, leaving you with a pretty ring of golden crust. Tart shells cry out to be filled with something really good. Something fresh and biting . . . something, well . . . tart.
Lemons and limes must have been designed with tarts in mind. They supply such an unmistakable zzziing!
And everyone needs to inject a bit of zing into their life now and again, don't you think?
About this recipe . . .
This tart dough is made, in part, with semolina flour, which comes from durum wheat. It's more yellow in hue, and slightly more coarse in texture, than regular flour. Often used to make pasta, semolina reminds me of very finely ground corn meal. It makes for a firm tart shell that's pleasantly crumbly when you finally sink your teeth into it. Nice flavor, too. You can find it in small packages in most large grocery stores these days, and reliably in fancier markets (I used Bob's Red Mill brand). The dough recipe is a very simple one adapted from this Tastebook page, that I roughly converted from gram measurements.
The lemon-lime filling I adapted from Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery & Cafe, by Joanne Chang and Christie Matheson. Full of really satisfying recipes, the book is written in a friendly, matter of fact, let's-do-this-together tone. I'm a sucker for any competent cookbook author who manages not just to teach, but to reassure and embolden home bakers all in the same breath. If you want to feel intimidated don't buy this book. On the other hand, if you want to feel like you're in your kitchen working next to someone who understands that smart home baking should be an engaging and creative task, then you won't be disappointed in this delectable book.
Maybe you're wondering why I didn't top these tarts with meringue? That would have been so logical, right? Well, I almost did. Had my egg whites at the ready and everything. But then the Gods of Whipped Cream called out to me. From my refrigerator . . . 'cuz they live in there. Maybe meringue will win out next time. We'll see.
Lemon-Lime Tarts with Semolina Shortbread Crust
(For a printable version of these recipes, click here!)
Yield for tart dough: Enough to make at least 12 tart shells that are 3-4" in diameter (I used only about half of the dough, made seven tarts, and froze the rest for future use.)
Yield for tart filling: Enough to fill about 7 to 8 tart shells.
To make the tart shells:
3 sticks and 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened (that's 1 and 1/2 cups, plus 1 Tbsp.)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 and 2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup and 1 Tbsp. semolina flour
1 and 1/2 tsp. coarse kosher salt
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. In the large bowl of your mixer, on medium speed, cream together the butter and sugar for two or three minutes, until it looks light and fluffy.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, cornstarch, semolina flour, and salt. With your mixer on low speed, pour this into the butter mixture in two additions. Stop to scrape the bowl and beaters between additions. Beat just until obviously blended. Don't over-mix.
If you're using tart pans that are 3" to 4" in diameter, put a glob of dough about the size of a large walnut into each one. Press with your fingers so the dough is evenly spread on the bottom and all the way up the sides of each tart pan. Be sure to gently nudge the dough closely into the scallops so the design will be firmly impressed into the shells when they're unmolded after baking. Use a fork to prick the bottom of the shells; this will help keep them from puffing up while baking. (Also, I recommend placing pie weights in muffin papers set in each tart pan over the dough. That's the best insurance to help them keep their shape as they bake.)
Place all the filled tart pans on a baking sheet with sides. Bake on the middle rack of your oven for approximately 20 to 25 minutes, or until lightly golden. When the shells are done baking, place them on a cooling rack for a few minutes before removing them from the pans to cool completely before filling them.
To make the lemon-lime filling:
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/8 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. heavy cream
yolks from 3 large eggs (You can freeze those leftover whites. I do it all the time.)
1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice (strained to remove seeds and pulp)
2 Tbsp. fresh-squeezed lime juice (strained to remove seeds and pulp)
1 Tbsp. butter, softened
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
In a medium size saucepan, whisk the sugar, cornstarch, salt, water, and heavy cream. Cook the mixture over medium-high heat until it starts to thicken up and looks translucent (you'll know it when you see it).
While the sugar is cooking, in a medium size heat-proof bowl, whisk the egg yolks, lemon juice, and lime juice together. After the sugar mixture on the stove has thickened, as noted above, pour it slowly into the bowl of yolks and juice, whisking all the while (you don't want the hot sugar to cook the eggs, so just keep on whisking). When it's all mixed in, pour it all back into the saucepan and return that to the stove. Over medium heat, cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring continually the entire time, now with a wooden spoon (the mixture's going to get super hot, thus it's better to do this with a wooden spoon), until it thickens. Take the pan off the heat and immediately stir in the butter and vanilla.
Scoop or spoon the hot filling evenly into the baked, cooled tart shells. Let the filling cool down somewhat before you refrigerate the filled tarts. When the tarts are cold, top them with sweetened whipped cream (toss a few tablespoons of sifted confectioners' sugar in when whipping the cream) before serving, if you like, and garnish each one with little wedges of lemon and lime, or perhaps a few raspberries or a nice big blackberry or strawberry.
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