This has been a very busy week of pastry research for me– simultaneously glorious and oh-so-gluttonous… As I was on Spring Break from work, I had the opportunity to play in San Francisco to my heart’s content, and play I did. I’m working on a separate blog post about my “Pastry Crawl“, so why do I bring it up now, you ask? This week’s Baked Sunday Mornings recipe, which I’ve been really looking forward to, is Sunrise Key Lime Tarts from Baked Elements. I was having trouble finding key limes at my usual grocery stores, but I serendipitously stumbled upon the adorable, bright green citrus gems at a Mexican market in the Mission District while scouting out bakeries! I was concerned that I would have to resort to the more common Persian lime, but I was saved by this awesome local market.
What’s the difference, anyway? I don’t bake much with citrus (just gimme the chocolate, please), and this was my first time using key limes, so I was curious to learn more about them. Contrary to popular belief, key limes are not native to the Florida Keys— they were brought there and thrived in the region. They are a lime variety unto themselves, not simply mini-limes. Besides being much smaller than Persian limes (only about 10-16 centimeters across), they are very juicy, have more seeds inside, and contain a higher acid content; they have a wonderful lime-y aroma that endears them to pie-makers. Also, they’re just really cute. 🙂
Not only was I excited about the diminutive limes, but also about the crust on these darling tartlets. Instead of the traditional graham cracker crust (which, for the record, I do love), this recipe features a pretzel crust. That’s right, I said pretzel crust. I believe it is empirically impossible for these tarts not to be AWESOME. (My sources are reliable, I swear.) One of my favorite ingredients/mix-ins for baked goods lately is pretzels– I am a big fan of the sweet-and-salty goodness, so these babies were right up my alley!
Now, I have to say that I’ve been a bit frustrated recently with a few BAKED recipes, and unfortunately this one was a challenge as well. Making the tarts is not at all difficult in itself; on the contrary, it’s one of the simpler recipes… in theory. However, I found that the proportions of the ingredients were a little off and the directions were a bit vague for the crust. The recipe is supposed to yield 8 4-inch tartlets, but I had tons of the crust mixture left over, and not quite enough filling for a set of 8 filled to the brim. I ended up making 6 tartlets, and then I mixed about ½ cup of the leftover pretzel crust into the remaining bit of lime filling and divided this mixture among 2 small ramekins– sort of a lime-pretzel “pot de crème”, if you will.
The recipe calls for 1 ½ cups of thin pretzel sticks, or 6 ounces. I used pretzel twists, assuming that the shape wouldn’t matter if I used the weight measurement. However, this was *well* beyond the requisite 1 ½ cups, and when I made the pretzel crust as directed, it was very dry and crumbly, refusing to press into the tart pans and hold its shape. I ended up adding an additional 4 tablespoons (½ stick) of melted butter and an extra 2 teaspoons of dark brown sugar for a little more sweetness; these additions made for a much more cohesive crust mixture that would “clump” together (i.e. it would hold its shape when pressed in my hand).
I also had one slight equipment issue, which is that the recipe calls for 4-inch tart pans with removable bottoms. I have the perfect sized pans, but they do not have removable bottoms. Since I bought 8-inch pans last week specifically for Aunt Sassy Cake, I couldn’t justify procuring a new set of tart pans, especially given how infrequently I use the ones I already have! I lined the bottoms of the pans with small pieces of parchment paper, on the advice of a trusted Baked Sunday Mornings buddy, and this helped the tartlets to release from the pans slightly more easily. However, I couldn’t get them out without first cutting into the tarts! They would not pop out of the pans without significant crust destruction, so I ended up serving them in the tart pans. Not the end of the world, but next time I will definitely make them in vessels with removable bottoms!
After making the tart crusts and partially baking them, I made the key lime filling. Mixing the egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk, key lime juice and zest, tequila, and triple sec took all of 20 seconds; the time-consuming part was juicing what seemed like 100 miniature limes! I was hoping to at least use a hand-held citrus reamer, since my regular juicer is much too big, but even that wouldn’t fit into the key limes. And so, I set about squeezing the limes by hand… all 20 of them. Let me state that a little more clearly– I’m talking about *40* tiny lime halves. (I need a hand massage after that!)
Zesting those cuties was quite a task as well, but at least there were only 6 of them to do. Anyway, once that was done, mixing up the filling was a snap. Incidentally, despite a healthy 3 tablespoons of liquor, the filling does not taste strongly of alcohol.
I poured it into the crusts (plus the 2 ramekins), and off to the oven they went for 11 minutes.
I must say, these tarts looked rather pristine with their fluted, browned crusts and smooth zest-flecked lime filling! They are among the most professional-looking items I’ve ever made, in fact. However, the true test would be getting the tarts out of the pans without destroying them… but we already went over that…
Right before serving, make the lime whipped cream– it will not hold up for long. Beating in a little key lime zest gives it a lovely citrus zing! Oh, and the lime “pinwheel” garnish adds a cute, decorative touch; I assume this is what the “sunrise” in the recipe title refers to– like the sun coming up over a puffy cloud of whipped cream!
So, how did these beauties taste? Yowza. I would describe the tartlets as a perfect marriage of key lime pie and margarita. They have the right amount of citrus punch without being too tart or overwhelming, and they are not super boozy… which is just how I like both my key lime pie and my margarita! I wasn’t sure what the consistency of the lime filling would be like, but it’s just lovely, I have to say. It has a thick, silky texture that fills your whole mouth with creamy pie-like goodness, and the salty crust is an ideal foil to that sweet-and-sour flavor. These tartlets are a perfect spring or summer dessert, which can be served for either a casual or more formal occasion. LOVE LOVE LOVE. Yep, I think that about covers it! 🙂
A few tips for successful Sunrise Key Lime Tarts:
- If you don’t have tart pans with removable bottoms, place a small piece of parchment paper in the bottom of each pan and make sure to grease your pans liberally. (I used nonstick cooking spray rather than oil.)
- If you’re having trouble locating key limes, try looking in local markets specializing in Mexican or possibly Asian goods.
- If your crust mixture seems dry or crumbly, add more melted butter 2 tablespoons at a time (plus up to 2 more teaspoons of brown sugar to balance out the saltiness) until it holds together if you press a small amount in the palm of your hand.
- This probably goes without saying, but… zest your limes before squeezing them.
- Squeeze the limes through a strainer to catch the abundant seeds.
- Make the lime whipped cream as close as possible to serving time.
Because clearly you WANT to make these, you can find the recipe for Sunrise Key Lime Tarts over at Baked Sunday Mornings, and take a look at the other awesome bakers’ tarts while you’re at it! 🙂
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2013.