Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A perfect balance

"Settling down with warm-glow wood stove and kerosene
peace you're looking for, peace you'll find 
in the tangled mad cliff-sides and crashing dark of Big Sur 
Rapturous ring of silence pacific fury flashing on the rocks, the sea shroud towers 
the innocence of health and stillness in the wild of Big Sur"
-Jay Farrar

Recently, I was flipping through my copy of The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook with it's beautiful pictures and wonderfully rustic recipes. They are a perfect balance of impressive flavor combinations and simple, seasonal ingredients. It makes me want to move to California for the farmer's markets. The farmers markets, the local produce, and the outdoorsy, earthy lifestyle. It makes me want to move to California and visit Big Sur.
Every component in every recipe is made completely from scratch, even the graham crackers for a the crust of graham cracker tart. While, I'm completely in favor of grinding up real graham crackers instead of buying graham cracker crumbs, I just don't have the time to make an entire batch of homemade crackers to just go ahead and grind them up once they come out of the oven. Instead I buy an organic brand with no preservatives, corn syrup or unnecessary ingredients, which is exactly what I did for this lime meringue tart.
I made it this past weekend for my friend, Gracie. She had been hinting, not too subtly I might add, that she would be in town for her birthday and that she really likes things made with lime. I was intrigued by the combination of the tart with homemade ginger ice cream, which I have to say, really was a perfect balance.
Clovis' Lime Tart with Ginger Ice Cream
Adapted slightly from The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook. I really love the way every recipe uses all parts of an ingredient. If you need egg whites for one part of the recipe (the meringue) then you will inevitably need the yolks for another (the ice cream). This way you don't end up with 12 egg yolks in your fridge. 
I doubled the recipe and made an 11-inch tart as well as a 10-inch spring form tart. There was more than enough filling and meringue and I actually filled two single serving ramekins as well. The recipe below is for one 11-inch tart.

For the shell:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 24 graham crackers ground in a food processor)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, melted plus more for the pan

For the lime filling:
1 1/2 cups fresh lime juice
1 cup sugar
6 eggs
1 cup heavy cream

For the meringue:
6 egg whites
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp vanilla

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees

Combine graham cracker crumbs sugar and melted butter in a bowl. Grease an 11-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Refrigerate for 20 minutes then bake for 7-10 minutes until the shell begins to smell toasty. Remove from oven and let cool.

While the shell is cooling, whisk all lime filling ingredients and cook in a medium saucepan over low heat. Stir constantly until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, 7-10 minutes. Pour into the crust and bake 10-15 minutes or until the filling is set. You can tell if it's set by touching the center - if it doesn't stick to your finger it's done. Mine took a bit longer than 15 minutes. Let the tart cool to room temperature then place in the freezer for 25 minutes to prevent it from over cooking when you brown the meringue. I made mine in advance so instead of freezing it and finishing it with the meringue, I put it in the fridge until the next day. It held up just fine and I added the meringue in the afternoon the day that I served it.

When ready to make the meringue, place the egg whites, sugar and salt in the stainless steel bowl of a stand mixer (or another heatproof bowl). Place the bowl in a saucepan of barely simmering water. Whisk the mixture completely until the sugar crystals dissolve. Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk with an electric mixer fitted with the wire whisk attachment on high speed until medium peaks form. Add the vanilla and whisk to combine.

If you refrigerated the tart place it in the freezer for 15 minutes minutes before piping the meringue. Remove from the freezer and pipe meringue using a pastry bag and large decorating tip, I used a zip-loc bag instead of a pastry bag and it worked just fine. Place the tart on the top rack of the oven and bake until the meringue has browned. The book says 2-4 minutes but mine took closer to 6 or 8. My oven isn't the best though so just watch it closely. I also rotated mine halfway through. Refrigerate to cool and set.
When ready to remove from tart pan and transfer to a platter. Run a chef's knife under hot water and wipe dry. Cut tart into slices wiping blade in between each cut. Serve with a scoop of ginger ice cream, (seriously, don't leave this out the combination was really delicious).

Ginger Ice Cream
Makes 6 cups.

4 thumb-pieces fresh ginger
2 cups whole milk (I used 1% with no trouble)
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup honey
2 cups sugar
12 egg yolks

Peel the ginger and cut into slices. Place the slices in a saucepan with just enough cold water to cover and bring to a boil.
Strain and rinse the ginger under cold running water. Combine the ginger and 1 cup of the milk in a blender, and puree until smooth. Combine the ginger mixture with the cream, the remaining 1 cup of milk, the honey, and half of the sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove the mixture from the heat and let it steep for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining 1 cup sugar in a large bowl until smooth.

Bring the cream mixture back to a boul and temper the hot liquid into the egg yolks by adding it to the yolks a ladle at a time while whisking vigorously. Strain the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Discard the ginger and return the liquid to the pan. Cook over very low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the liquid is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Refrigerate until it's cold. Freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions.


  1. Now I know why I couldnt find the littlle white ramekins the other day. I spotted them in your blog. love Dad

  2. dad- eek ramekin thief! (in my defense, you told me i could take them..)

    sandy- i know i try not to think about it. Since I doubled the tart recipe I used a full 2 dozen eggs between the ice cream and the tarts. i also went through a half gallon of heavy cream this week - ew lol

  3. Haha I'm so stingy with eggs, if a recipe has more than 3 I have to step back and think seriously about the degree to which that particular recipe will actually increase my overall happiness. Odd, really, since we have chickens and a related abundance of eggs at home...

  4. it's my birttthhddaaayyy!!

    this was the most fantastic birthday desert ever. If I say its my birthday in april, will I get another one?


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