March 12, 2014

Ginger Lime Meringue Tartlets

For me as a kid, religion and spirituality were bundled up into one shiny package of bribery that was exchanged for Saturday-night sleepovers and friendship. Don’t want to get left out of Melissa’s slumber party? Go to church with her friends and family on Sunday, then. Haley’s family is going to steal her away early Sunday and leave you without a buddy at your own secular family’s waffle breakfast? Well, then agree to Sunday service with her—y’all have permission to attend the afternoon sacrament. I tried out Catholicism, regular ol’ Christianity, Wesleyan services, Judaism, and was invited to an at-home Muslim observance as well—with the latter two being more about inclusion and not about Sunday circumstances, obviously. Very little of it stuck.

A friend once commanded me to walk around her lawn for an hour chanting about my love for Jesus, and afterward declared me saved; an unwitting backyard baptism ensued when she let me skim down the waterslide into the pool. I dropped in on a half-pipe to impress one boy and got my first memorable PG kiss from another at a 24-hour youth group lock-in. And during the worst birthday party I ever had, the prettiest Christian girls staged a mutiny when a few of us other kids decided to play Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board; I emerged from the room to be confronted by a bunch of cross-armed 12-year-olds who had already called their parents to pick them up because we were “raising devil spirits.” All that to say that religion was a prime bartering chip in the social economy of my youth, and spirituality never even entered into it.

As an adult, I’m firmly, contentedly god-free, but I realized recently that I totally lack any sort of spirituality, which for me would equate to an intentional practice of acknowledging developments and contexts both within and beyond myself. I’ve mentioned before that the end of my 2013 really launched itself into the shitter, and the start to this year was slow and sticky, but sometime two weeks ago I was overwhelmed by a need to recognize the positive things happening around me too: job, projects, confidence, family, friends with whom to share these tarts. Life is squaring up a little, and it’ll be a lot easier to get into the habit of appreciation now as opposed to during the next downward cycle. So until I figure out a different way to do it, the kitchen is my meditation space, I bake with the intent to share, and if you're ever raising hell at a slumber party, please give me a call.

As for these tarts, gingery shortbread crust holds this dang-luscious ginger lime cream, adapted heavily from Tartine’s lemon cream, and atop is a cute li’l marshmallowy meringue mohawk. If you go the Swiss meringue route, there’s no need to torch or bake the meringue, which is excellent since exposing the cream filling to heat would be a real textural bummer. You could make one larger tart—seven or eight inches would be fine—but the fun part about the tartlets is doling them out to friends, especially the ones who let you stay home on Sunday. 

Ginger Lime Meringue Tartlets
Yield: four six-inch tartlets, or one shallow eight-inch tart

For the crust
1 cup AP flour
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (one stick) unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Mix all the dries in one bowl, add the butter, vanilla, and ginger, and mix with a fork until dough is evenly combined.

2. Divide evenly among your tartlet pans, press in and even crust, then bake for 20 to 25 minute until crust is golden brown. You can use pie weights held in foil if you’re worried about the crust shrinking, but I’ve never had that problem with this recipe.

For the ginger lime filling
½ cup lime juice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
1 egg yolk
3 whole eggs, large
½ cup sugar
Pinch salt
1 cup (2 sticks!) butter, unsalted, cut into tablespoons
2 teaspoons lime zest

1.  Pour water to a depth of about two inches into a saucepan, place over medium heat, and bring to a simmer. Combine the juice, whole eggs, yolk, ginger, sugar, and salt in a heatproof bowl that will rest securely in the rim of a saucepan over, not touching, the water. (Never let the egg yolks and sugar sit together for more than a moment without stirring; the sugar will cook the yolks and turn them granular.)

2.  Place the bowl over the saucepan and continue to whisk until the mixture becomes very thick and registers 180 degrees F on a thermometer—ten to 12 minutes. Remove the bowl from saucepan, mix in zest, and let base cool to 140 degrees F—about eight minutes—stirring from time to time to release the heat.

3.  When the base is cool, pour it into a countertop blender. With the blender running, add the butter one tablespoon at a time, blending after each addition until incorporated before adding the next piece. The cream will be pale yellow and thick. Taste, and add more zest or ginger if you want to. Pour into tartlet shells and proceed with meringue.

For the Swiss meringue
2 eggs whites
1/3 cup granulated sugar
Pinch salt

1.  Bring a small saucepan of water to a simmer (I used the same pan from  the lime cream process), and over it, in the bowl of your KitchenAid mixer, whisk eggs whites, sugar, salt until mixture is very warm to the touch, about five minutes.

2.  Remove from heat, and whip to stiff peaks using the whisk attachment. Dollop tarts with meringue in whatever shape you like—I’m working on my quenelles—and refrigerate until filling is set, about two hours. Carefully unmold, and serve! Tartlets will keep for about three days in the fridge.

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