When a bakery offers a cookbook, it may or may not reveal the secrets of what's found in its display cases. Years ago, I received a cookie cookbook from a well-known bakery, and none of the cookie recipes in the book were in fact the actual cookies sold in the shops. Those classified recipes were not revealed. Instead, the book was full of somewhat similar cookies in quantities appropriate for the home cook. The new book from San Francisco's Miette, however, is quite the opposite. I received a review copy, and in this book, 100 recipes are shared that describe how to create exactly what you'll find in the shops. For instance, all the cakes at Miette are made in a dainty six inch size, and all the cake recipes in the book are written for that size as well despite six inch pans not being very common for home bakers. It is explained that instead of baking two six inch layers, one nine inch cake can be made instead, but the techniques, ingredients, frostings, and embellishments included in the instructions will result in exact replicas of Miette creations. There are stunners like the fondant-covered, whipped cream-filled princess cake and the sleek and glossy bittersweet ganache cake that both have just enough decoration to make them special but the restraint that makes them chic. Beyond the layer cakes and cupcakes, the book also offers simpler afternoon cakes like carrot cake and honey tea cake. Then, there are tarts, cookies and pastries, and candies and creams. I was delighted by, and had to try, the lime meringue tartlettes made with a homemade graham cracker crust, filled with a double-sieved lime cream, and topped with a barely toasted boiled icing.
All of the tarts in the book are made in a seven inch round tart pan, and each recipe includes instructions for individual tartlettes as well. I chose to make tartlettes, and I used straight-sided, three and a half inch, round forms. The crust was a homemade graham cracker dough that was chilled before being rolled out between pieces of parchment paper. The paper made rolling the slightly sticky dough easier. Pieces of the dough were cut and fit into the tartlette forms. Each tartlette shell was topped with a square of parchment paper and filled with pie weights for blind baking. The instructions state to bake the tartlette shells for ten minutes, but I found they needed at least twice that long to become crisp. While the shells cooled, the lime filling was made, and this was possibly the best lime curd ever. In a double boiler, lime juice and zest, sugar, and eggs were cooked over simmering water while whisking occasionally until the mixture reached 172 degrees F. It may seem like it's not going to thicken, but have faith. Keep checking the temperature, and sure enough, at 172 F, it will be thick and lovely. This mixture was strained through a sieve for the first time at this point. Next, cubes of butter were whisked into the mixture, one at a time, whisking until each piece of butter was completely incorporated. It was strained through a sieve for a second time. I did pause and wonder if this was really necessary, but then when I tasted it, all was clear. This was the smoothest, most lush lime curd ever tasted. The curd was chilled, then spooned into the tartlette shells, and the boiled icing was made. After the meringue was swirled onto the tartlettes, I used the broiler to brown the meringue just slightly.
I have to mention one issue with the boiled icing or Italian meringue. I've been involved in an on-going conversation about organic sugar and how it compares to conventional sugar in baking. In this book, it's mentioned that all the items at Miette are made with organic sugar and that the recipes have been calibrated to match results from more refined, conventional ingredients. So, I first made the meringue with organic sugar which is what I usually use in baking. The organic sugar meringue was grainy and not the smooth, perfectly glossy, white concoction as shown in the photos in the book. So, I made it again with conventional sugar and got that glossy, lovely result. The problem seems to be the grain size of organic sugar. I'm wondering if the bakery has access to a different type of organic sugar that has a finer grain than what is available at grocery stores. I'd like to experiment more and try grinding organic sugar in a food processor before using it for a meringue. Has anyone else had success with smooth, glossy meringues made from organic sugar?
Despite the issue with the meringue, this was a star of a dessert. The crispy, graham crust and the perfection of the lime filling with the toasted meringue topping all just belonged together. The entire book is delightful to explore with the beautiful photos of most finished recipes and some instructive, prep photos as well, and the scalloped-cut edges of the pages add to the charm. The gingerbread afternoon cake, the lemon shortbread cookies, and the banana cream tart are all contenders for what to try next.