If my blog could be summed up in one phrase right now, I feel like it might be “KEY LIME ALL THE THINGS!” considering the number of key lime recipes I have on this website. There are Key Lime White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies (the Godfather’s favorite), Key Lime Cheesecake, this tart, a post for key lime macarons in the queue for posting in the next few weeks, and a few other ideas in the testing phase. Key limes are wonderful though, and one of my favorite baking ingredients.
The posting order for the creation of this tart is actually a little off because I originally made the key lime curd to use for the key lime macarons. My key lime curd recipe makes plenty though, and I had enough leftover to make the tart, making me feel quite efficient as I got two desserts out of one batch of curd! If you don’t plan to make macarons with your extra key lime curd, use it on scones, pancakes, toast, fruit, or just eat straight. I like that this key lime curd recipe has a good amount of key lime flavor and that citrus “bite” I like, but it isn’t so strong that those who prefer a milder flavor won’t like it. The graham cracker tart crust provides a good complimentary contrast too.
Making curd at home is easier than you think and doesn’t require any special equipment, just a pan and a spoon. I would totally recommend a citrus juicer for making key lime curd, or any key lime dessert for that matter. Key limes are teensy and it takes a LOT of limes to get the amount of juice you need for this recipe, and a little handheld citrus juicer/press thing helps make the process so much faster than trying to hand squeeze everything. I like to use a wooden spoon when I make my key lime curd, but a spatula or plastic spoon will work just as well. You’ll know your curd is done when it coats the back of the spoon in a mostly opaque even layer and you can run your finger over it and create a line that stays. If it’s too thin, it won’t set in the tart, but if it’s too thick, it can have a heavy texture, and you don’t want that either. The spoon test works well to let you know when to pull the curd from the heat so it cools and thickens to the right texture.
The tart crust I adapted from Fine Cooking and I tried to add flavors that would mimic those of a graham cracker so the tart would have a flavor profile reminiscent of key lime pie, and who doesn’t love a graham cracker crust? Just be sure to plan ahead because unlike a traditional graham cracker crust, a tart crust has to rest in the refrigerator for a day or two before baking. At least you don’t need an official tart pan. I don’t have one, and just used a spring form pan instead. The tart transferred rather easily with the exception of one tiny blemish that I could have easily covered with some whipped cream, but I didn’t because I only do small doses of whipped cream sometimes, and we do eat the props in this house after photo shoots. 😉 The point is, you can do this without buying a tart pan. Should you have a tart pan though, feel free to use it because the fluted edges are very pretty.
I did use pie weights to help me achieve a nice even crust for filling. I have the ceramic loose weights, but I think I want to get a pie chain instead because I’m clumsy and may or may not have spilled tiny little pie weights all over my counter in the process of making this tart. They may or may not take a lot of time to track down and pick up, and I may or may not have been a bit flustered in the process. Either way, a convenient method of corralling pie weights sounds like a great plan. This method of baking a tart or pie shell and then filling is called “blind baking”. There are two theories that I think might be plausible as to why it is called “blind baking”, one being that you can’t see the crust as it bakes since it’s covered by foil or parchment and the weights, and the second being that you can bake the pie crust without knowing the filling beforehand. I didn’t seem to be able to find a definitive answer online, so these are the two I liked best as reasonable explanations.
After pre-baking the crust, you allow it to cool, fill with the curd, bake for another few minutes to help the curd set, and then let the tart cool completely before serving. A little homemade whipped cream was a nice touch to top if you’d like. Some key lime zest might be pretty too. This is a great make-ahead dessert for company, and I hope you enjoy it as a sweet addition to your next summer soiree.
- ¼ lb unsalted butter
- zest from 6 key limes
- ⅔ c key lime juice
- 1½ cups sugar
- 4 large eggs
- ⅛ tsp salt
- 1¾ c all-purpose flour
- ¼ tsp salt
- 8 tbsp unsalted butter, cold
- ¼ c ice water
- 1 tbsp honey
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1½ tbsp granulated sugar
- ¼ tsp ground ginger
- 2½ cups key lime curd
- Start by making the tart dough. Combine all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, or in a food processor.
- Cut the cold butter into tbsp size portions and spread evenly over the flour mixture. Add the honey. Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter, or pulse a few times with your food processor until the butter is in small pea sized chunks.
- Add the water and pulse, or stir, into a rough shaggy dough. Once the dough comes together, shape into a disc, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate at least two hours, preferably overnight, and up to two days.
- Preheat your oven to 425 F.
- Remove the crust disc from the refrigerator and roll out on a lightly floured surface to about ⅛" thick. Gently press, without stretching, into your tart pan or spring form pan. Trim any overhang on the tart pan or uneven edges in the spring form pan. Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork a few times. Press aluminum foil or parchment paper into the pan to cover the crust, and place pie weights or dried beans or lentils into the pan.
- Bake for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and carefully remove the pie weights and aluminum or parchment.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 350, and bake the crust, without the weights an additional 20-25 minutes. While the crust is baking, make the curd.
- Make the key lime curd by pulsing together the sugar and lime zest in a small food processor until very fine.
- Combine all the ingredients in a small sauce pan and place over medium heat. Stir constantly until the sugar dissolves and the curd thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon. This takes about 15 minutes.
- Once the curd has reached the desired thickness, remove from the heat, transfer to a different container, and set aside.
- When the crust has finished baking, allow it to cool about 10 minutes while you reduce the oven temperature to 325 F.
- Pour 2½ cups of key lime curd into the tart and smooth. Bake for an additional 10 minutes to encourage the curd to fully set.
- Remove the tart from the oven and allow to completely cool to room temperature before removing from the pan and chilling or serving.