B*tch Bakes' Door to Summer—Key Lime Magik
Wherever You Go, Like Harry, Make A Recipe to Grow Your Soul
To me, few things say summer better than watermelon and Key Lime Tart, and, well, the watermelon kinda comes made. In high school, my best friend was Harry White, a tall, brilliantly red-haired dynamo of energy and humor. Harry was a diamond in the rough, living, like I did, high on the Laurel Ridge of the Southwestern PA Appalachian mountains.
We were unlikely friends. I was a top-of-the-class grade-grubber. Harry had been pegged from a young age by school administrators to be a troublemaker (he wasn’t, but their judgment made his ostracization all too real). What joined us was a shared adoration of prog-rock music, which became the soundtrack of our high-school lives.
Harry was destined by his upbringing and locale to be a mountain redneck, but he defied the typecasting every step of the way.
He was a natural at quarterback for club teams, smart as a tack, and fell in love with an African-American girl in the valley town where our consolidated behemoth high school was.
Harry also showed me how to enjoy life when I was too apt to be Joe Serious. He and I both knew the mountain wouldn’t be our lifetime home, but he showed me how to enjoy my last two years of high school—not in spite of our surroundings, but through them. He invited me to the family reunion at his home, where he made me an honorary member of his family and his softball team (there was enough kin to field two teams). Sweaty and happily exhausted after three games, we gorged ourselves on Key Lime Pie his mom made.
Harry loved watermelon. I’d often arrive at Harry’s place to find him on the porch, gnawing down wedge after wedge. As we shot the shit, he’d spit the seeds into the bushes by the stoop. April became May became summer, fall, then the harsh mountain winter. And by the goddess, next spring, watermelon vines were growing in the front shrubbery. Harry tended them and got a few melons for his pains.
That’s what I think of when Harry comes to mind—the welcome, a bright, tart taste of possibilities, the sprouting of seeds in the most unlikely of soils,
and the bright prospects of forever summer,
even in a climate and altitude that leaned hard into winter.
When I taste Key Lime Tart, I think of him. And miss him. To me, he’ll always be summer. Always be my friend.
Key Lime Tart
Prep Time: 25m Cook Time: 34m Total Time: 1 hr Difficulty: Medium Servings: Yield: one 9" tart; 8 slices
9in (23-25cm) round, loose-bottom tart tin
Med Mixing Bowl
Baking Beans (if you Blind Bake)
Baking Brush (again, if you Blind Bake) (uh, you should)
Fine Grater or Zester, for lime zest
Stand or Hand Mixer w/ whisk & beater fittings (optional, but dang! this set-up keeps the carpal tunnel at bay)
Cylindrical Container (narrower in diameter than the tart-tin ring), for disassembling from tart tin
Cooking spray, oil, or knob of butter, for greasing tart tin
2C (171g) (12 regular-size crackers, blitzed into crumbs or make your own crackers to measurement)
⅓C (38g) powdered (confectioners') sugar
¼t (1.5 g) salt
1 stick (8T/100g) butter, melted
1 egg, for egg wash
zest of 3 Key Limes (or 1 reg lime)
4 lg egg yolks
14oz can (1.25C/400g) sweetened condensed milk (or make your own)
¾C (175g) Fresh-squeezed Key lime juice (or reg lime juice)
½C (115g) heavy cream (**_NOT_** "ultra-pasteurized")
2T (15g) powdered (confectioners') sugar
1a. Put butter in sm saucepan over med-low heat to melt while you prepare tart tin and crust mixture.
1b. Lay parchment paper over baking sheet. Set aside.
1c. Spray or grease tart tin ring and bottom. Set aside.
2a. In food processor, blitz graham crackers into fine crumbs.
2b. Put crumbs in med mixing bowl. Sift in powdered sugar and salt.
2b. Pour in melted butter, using hands and/or wooden spoon/spatula to thoroughly combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar, salt, and butter.
3. In prepared tart tin, using fingers, press crumb mixture into bottom and sides of tart tin, up to the edge.
3b. Freeze crust 20 min while preheating oven to 325°F/160°C (350°F/175°C High Altitude).
4. Place tinned crust on parchmented baking sheet and bake 8-10 min. (I blind bake all my crusts, using my B*tch Blind Bake in place of this step.)
5. Cool crusted tart tin on rack, while making filling. Set aside parchmented baking sheet for use in bake.
6. Whisk zest and yolks 4 min in mixer bowl at high speed (or whisk by hand), till mixture thickens and lightens in color.
Separate the egg yolks from whites by using this b*tchy tip: Don't do the transferring from one shell-half to another (uh, unless you're into that, then go for it). Instead, break the egg into your open hand, letting the white slide off the yolk in rivulets. (And, yes, I unabashedly used this note as a justification for working the word, "rivulets," into a recipe.)
7. Slowly hand-stir sweetened condensed milk into zest/yolk mixture till smooth.
8. Beat at high speed 3 min (or beat by hand with wooden spoon/spatula), till filling thickens and gains volume.
9. Add lime juice, hand-stirring with wooden spoon/spatula till just combined, returning mixture to thickness you had before juice addition.
Assembly & Bake
10. Pour filling into crust.
11. Place assembled tart (still in tin) back on baking sheet.
12. Place whole assembly in oven and bake 18-22 min.
13. Tart should be set around edges with a wobble in center. (If you're squirrely about doneness, check center with baking thermometer; tart is done at 145°F/63°C).
14. Remove tart assembly from oven, and remove tart (still in tin assembly) from baking sheet. Cool on rack to room temp.
14b. Free the tart from the surly bonds of the tart tin ring. (I center the tart-tin assembly on top of a cylindrical container smaller in diameter than the tart-tin ring and gently push on opposite sides of the tart-tin ring, till it separates from loose bottom). Place tart, loose bottom still on, onto a serving plate.)
15. Refrigerate 3-6 hrs, then top with the whipped cream you are gonna make and serve it with. Key Lime Tart demands it.
(Please don't denigrate this beauty with Cool Whip or spray-can whipped topping. You've gone to the effort to make a divinely inspired dessert. If you wanted an existentially unsatisfying experience, you would've bought a frozen Marie Callender's knock-off. But you are not like that, right?)
16. Combine cream and confectioners’ sugar in mixer bowl, and whip at med speed to create peaks.
17. Pipe or spread lovingly-attended whipped cream onto tart and serve.
18. Store leftover tart (yeah, like there's gonna be any o' that!) in fridge up to 1 week. You can also freeze non-topped tart up to 3 months. Thaw and make your whipped cream then.