Wednesday, April 11, 2007

You're going to have to imagine

the photo, because I am so out of touch with blogging these days that I forgot to take one. It didn't help that I was at a friend's house for Easter; there's something so awkward about photographing your food in a strange environment. So, I'll help you picutre it: a rectagnular tart, covered in rosettes of lightly browned meringue. The filling was not the expected lemon, but passionfruit curd, and there was passionfruit sauce on the side. Very elegant, a little exotic without being intimidating. Several people had seconds, and given that the dessert table also included a ricotta pie and a special Italian dove (a sweet yeast bread with chocolate filling), that was a good sign.

I used Maury Rubin's tart crust recipe, because, as I believe Jeffrey Steingarten pointed out, it's perfect and there's no need for any other recipe for tart shells. I didn't use his recipe for passionfruit filling, though. It looked a little lacking in eggy goodness. So I found a recipe online for passionfruit curd, then looked at Helen Witty's lemon curd recipe, which is my standard go-to recipe for lemon curd. I determined that the Witty recipe would work, as long as I decreased the sugar (tart though passionfruit is, it's sweeter than lemon juice). I also wanted to use Rubin's idea of including vanilla bean to add another layer of flavor. So this is what I came up with:

3 egg yolks, plus one whole egg
1 cup sugar (or 3/4 cup - I'll explain in just a minute)
1/2 cup passionfruit pulp/juice (I didn't use fresh, though that would have been great. Goya*, god bless 'em, sells frozen pure pulp. It's excellent in cocktails, smoothies and this recipe.)
1 stick plus two T butter, cut into pieces (whoo-hoo! eggs and butter! bring it on!)
2-inch piece vanilla bean

Beat the eggs and sugar together thoroughly. Add the juice, butter and vanilla bean (scrape the seeds into the mix, then throw the pod in while you're at it), and put your bowl over some simmering water. Cook and whisk seemingly endlessly, but really only for about 10-15 minutes (I recommend you put on NPR before you start) until it's nice and thick, then put through a strainer into a bowl and refrigerate.

Blind bake your tart shell, let it cool, then brush it thinly with a bit of melted white chocolate. This will seal the shell from the moisture of the filling and keep it from getting soggy. Fill the tart - you should have exactly enough for a standard tart shell.

Now, here's the question: meringue or whipped cream? For eating purposes, I prefer whipped cream, but for the baker, meringue has two advantages. One, it uses up those perfectly good egg whites. Two, you get to use the blowtorch. For me, the joy of playing with fire trumps the pleasure of butterfat (just barely), so I went with meringue. And therein lies the error I made with the recipe. It was just a little too sweet. With lightly sweetened whipped cream, the curd would have been perfect, but it wasn't quite tart enough to stand up to meringue. Therefore, I would suggest that if you want to serve the curd plain, or with raspberries (which would look and taste great) or with cream, you use 1 cup of sugar, but if you want to to cover the curd with meringue, drop the sugar down to 3/4 cup.

The sauce was my way of dealing with the overly-sweet tart. Passionfruit pulp, a little sugar, heated together, a little cornstarch to thicken (my arrowroot had something blue in it - I have NO idea), then a glug of rum. Fine, nothing exciting, but brought the sweetness back into balance. Unnecessary if you follow the sugar guidelines above, I think.

I will definitely make this tart again; it's pretty easy, the components could be made ahead, and it's a little unexpected. Plus, I think it will be fun to play around with fruit pairings. Raspberries are obvious, because raspberries and passionfruit have a special synergy, but kiwi might be nice as well, or strawberries or even possibly peaches. We shall see.

*If there's one big brand I love with a pure and untarnished love, it is Goya, maker of the only canned beans that are neither chalky nor mushy, purveyor of otherwise unattainable ingredients, my one true Goya.

1 comment:

plentyo'moxie said...

i am with you mostly on the Goya train - Jamaican Ginger Beer anyone? - but must point out that State of Maine also cans Maine grown beans. I haven't yet tried them, though they are plentiful in Hannaford's in our area - but their dried beans have been rocking my world of late.