Strawberry Lime Tartelettes And A New Boyfriend
February 20, 2008
Remember a while back when I was going to give Pierre Herme some rest because I was all busy with another man? Well, meet my new boyfriend Christophe Michalak. Edible wouldn't you say? Well, like a new boyfriend he is giving me "du fil a retordre"... Yep, he is giving me a hard time. Not that he is playing the three day rule without any phone call, but rather the three time recipe rule I have in the kitchen. You know the kind of boyfriend I am talking about. He looks good, presents well, he is popular, funny. You are attracted by a certain mysterious quality. The first date leaves you confident that there could be something there and subsequent ones leave you with a strange feeling, you don't know "sur quel pied danser" (which foot to dance with). By the third date you are either giving up on the guy or you are pestered enough that you want to "break the code", get inside his head one more time because he is too darn genius for you to give up. Well, Christophe you make it very hard for me to like you!
Basically, when I pick up a new cookbook and try something from it, if it tastes yuck or fails after three times, I dump it or send it back. His marshmallow recipe left me confused just like after a first date...I was happy to try an egg white based recipe but decided after the first fiasco to stick to my trusted one. Don't believe me? You should have a conversation with my mother when I handed her the KA bowl and beaters all glued with hot sugar syrup, egg whites and gelatin. Puzzled again when I tried his almond dough recipe which calls for one egg, then in the directions it reads "add the eggs"..."Hey honey! I have my glasses over my nose right?", then the pictures show what looks like a few egg yolks...Hmmm "Hey Michel, did you really proof-read your book?". I was starting to wonder if I was suffering from pastry amnesia.
Yes you look mysterious, mischievious and cute but Christophe your recipe and the book writing has me completely frustrated and mad...at you! I get that you are the World Champion of Pastry, I get that you are in charge of a prestigious pastry kitchen and I can understand the ego boost of publishing your favorite and gorgeously executed and photographed recipes. Oh yes, the book is a true feast for the eyes, however it is not written for the novice baker. You have to constantly read between the lines and think three step ahead...not a problem I am used to it...with recipes that are chemistry coherent.
I foresee a love and hate relationship with Christophe...not the cozy and fuzzy feelings that Pierre Herme or Richard Leach bring me when I settle on the couch with their creations. I love the concept of the book: one master recipe -5 variations. I fell in love with his tartelettes concept and was really excited to get going: his crust base is a 2 part almond short dough filled with frangipane (almond cream), after that the variations can be created. With experience you can read between the lines, but I hate that others might have difficulty doing so...and that would still be ok if the writing -recipes-pictures of step by step were all coherent. I don't always bake from cookbooks, but new approaches, new methods, new chefs, not to mention pretty pictures always give me inspiration to make a recipe my own according to my palate and the practicality of a home kitchen.
In that regard, I am sure you won't mind that I have reworked the recipe that inspired these Strawberry Lime Tartelettes. For example, instead of a pistachio paste in the whipped cream, I made a simple lime curd. Although you can't tell from the pictures but half the tarts had the strawberries rest on a small pool of lime curd while the others on strawberry jam (pictures). While both versions were excellent, they were also very different. The recipe called for mascarpone which I kept but you could easily substitute cream cheese, ricotta cheese or a fresh young goat cheese. The recipe is on the format of the ones I am fond of: multi-step, yes, but which allow you to make the elements over a couple of days, at your own leisure and assembled at the last minute for maximum freshness. Very nice option when you are making 40 like I did, but also when you have guests over for dinner as fresh is always best with berries. Stay tuned for further installments of my nights with Christophe!
We love them so much that I am sending them off to Rachel who is hosting this month Sugar High Friday - Pie That Evoke Your Dreams (and for a good cause: read at the end of this post)These Strawberry Lime Tartelettes evoked dreams of spring, fuzzy cuddles on the couch and beautiful easy going relationships...like strawberries and lime.
Strawberry Lime Tartelettes.
Almond Short Dough
Lime Curd Whipped Cream
2-3 cups fresh hulled strawberries, cut in half
3/4 cup strawberry jam
For the Almond Short Dough:
190 gr. flour
20 gr. cornstarch (makes for a lighter crumb)
90 gr. powdered sugar
130 gr. butter
35 gr. almond powder
pinch of salt
Special equipment: 8 pastry rounds 3 inches in diameter and 1 inch tall (available here)
Sift the flour with the cornstarch, powdered sugar. Add the almond powder and cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or your fingertips until you get small coarse crumbs. Add the egg and the salt. Mix with your hands until just combined. Roll into a ball onto a plastic sheet, cover with another plastic sheet and flatten to a smal disk. Refrigerate one hour or overnight. You can do the whole thing in a food processor. When the dough is nice and cold, roll it out on a lightly floured board or in between the sheets of plastic. You will need half the amount of dough to make the tartelettes. The other half can be kept in the fridge for up to 5 days or frozen, well wrapped for up to 3 months.
Cut out rounds with a 3 inch pastry ring. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 350F for 8-10 minutes. Let cool.
For the Almond Cream:
100 gr. butter softened
100 gr. sugar
100 gr. almond powder
5 cl heavy cream
Place the butter, sugar, almond powder and the eggs in a large bowl and whisk until smooth (can also be done in a food processor). Add the cream but stir in it instead of whisking so as not to emulsify it or it will rise while baking. Refrigerate for at least an hour.
Place 8 baked rounds of dough in 8 pastry rings, divide the cream evenly among the rings and bake 20 minutes at 350F. Let cool.
For the Lime Curd Whipped Cream:
grated zest of 1 lime
1/2 cup strained lime juice
1/4 cup sugar
200 gr. mascarpone, softened
2000 gr. (20cl)heavy cream
Combine the zest, sugar, juice in a saucepan, and bring to a simmer. In a small bowl, beat the egg until light. Beat some of the lime mixture into the eggs to temper. Scrape the mixture back into the saucepan and cook stirring constantly until it thickens up, about 5 minutes. Remove the curd from the heat, let cool completely.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix together the mascarpone and cooled lime curd until incorporated, add the heavy cream and whisk until firm and medium stiff peaks form.
To assemble the tartelettes:
Divide the jam evenly over the bottom of each tart crust, arrange the strawberry halves decoratively on top.With a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip, pipe the whipped cream in the middle and decorate with grated lime zest if desired.
Printable version of the recipe here.
Check Rachel's site for the round up on the 29th. In the meantime, if this sounds delicious, make a contribution to a non-profit helping to transform the world of food through pie- Pie Ranch. Please specify "Pie Ranch/Green Oaks Fund” in the "Designation" field of the online donation form (Pie Ranch is fiscally sponsored by the Rudolph Steiner Foundation) here.