lime and burnt sugar meringue tart with coconut pastry

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Over the past few years, Tahitian limes have become a staple item in my shopping basket, mostly for use in salads (such as Mexican Corn Salad), cocktails (it’s great friends with gin), marinades and Mexican food. I absolutely love them… they’re both acidic and sweet, refreshing and adaptable, whilst their distinct floral aroma reminds me of Summer every time.

The only frustrating thing about limes is that their market price seems to vary greatly from week to week in Australia. In recent months, they’ve been up to $1.50 PER LIME at the supermarket… it’s, uh… definitely affected my cocktail consumption. So, you can imagine my delight when I was unexpectedly gifted with an entire bag of limes by a friend at work the other day. I almost danced in delight, holding the crinkling plastic shopping bag with two hands as I squirreled it into my office drawer.

limebox

When I got home, I counted my bounty whilst adding in three supermarket limes from the crisper compartment of my refrigerator. The total? Twenty two beautiful, shining orbs, stalks attached, some gently blushed with hints of ripened gold. They were perfect, like little juicy emeralds sitting on my kitchen table. A growing sense of excitement rose like a butterfly, fluttering in my stomach… what to do with twenty two limes? It was too late to start cooking there and then, so the limes were returned to their shopping bag. I placed them in the crisper compartment next to some friendly heirloom tomatoes, kale and beetroots… then I went to bed. With lime on the brain.

limes

So, let’s cut to today. I’ve been sitting in my kitchen surrounded by a week’s worth of lime-related productivity. There’s lime curd, chilli-lime pickle, lime simple syrup for cocktails, Mexican salsa and some frozen watermelon, tequila, mint and lime pops. I also candied some lime peel in sugar syrup for cake decorating; it’s been sitting in a sugary little pile on my bench top, waiting to adorn a spectacular creation. These little candied treats eventually inspired me to create a lime curd tart, topped with a cloud of Italian meringue and sugared strips of crunchy lime zest.

curdcrust

In homage to the end of Summer, I also decided to experiment with a recipe for coconut oil pastry. After reading several recipes including this one from Baking Bites, I ended up with a pallid, soft mess of a pastry shell that was (unfortunately) only fit for the bin. Take two: my own version of butter shortcrust pastry with coconut sugar and additional coconut oil. This pastry shell worked perfectly; buttery, short and golden with a soft, sweet hint of coconut. Unfortunately, both versions of coconut pastry completely solidified whilst ‘resting’ in the refrigerator, so if you’re going to bake the recipe as written, I’d encourage you to maintain an attitude of patient persistence whilst kneading. It’ll all be worth it in the end (or alternatively, if you want to avoid the solid coconut experience, just increase the butter to 125g and omit the coconut oil altogether). The burnt sugar meringue can also be a touch challenging, so if you’d like to increase the simplicity of this recipe I’d recommend only reducing your sugar syrup to the ‘soft ball’ stage, 6-8 minutes or 115 degrees C (240 degrees f). I’ve also included more tips for making Italian meringue under ‘notes’.

Happy cooking (oh, and now that I’ve scared you regarding the level of difficulty… this tart really isn’t so hard if you break it down into several steps. And once you taste it, I guarantee that the work will be all worthwhile).

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Lime and Burnt Sugar Meringue Tart with Coconut Pastry

Makes 1 x 23cm tart

This tart includes four components: coconut shortcrust pastry case, lime curd cream filling, burnt sugar Italian meringue and candied lime peel. I’ve broken down each element into an individual ‘recipe’ with instructions for assembly to follow.

crust

1. Coconut shortcrust pastry:

  • 1 1/2 cups (250g) plain flour
  • 100g butter, chilled and chopped
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin coconut oil or coconut butter (I use Loving Earth)
  • 1/3 cup (40g) organic coconut sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp chilled water

Place the flour and coconut sugar into a large bowl. Rub in the cubed butter and coconut oil with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add in the egg yolk and chilled water, then knead until the mixture comes together.

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Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the mixture is smooth. Mold into a flattened ball, cover in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 3o minutes prior to using.

Now for the rolling part: lay a piece of baking parchment over your bench, then sprinkle it lightly with flour. Turn out your dough, and start kneading it again until it reaches a pliable consistency (let me tell you from the start; this is not a fun pastry to work with. The coconut oil makes it go rock hard if you leave it too long in the refrigerator so don’t think you’ve done anything wrong. You’ll just need to knead it consistently until it softens again).

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Once your dough softens, roll it out with a floured rolling pin into a large disc, 0.5cm thick. Drape it over your rolling pin then transfer it across to a 23cm loose-bottomed tart pan. Press your pastry into the edges of the pan and make sure that the surface is covered evenly (don’t worry if your pastry fractures, just pick up the torn pieces and press it all back together inside your tart pan). Prick the surface evenly with the tines of a fork, then place your pastry case into the refrigerator to chill for 10-15 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees C (375 degrees f). Remove your chilled tart case from the refrigerator and line it with foil or baking parchment. Fill the lined case with rice, ceramic pie weights or dried beans. Now it’s time for blind baking: place your weighted tart case into the oven and bake it for about 20 minutes.

After the time has elapsed, remove the case from the oven and take out the weights, foil and/or baking paper. Use a fork to prick and flatten any bubbles that may have formed in the pastry, then return the case to the oven at a reduced temperature of 180 degrees C (350 degrees f).  Bake for another 20 minutes, or until the tart shell is crisp and light golden brown.

Let the case cool completely before adding your filling.

 

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2. Lime curd filling:

  • 1 cup (130g) white caster sugar
  • 60g organic unsalted butter
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup fresh Tahitian lime juice (I used about six medium limes, or to taste)
  • 1 – 2 tbsp lime zest (to taste)
  • 2 whole free-range eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup heavy double cream (or clotted cream, if you can find it)

Place a glass bowl over a pot of gently boiling water to form a double boiler. Add the sugar, butter, lime juice and lime zest into the bowl, then stir the mixture over medium heat until the butter melts.

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Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before adding your eggs in a gradual, steady stream. Whisk continuously until all of your eggs are combined with the lime mixture, then return the bowl over your pot of hot water and keep stirring until your mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon (about 20 minutes).

When your curd is ready, place it into a clean bowl or jug then refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes to cool and thicken prior to whipping it with the heavy cream until smooth and glossy. Refrigerate your lime cream filling for 2 hours prior to filling your pastry case.

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3. Italian burnt sugar meringue:
  • 3 large free-range egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (130g) white caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp light corn syrup
Place the egg whites into a medium bowl or the bowl of a stand-mixer. Beat until soft peaks form, then set aside.
meringuemont
Place the white caster sugar, corn syrup and 1/4 cup of water into a medium saucepan over low heat. Allow the sugar to dissolve without stirring, then increase the heat to medium, or until the mixture reaches a slow boil. Continue to boil, brushing down the sides of your pan with a wet pastry brush occasionally (to prevent crystallisation) for about 10 minutes or until spots of toffee colour appear. Remove your pan from the heat at this point and swirl the mixture until it darkens to a shade of light toffee.
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Now’s the difficult part. Take your hot pan of burnt sugar syrup, and pour it slowly down the side of the mixing bowl whilst continuing to beat your egg whites (this is much easier if you have a stand mixer). Continue to beat until the meringue is firm, glossy and cooled (about 4-5 minutes).
Refrigerate your mixture until you’re ready to assemble your tart.
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4. Candied lime peel:

Always exercise caution when working with hot sugar syrup

  • 1 lime
  • 1 1/4 cups (160g) white caster sugar
  • extra caster sugar or powdered sugar, to coat
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Using a sharp knife, carefully remove the peel (or ‘rind’) from your lime in 1-cm strips. Use a sharp knife to remove any white pith, then cut the peel into strips (about 2mm wide).
Blanch your lime peel in freshly boiled water for one minute. Drain, then refresh the peel immediately in an ice-water bath. Repeat process, then drain and set aside.
candzestmont
Heat the sugar with 1 cup of water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When the sugar dissolves and the mixture starts to bubble, add in the drained lime peel. Allow to bubble and reduce for 5 minutes, stirring continuously, until the syrup becomes viscous and your peel appears translucent and softened.
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Using a slotted spoon, place the peel onto a wire rack to drain. Separate the strands and toss them in caster sugar or powdered sugar to coat. You can store this candied peel in an airtight container for up to three days.
candiedmont
To assemble:
Place your tart shell onto a serving platter. Fill it with a smooth, even layer of your lime cream filling. Take your Italian meringue and heap it into the centre of the tart, leaving a 2cm/1 inch border around the edge. Use a knife to sculpt the surface decoratively, then if desired, you can either brown it in the oven for 3-5 minutes at 220 degrees C (430 degrees f) or blowtorch the surface until toasted. Top with candied lime peel to serve.
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Notes:

  • This page from Pastry Chef Online contains a great tutorial on making Italian meringue. It also outlines the importance of safety precautions when working with candied sugar.
  • Despite my complaints, all dough needs to rest in the refrigerator before rolling to allow the gluten in the dough to relax. Despite the difficulties of coconut oil in dough, do not skip this ‘resting’ process or you’ll end up with a tough pie crust.
  • You can save your lime-infused blanching liquid and sugar syrup to make a simple syrup for cocktails. Just add them together into a medium saucepan with the juice of three limes, then reduce the lot down into a syrupy consistency. Store in a sterilised glass jar… delicious with vodka or gin, soda water, muddled blackberries, a wedge of fresh lime and loads of mint.

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Extra facts about Coconut Oil:

If you, like me, are new to using coconut oil in cooking, you might be interested in reading a little more about its stated health benefits here. I wouldn’t suggest that you start guzzling it by the litre (read this contrasting article by Kathleen Zelman, Registered Dietitian), however in moderation it contains many heart-friendly short and medium chain fatty acids, primarily lauric (44%) and myristic (16.8%). It also has a very high smoke point which means it’s an ideal oil for creating crispy, delicious foods with a delicate hint of fragrant coconut. Warning: coconut oil is contraindicated for those with hypertension (high blood pressure). Consult your doctor if you have any further questions about the suitability of coconut oil for your diet.

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