I think it’s time for a small confession. I toyed with starting a food blog for at least a solid year or two before penning (typing?) the first post here. Looking back it seems silly, but not in the least bit surprising, to have waited that long to do something I’ve grown to enjoy so much. I am, and always have been, ruled by a frustrating mixture of perfectionism, procrastination and self-doubt. Putting forth anything into the world that’s short of my admittedly narrow and stringent view of perfection can be agonizingly difficult, almost painful.
In high-school and college this meant perpetually late assignments; heaven forbid I turn in something not up to my standards, never mind that the penalties for lateness usually lowered the grade far more than turning in something a bit more scattershot than I’d desire. I don’t care to recount the numerous social events I missed as a self-conscious teen, simply because I was unable to stop fixating on a physical flaw imagined or otherwise. So many things were pushed off until another day when I’d hopefully be a “better” version of myself. Now, that’s not to say that I think there’s anything inherently wrong with having high standards; there’s just a big difference between high and unrealistic. There’s a world of difference between working to improve, and refusing to participate until things are perfect, because perfection is by definition* unattainable.
1. A state of completeness and flawlessness
2. Freedom from fault of defect
Now, I’d like to think that I’ve moved past this, but that would be delusional (and really is there anything further from perfect than having unrealistic beliefs?); I’ll settle for a small improvement* in handling this nagging fear of not quite measuring up. That said, all it takes is a quick glance at the virtual stacks of unpublished photos and blog posts that I’ve abandoned out of frustration, to see that there’s much work to be done.
*how very imperfect of me!
These shots of a very near perfect batch of tartlets nearly ended up forever abandoned to the
island folder of misfit toys photos, simply because while the pictures are far from terrible they didn’t quite come out how I’d hoped. However, in the spirit of self-improvement*, here they are, lest I deprive you any longer from sinking your teeth into one of these mouth-puckering beauties.
*Am I the only one who finds it funny that I’m trying to improve on basically not relentlessly working at, well, improving things?
These tartlets are especially nifty because the crust is graham cracker dough rather than a graham cracker crumb crust. Why go through the extra effort? This dough is bit sturdier when baked up, so it works as a standalone tart shell in a way that I suspect a crumb crust might not (if you’ve tried this successfully, let me know!). If you prefer a more traditional key lime pie just check out the original gourmet mag recipe I’ve linked to – it’s a classic for a reason!
Yield: six 4″ tartlets or one 9″ pie
1 ½ cups (7 ½ ounces) all-purpose flour
⅓ cup (1 ½ ounces) whole wheat flour
heaping ½ teaspoon kosher salt
heaping ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
12 tablespoons (6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temp
½ cup (4 ounces) firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons (1 ¾ ounces) honey
Special equipment: tartlet pans with removable bottoms
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together both flours, salt and cinnamon. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter, brown sugar and honey, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the flour mixture in three additions, mixing til just cohesive.
Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, and form into a rough disc. Chill for at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 days, before rolling.
. . .
2 (14 ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
grated zest of 3 key limes
1 cup freshly squeezed key lime juice (from about 2 pounds key limes)
4 large egg yolks
Preheat oven to 350°.
Whisk together the condensed milk, lime juice and zest, and egg yolks, til smooth; set aside.
Dust a surface and a rolling pin with flour, and roll out the tart dough til about ¼-inch thick. Cut the dough into pieces roughly 1-inch larger than the tartlet pans and working one by one drape the dough over the tartlet pans.. Gently push the dough into the molds so that it fills the nooks and crannies of the pan, taking care not to stretch the dough; if the dough tears, or its thinner in some parts than others feel free to reinforce by pressing in dough scraps. Trim the dough so that is flush with the edge (I usually just press down into the edge, which should be sharp enough to cut it). Prick the dough all over with a fork. Chill the prepared tartlet pans in the freezer for 30 minutes, or until firm.
Line each tartlet pan with parchment or tinfoil, and fill with pie weights (pennies or dried beans are a great alternative). Blind bake for 14 minutes then remove from the oven and allow to partially cool for 10-15 minutes. The crust should not be fully baked, as it will go back in the oven with the filling.
Carefully ladle in the pie filling and bake for 13-18 minutes or until the filling is just set in the center. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack, then gently remove from the tartlet pans.
Serve chilled, unadorned, or with whipped cream.
If you can’t find key limes you can substitute regular limes for the juice and zest. I’ve done this quite successfully, but the key limes do add a special something. With that said, I will admit that juicing these ping-pong ball sized beauties can be a bit tedious!
When rolling out, the dough will be quite sticky and prone to tearing, so err on the side of dusting your board with more flour, and also take care to lift the dough from the board during that process to ensure that it hasn’t stuck. If you want a bit of extra insurance, roll out the dough between two pieces of parchment.
When partially blind-baking the tartlet shells, I used Martha Wrap to create a barrier between the pie weights and the dough. This product is kind of the best of both worlds as its a bit more pliable than parchment since it’s parchment fused to tinfoil, but I wouldn’t feel the need to rush out to the store to pick some up. Regular parchment or tinfoil should work just fine!
I have a lovely set of 2 ½-inch tartlet pans that I generally prefer over these hefty 4-inchers, sadly they lack a removable bottom and therefore are ill suited to making tartlets with a baked filling, since they need to be flipped upside-down in order to remove the tart shell. If you have smaller tartlet pans with a removable bottom, use them! Your yield will be a bit different and I’d reduce the baking time by a couple minutes.