Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Lime Meringue Tartlettes

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.



32 comments:

  1. This is a wonderful pastry, looks just mouthwatering and the meringue is so perfect; nice to know this bakery is actually sharing their recipes!

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  2. Oh, divine! Those tartlets would not last long at my place.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  3. jesus wept - these look delicious. I just know these are going to grow sneaky little roots in my brain and will keep reminding me about themselves until I break and make them :)

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  4. The toasted meringue on top makes the tartlet looks so elegant and inviting!

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  5. Once again, I am blown away Lisa. First of all, what list are you on??? You get all the books I end up buying. I think I need to contact those publishers. :) Actually, I think I would be turned off by the book and the wonky sized pans because I would probably go out and buy all new pans, just what I need. And finally, the things you take on are just heroic - I like to think of myself as a decent baker but I don't think I have the energy to do this many steps for so many individual desserts. There is no denying how gorgeous they are and I'm sure it was worth all the work.

    I've been toying with organic sugar and haven't been impressed with the results. I know it is what I "should" be using but I don't like how granular it is and how it doesn't disappear into baked goods the way I want it to. Will you let me know what you hear from others and if you find a good solution?

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  6. Oh, Lisa...some of my very favourite elements here - lime and delicate meringue in a graham crust - WOW! This is a must do for moi.

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  7. Pure delight! what a mouthwatering beauty tart, lime or lemon are one of my favorite treat.

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  8. I like how you put step by step pictures. delightful dessert.
    Cheers,
    Dwiana

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  9. I've only baked with 9-inch pans before, but they look gorgeous and so sweet! I'm a crust-lover so I especially loved that thick crunchy crust.

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  10. Love their baked goods at their bakery in the Ferry Building. But wow -- sounds like I'll have to invest in a whole new set of mini baking pans for this cookbook. ;)

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  11. They look so dainty and pretty! Love the elegant creamy swirls on top.

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  12. How I would love a copy of that book Lisa.

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  13. Lisa, you should open up your own pastry shop! These little friends look superb - I love that perfect meringue swirl on top. The book is going on my Christmas wish list. :-)

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  14. The tarts look terrific! Thanks for the tip on the graham cracker crust- it's on my list to make. So last weekend I re-made Miette's pistachio macaron recipe- I still used organic confectioner sugar but I folded and turned the heck out of the batter. Much more so than I ever would on any other macaron recipe. The batter did loosen up but was still really thick and sticky to work with. That being said, I was happier with this batch. The cookies weren't nearly as chewy as the first attempt.

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  15. That is wonderful! I would totally buy your lime meringue tartlette! Definitely bakery quality. Can't wait to see you try out more of the recipes!

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  16. I've been baking with natural sugar for ages, and there is definitely a wide variety of grain size in what you can find. Whole Foods has an organic natural sugar that is the same as conventional white sugar, so it bakes up and mixes up exactly the same. The natural sugar as Costco and the grocery stores has a much larger grain and can end up feeling gritty in your mouth in some baked goods. Look for the smaller grained varieties of organic sugar and I think you will be much happier with the results. Beautiful post...I LOVE lime anything!

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  17. What a lovely dessert, I am very fond of lime in sweets, as it cuts the excessive sugary taste

    now I am tempted to get this book too!

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  18. These do look like they came right from a pastry shop. I've got to find that book too.

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  19. yum yum yum and that swirl you gave, absolute professional style :)

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  20. Lisa these lime meringue tartlettes look so pretty, love the slightly toasted meringue, not only adds color but taste as well.
    Hope you are having a great week :-)

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  21. Oh that first book you were describing sounds like a huge disappointment-after all you buy a book from a bakery so you can recreate the items at home. The Miette book sounds much better! Oh and I adore Princess cake!

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  22. There little tartlettes look scrumptious! I love the idea here. Lemon meringue pies are one of my favorite so I can only assume I'll love these lime meringue tartlettes. Yum!

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  23. Such charming little tartlettes! They are unlike any I've seen - very unique. I love that the book has the actual recipes - usually bakeries are afraid of giving them out.

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  24. i've never made a roll-out graham cracker crust--interesting! these are lovely little niblets, lisa. :)

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  25. They are so beautiful! I vote for the gingerbread cake next :)

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  26. Such adorable little tarts. Love that lime flavor...so fresh and tasty.

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  27. I wanted to add that in my experience organic sugar stays grainy, so I don't know what their secret is, but this one, apparently, they are not sharing! :)

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  28. Gorgeous! I've found that rapadura sugar is grainier, but there is raw caster sugar also available and that works really well in baking too.

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  29. Oh these look and sound so delicious! What a great recipe , Thanks for sharing!

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  30. I am curious - a bunch of the reviews on Amazon state there is a notice out that many of the recipes have incorrect measurements. A corrected reprint is supposed to be issued this fall.

    So what is your take on this?

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  31. Anonymous: This happens frequently with cookbooks. Often a small sheet is inserted into books including corrections. I haven't tried any of the recipes listed with corrections yet, but I did print out the provided sheet to keep in my copy of the book.

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