There is local pie company in Kansas City, where I grew up, called Tippins. They used to have restaurants cum pie counters at various locations around the city (think Marie Callender’s for those of you on the West Coast or Baker’s Square for northern Midwesterners). Conveniently, one happened to be on the way back home from church.
There was a good stretch of time when my family would stop in, without fail, after service to pick up a pie (or two) for the week.
Of course, everyone had their favorite, and to mitigate fighting amongst siblings, my parents rotated between my siblings and me for each week’s pick. Even as a child, I was not a goopy saccherin eater – especially not with dessert. Honestly, none of their pies really attracted me. I liked the crusts, but otherwise, the fillings were too creamy, sweet and, well rich. Also, I was allergic to chocolate, so the only pie that really tempted me – the French Silk pie (think chocolate pudding under layers of whipped cream and shaved dark chocolate), I couldn’t have any.
As such, inevitably, when it came time for me to pick, I would always choose lemon meringue (that is, if it’s not October of November, when pumpkin pie, my absolute favorite pie, was the must-have). Tart, smooth, and light-tasting, it seemed like a palatable alternative to the others. But, to be honest, it wasn’t the curd that I really liked – it was the airy fluffy and wonderful cloud of toasted meringue, piled sky-high, on top that got me. It was *magical.* How did they do that? What was it? It was better than marshmallow – it wasn’t sweet, and it didn’t stick to my teeth.
Sadly, over the years, Tippins restaurants closed across town. Today, the company is still going strong, but only selling their pies (and I believe soups) through local grocery stores.
Now, in my adulthood, my sweet-tooth has grown a bit (no doubt thanks to outgrowing my chocolate allergy) and I’ve come to appreciate lemon and lime curds. And, the magic of meringue still stays with me.
Recently, I made a lime tartlet from a recipe in “Simple Pleasures” by esteemed New York chef Alfred Portales. It inspired me to have a little fun and make one that expresses my personal tastes.
Lime S’more Tartlets
This recipe was inspired by a combination of desserts. Alfred Portales’ Lime Tartlets meets my own childhood campfire treat in this most interesting combination of flavors and textures. Here was my logic:
1. I love lime.
2. I love (dark) chocolate.
3. Chocolate and lime is one of my favorite combinations.
4. Key lime pie is commonly made with graham cracker crust and meringue.
5. Chocolate is commonly put with graham crackers and marshmallows – a.k.a., S’mores – my favorite childhood treat.
6. Put key lime pie and s’mores together – and you get: Lime S’more Pie.
This is an involved recipe. It will take time and patience. However, given the right tools, it is worth the trouble.
Makes six 4 ½-inch tarts
3 packages of graham crackers, roughly broken up
20 tablespoons (2 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted
½ teaspoon fine salt
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (from 16 to 18 limes), plus
3/4 cup granulated sugar
6 eggs, separated, whites reserved for the meringue (see below)
12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks unsalted butter), at room temperature, cut into 12 pieces
Grated zest of 2 limes
10 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped (recommended 65%)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
7 tablespoons butter, cut into 7 pieces
4 egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
Butter for greasing tart pans
6 4 ½ inch spring form tart pans*
Prepare the graham crust: Preheat the oven to 350.
Put the graham crackers into a food processor and pulse until the crackers break down to the consistency of sand. Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in the salt and melted butter and mix until the butter has thoroughly incorporated; it should be the consistency of wet sand.
Press and pack the wet graham mixture into six buttered 4 ½-inch, making sure it goes up all the way on the sides and that the crust is thick and sturdy.
Arrange the tarts on 1 or 2 cookie sheets and bake for 12 minutes, or until the crusts are golden, but not browned. Remove the tart shells from the oven and set aside to cool.
*If you are not using spring form pans, carefully remove the crusts from the pans at this stage and follow the recipe as follows.
The tart crusts can be stored in airtight plastic containers, in a single layer, for up to 24 hours.
Prepare the lime curd: Put the lime juice, sugar, eggs, and yolks in a stainless steel bowl and whisk well.
Fill a saucepan halfway with water, and bring the water to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat so the water is simmering. Set the bowl over the pot and whisk the lime mixture occasionally until it thickens, approximately 10 minutes. Then whisk in the butter, 1 piece at a time. When all of the butter is melted and incorporated, stir in the lime zest and remove the saucepan from the heat.
Remove the bowl from the saucepan and let it cool for 5 minutes.
Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor, and blend until very smooth. (I find that using a blender/food processor can be messy and dangerous. I encourage you to use an immersion/hand blender instead, if you have one).
The mixture can be made, cooled, covered, and refrigerated for up to 1 week.
Divide the mixture among the tart shells, leaving about half of space on the top for the chocolate ganache layer. Chill in the refrigerator while making the chocolate ganache, or until set.
Prepare the chocolate ganache: Over a double boiler (simmer water over low heat in a saucepan and put a heat-resistant bowl on top), melt the chocolate together with the sugar and butter. Stir constantly until the sugar is well incorporated and the mixture is smooth and shiny.
Remove the melted chocolate from the heat and let it cool for 5 minutes.
Carefully, pour the liquid chocolate ganache over each tartlet, making sure that the chocolate does not over-flow the graham crust sides. Return the tarts to the refrigerator and chill for 1 to 2 hours, or until the ganache has set. (The ganache on top should take on a smooth matte finish.)
Prepare the meringue and finish the tarts: In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a whip attachment, whip the reserved egg whites until frothy. Slowly add the sugar, then the cream of tartar, continuing to whip until well incorporated. Increase the stand mixer to medium speed and whip until the whites are shiny and form a stiff peak. Do not over-whip or they will become grainy.
Transfer the meringue into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip, and pipe it around the edge of each tart. Or, transfer it into a large freezer bag, seal tightly, and snip off one corner. Pipe the meringue on as desired.
Using a brulee torch, quickly brown the meringue, being careful not to melt the chocolate ganache on top. (Due to the chocolate ganache layer, the meringues should not be browned under a broiler.)
Note: The tarts can be browned, cooled and refrigerated, uncovered, for up to 4 hours. Covered, they should last for up to 2 days in the refrigerator.