[Note: This lime curd tart got some fresh photos and updated text in 2020.]
2020 Notes: Walk into any pastry shop in Paris and you’ll see a lemon tart (tarte au citron). One of the most classic pastries, it’s just lemon curd poured into a baked buttery pastry crust. Some will be more tart, some more sweet, some have meringue or fresh fruit on top, but most will be unadorned. Lime curd tarts are far less common but I think they equally deserve a place in your dessert canon. I’ve been making this one from Ina Garten (refer to it if you miss the original) for eons but these days I make it in fewer steps (no butter to warm, fewer dishes, and no pie weights) and thought you deserved to know how you could do the same. I like that it uses whole eggs, instead of just yolks, so you don’t have any leftover ingredients; that it doesn’t, like so many lime desserts, demand tiny, annoying-to-juice key limes; and takes full advantage of the lime zest, for full-bodied lime flavor. The recipe below makes a thicker tart shell that is, to be honest, not my favorite. My go-to is the one I use in this peanut tart. This would also be excellent in a graham crust, and save you some time too; use this one.
2006 Text: From the self-indicting delight of tiny infant fists gripping grownup forefingers to the calculated pinhole photography that lines my cubicle, I’m one of those girls, it seems, that can’t get enough of diminutive proportions. This absorption extends to the culinary world; from miniature artichokes and petite eggplants to pearl onions and microscopic zucchini, I find Lilliputian produce irresistible, and am incapable of not bringing them home by the bagful and readying them for their close-ups.
Baked goods are in no way spared these indignities. Puny cupcakes are always chosen over their brawny siblings, as are cheese puffs, scones and black-and-white cookies. “The more, the merrier!” I cheer until every flat surface (all three of them, that is) in our also-tiny apartment are filled with rows of one-bite delicacies and I exhaustedly wonder why I created three times the amount of work for myself.
I have no learning curve, however, so a trip to Bowery Kitchen Supply this weekend found me pressing my nose against a case of itsy tart pans, envisioning the Ina Garten Lime Curd Tart I have bookmarked in my head scaled down to finger food proportions for a Labor Day barbecue. My husband, who has long given up on trying to use such lines of reasoning on me as “but where will we keep them?” and “are these really necessary?” (and who I instead remind that “hey, at least my excessive spending habits are in occasional $20 increments and not, say, Chanel”), eeked out nary a protest, possibly because he quietly snickered knowing what was in store for me on Monday.
You see, as he and his sister sat on the sofa vegging on a Law & Order SVU marathon, I spent at least four episodes worth of time blending, patting, rolling, foil-lining, pie-weighting, baking, unmolding, cooling, peeling, grinding, juicing, stirring, filling and cooling 16 tartlets in the kitchen. I mean, it’s a good thing I consider obsessive baking projects a good time or I might have, in a very weak moment, considered throwing them out the window and making one-bowl cookies instead, never speaking of tartlets again.
I’m glad I didn’t – I really liked the results. Next time, I’d put less filling in each shell; the molds I bought are a little deep for the pungency of the lime curd, but otherwise the recipe is a keeper and my love affair with minuscule baked goods renewed. Which is good news, because moments after I bought the small tart molds on Saturday, I also succumbed to a four-pack of wee loaf pans. There’s no cure for this disease I have.
Lime Curd Tart
- 1 3/4 cups (230 grams) all-purpose flour
- Two good pinches of salt
- 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup (170 grams or 6 ounces) unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
- 4 medium/large limes
- 1 1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
- One good pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup (115 grams or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
- 4 large eggs
- Whipped cream, to serve (optional)
In a food processor: Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Add butter and vanilla to the bowl, then run the machine until the mixture forms large clumps — just keep running it; it might take another 30 seconds for it to come together, but it will. Transfer dough to a 10-inch round or 9-inch square tart pan with a removable bottom set and press the dough evenly across the bottom and up the sides. Transfer to freezer for 15 minutes, until solid.
Parbake crust: Once firm, prick all over with a fork. Coat a piece of foil with nonstick spray, and press it oiled-side-down tightly against the frozen crust, so it is fully molded to the shape. Bake tart with foil (no pie weights needed) for 20 minutes, then carefully, gently, a little at a time, peel back foil and discard. Return to oven for 10 to 20 minutes (keep an eye on it, I overbaked mine!), until lightly browned all over. Let cool to room temperature, ideally, but it’s okay to use if it’s still lukewarm.
Meanwhile, make the filling: Remove the zest of 4 limes with a vegetable peeler or zester/rasp, being careful to avoid the white pith. Squeeze the limes to make 1/2 cup of juice and set the juice aside. Put the zest in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the sugar and salt and process for 2 to 3 minutes, until the zest is very finely minced. Add butter and blend until fully disperse into the sugar. Add eggs, two at a time, and blend to combine. Add lime juice and blend for a second or two.
Transfer the filling to a medium saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 5 to 10 minutes. The lime curd will thicken at about 175°F, or just below a simmer. Remove from heat and pour into the tart shell. Transfer to the fridge to cool and set.
To serve: Add dolloped of lightly sweetened whipped cream (if you wish) and serve cool, in wedges or squares.