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For the second challenge of our funtastic Monthly Miettes, Aimée White of Food: Je t’Aimée tasked us with making any tart our hearts desired. Immediately following Aimée’s announcement there was a flurry on Twitter as the food bloggers involved debated which of the heavenly looking tarts to make for this month’s post. The initial response from the group was to make them all (yes they look that good!) but in the end I found the Lime Meringue Tart called my name the loudest.
All of the tarts and tartlets in Meg Ray’s Miette, are an elegant testimonial to the flavours of each season that combine intense flavoured fillings with crisp buttery shells. Why not try the Pastry Cream & Fresh Fruit Tarts to help herald in spring, let the Blueberry or Raspberry Tartlets bask beside you in the warm summer months, celebrate the flavours of fall with the Pecan Tart, or curl up in winter with the tangy Lemon Tart. Honestly, you can’t go wrong. I’m sure they all taste amazing.
The Lime Meringue Tart is the only recipe in this section that does not involve making a Pâte Sucrée crust (an ultra rich, buttery dough). Instead it calls for a homemade graham cracker crust, a glorious invention that utilizes whole-wheat flour instead of graham cracker crumbs. The results are a lovely, crisp, buttery crust gently flavoured with honey and brown sugar. As a side note, use the same recipe to make your own graham crackers, something that I will most definitely be doing in the near future.
Unfortunately my experience making these tarts was incredibly frustrating. There were simple mistakes, such listing the wrong page number for the additional recipes (e.g. the Graham Cracker Crust is incorrectly listed as being on page 152). Not a big deal, but considering this book has already gone through one major editorial overhaul it is something that should have been caught. The other issues I had were in terms of technique. First of all, the dough for the Graham Cracker Crust was much too soft to handle. Even after chilling the dough for the suggested amount of time, there was no way I could have rolled it out into anything but a heap of mush.
In the end I simply scooped the dough into my tartlet pans and pressed it into shape. It was at this point that I had my first glass of wine.
My next challenge came with the lime cream. To make the citrusy custard you whisk together the zest and juice of fresh limes, sugar and eggs in a double boiler until it reaches 172 F degrees. The recipe stipulates that this should take between 15-20 minutes, but after an hour of heating the curd I couldn’t get the temp to rise above 162 F degrees. I have no idea what went wrong, but in the end I gave up and added the butter which proceeded not to melt so I had to reheat the whole mixture over the stovetop again.
It was at this point that I had my second glass of wine.
Next I tackled the boiled icing (or Italian meringue), a shiny dense cloud of sweet icing fluff which is then brûléed on top of the tarts. A combination of sugar, cream of tarter and water is heated on the stove until it reaches a temperature of 240 F degrees. At this point you are supposed to add it to egg whites and whisk until thick and holds a firm peak.
Okay (breathe Jasmine) the recipe says to stir the sugar until dissolved but does not stipulate to leave it alone while it bubbles away. Any time I’ve made caramel I have always avoided any stirring action, but trusting the recipe I gave the pot an occasional swirl.
I should have trusted my instincts. The syrup burned.
Thinking positively, I added the sugary mixture to the egg whites thinking it might still taste okay. Sigh. At no point did the recipe mention that the egg whites needed to be whipped prior to adding the syrup. I ended up with a half scrambled egg burnt sugar mess of a liquid that (surprisingly) tasted good but in no way would have worked for the tarts.
At this point I grabbed the entire bottle of wine and walked out of the kitchen.
The next day I found another recipe for boiled icing on Baked Bree, and the results were much improved. Lessons learned? No stirring the sugar and whip the egg whites prior to adding the syrup.
After all of my frustrations the tarts turned out beautifully and tasted absolutely incredible. The tangy lime cream was perfectly sandwiched between the rich buttery crust and the heavenly sweet boiled icing. I cannot tell you how fantastic these tarts tasted! It must have been all my blood sweat and tears.
At this point I should probably mention that when Miette was first released it was riddled with errors. Both Meg and Chronicle Books immediately took steps to remedy the situation, providing correction sheets for copies of the book already in circulation along with an amended fourth printing of the book (you can view a list of corrections for earlier editions here). Part of the reason Aimée chose this particular book for our monthly baking challenge was because of the effort the Miette team put into remedying an unfortunate situation. She wanted to give the book a fair shake.
Yet as my frustration continued to grow while making these tarts, I couldn’t help the shadow of doubt that began to take root in my mind. How many errors are still alive and kicking in this book? A few of the other food bloggers mentioned having issues with the Tomboy Cake during last month’s challenge. Hopefully things get better from here on out because deep down I’m rooting for this book. What can I say? There’s just something irresistible about an underdog. But I also love the overall design of the book, and the collection of recipes offer a nice variety and sampling from the bakery’s repertoire.
I’m crossing my fingers (and toes)…