The Season of the Tart
Recently I have been thinking a lot about those nights that can only happen when the sun doesn’t set until very late. Usually it is a Sunday night. There was perfect sunshine and you’ve spent the entire day outdoors with a big group of friends or family, maybe sitting in the park or lying on the beach, maybe playing something or riding something. No matter whether active or inactive, the simple state of being outside in the sun all day brings you to a certain point of utter exhaustion by at least 9 pm. A shower momentarily refreshes the senses and the sunburn lotion the skin. You might even have the energy to eat something small. Eventually, though, domestic comfort and promise of sleep beckons. It’s not even dark yet, you protest.
But that is exactly what I am talking about. The course of that particular day has completely warranted crawling into bed while there’s still a blue glow of light in the sky. Don’t bother drawing the curtains, just embrace the horizon and sink into the best sleep you can have.
I am still waiting for a night like this. I tell myself I need to be patient- it’s only early June after all. Last weekend, for example, I went into bed as the sun was rising rather than setting (in my defense, it rises pretty early!). This was naturally for a very good reason- the birthday of my good friend Babeth. I won’t go into details about the aurally entertaining Japanese/English karaoke-themed evening (though you can easily imagine), other than to give you the recipe for the particular Birthday Cake–ehem, tart– that she specifically requested I make.
In general, I prefer to make tarts and other lighter, fruit-based desserts during this time of year. This lime tart in particular, I began baking regularly last year in a different iteration, with my co-conspirator-in-baking friend Madeleine. The original recipe called for sweetened condensed milk but after a while, I began to wonder what it would be like with coconut milk instead. I historically love the flavor combination of coconut and lime, and it seemed even more spring-like than the far heavier sweetened condensed milk.
The tart shell is a combination of ground almonds, flour, sugar and crushed butter cookies, bound together with some melted butter and egg white. Just a note about the kind of butter cookie: I suppose if you come from a country that has graham crackers readily available (USA), this would be an excellent choice, but my very good alternative turned out to be butter Dinkel Keks (spelt cookies) from the bio market. You can always get very cheap butter cookies, but trust me- invest the extra Euro for a pack of these spelt things- the taste and texture of the shell are noticeably better as a result. About the nuts, I used pre-ground because I don’t have a food processor (tragic, yes, I’m collecting donations), but I think grinding your own almonds is a fantastic idea. You can even experiment with the type of nut. Pistachio would intrigue me.
The filling is very easy. Just whisk together a can of coconut milk, sugar, egg yolks, a bit of flour to thicken and a good splash of lime juice and you have it. The filling will be very liquid when you pour it into the shell, so be careful when placing it into the oven. Also, remember that coconut milk contains coconut oil, which liquefies at a fairly low temperature (about 25°C), so as the tart bakes, it will probably remain slightly liquid looking. Once you take it out and cool it, though, it should solidify. Refrigeration helps it do so even more.
The resulting dessert is quite fresh and intense, but doesn’t feel too heavy. I would say it’s the perfect finish for warm days that lead to late nights out or early nights in.
Recipe: Coconut lime tart
200 (7 oz) gram pack of butter cookies (or graham crackers)
125 (4.5 oz) grams ground almonds
¼ cup flour (37.5 grams)
¼ cup granulated sugar (56 grams)
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
82.5 grams butter (6 Tbsp)
1 egg white
1 can (400 mL) coconut milk
1/3 cup granulated sugar (75 grams)
2 egg yolks
a few pinches of flour
juice from 2-3 limes (depending on size)
zest from 2-3 limes (depending on size)
1. Preheat oven to 325° F (175° C) and place rack in the center of oven. Prepare an 9-10 inch (23-25 cm) tart pan with removable bottom by coating lightly with butter.
2. Prepare the tart shell. Melt butter in saucepan or microwave and set aside to cool slightly. Crush cookies, either by hand or in a food processor. Pour into a large bowl. Add ground almonds, flour, granulated sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix together. Pour melted butter over the dry ingredients and stir to evenly combine. Separate eggs. Add egg white to the mixture to evenly combine. Dough should be fairly stick and not dry.
3. Scoop the mixture into the prepared tart pan and press evenly into the bottom and edges. Note that you can also use a standard spring-form pan- just press the dough about 1 inch up the sides. Place pan into the oven and bake until lightly browned, about 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for about 20 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Zest the limes and set aside zest for later. Juice the naked limes into a small bowl. Shake and then open can of coconut milk. Pour into a large bowl and whisk in the granulated sugar and egg yolks until smooth. Add lime juice and whisk until combined. Finally, add a few pinches of flour to thicken slightly. Whisk until combined and smooth. Immediately pour into the cooled tart shell and put carefully back into the oven (the filling will be quite liquid).
5. Bake for 20-30 minutes. This will depend on how thick the filling is and on your oven. You want it to start to set. Remove from oven, sprinkle reserved lime zest over the top and cool completely. Put into the refrigerator for at least one hour before serving.
Makes enough for about 10 pieces of tart.