Who said good esthetics had to be complicated.
Simple cakes, true flavors is the motto of Meg Ray owner of famed Northern California bakery Miette with locations in San Francisco and Oakland.
Thanks to the just published Miette (Chronicle Books, June 22) you can now try your hand at her signature creations, the Princess Cake, Tomboy and Bumblebee and 72 other recipes.
Guys should not let the scalloped page edges and feminine touch in book design keep them away from these treats.
Until I have a chance to interview the very busy Meg Ray, I will share a couple of recipes from Miette starting with the summery Lime Meringue Tart or Tartlettes (details on Boiled Icing and Graham Cracker Crust follow main recipe).
Lime Meringue Tart
This tart started with the combined desire to reinvent the refreshing flavor of Key lime pie and to find another use for our glorious Boiled Icing. Adding these to our homemade graham crust, the result was far from traditional and, in fact, represents the most innovative flavor combination at Miette.
Unlike traditional graham cracker crusts, which are made with cookie crumbs, the crust for this tart is made using the dough and baked off like a regular tart shell. You can make the lime curd and graham shells separately up to 2 or 3 days ahead, but make the boiled icing and fill the tart the day you will serve it. You will need a small blowtorch to caramelize the top of the meringue as we do at the bakery.
The recipe yields about 2 cups of lime curd, and you will use about 1 cup in a 7-inch tart or around 2 cups for 10 tartlets. Any leftover filling can be covered tightly and stored in the refrigerator for a week, or frozen for up 2 months.
Makes one 7-inch tart
One 7-inch tart shell made with dough from Graham Crackers
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons grated lime zest
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (4 1/2 ounces) sugar
3 large eggs
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (7 ounces) unsalted butter, cubed
About 1 cup Boiled Icing
Make the Graham Crackers dough and line a 7-inch tart pan. Fully pre bake the shell, transfer to a wire rack, and let cool completely.
To make the Lime Cream: In the top bowl of a double boiler or bain-marie, whisk together the lime juice, zest sugar, and eggs. Fit the top bowl into the bottom pan over gently simmering water and warm the mixture, whisking occasionally, until it registers about 172 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer or coats the back of a wooden spoon and leaves a clear trail when a finger is drawn through it, 15 to 20 minutes.
Remove the lime curd from the heat and strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean container. Let cool slightly, to about 140 degrees F, about 20 minutes.
Add the butter to the curd, a few cubes at a time, and, using a whisk or an immersion blender, blend until it dissolves completely after each addition. Strain the curd again to remove any lumps of butter, then let cool to room temperature. Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.
Spread the chilled lime curd into the cooled graham crust. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a medium (1/2-or 5/8-inch) round tip. Fill the bag about halfway with the icing. Pull up the cuff and twist it to seal and tighten the icing down into the cone. Purge the bag of air bubbles by squeezing the bag until there is a burst of air and icing sputters out of the bag. Pipe the icing on top of the tart, and then use the back of a spoon to press it down to meet the edges of the crust. Make a decorative swirl on top. Using a small kitchen torch, brown the surface of the icing, moving the flame in a circular motion to burn the ridges of the swirl until lightly browned. Refrigerate until well-chilled, at least 1 hour and up to 6 hours.
for Boiled Icing
My mother always made 7-minute icing, soft and fluffy and reminiscent of a big wedding dress. It is unapologetically sweet and miraculously light and smooth. This icing is technically an Italian meringue and it gets shinier and denser the longer and you whip it, so take your time. The cream of tartar helps control the crystallization of the sugar. The temperature will mount slowly and then rapidly as it approaches the end, so keep an eye on it.
This recipe makes enough for two 6-inch cakes. Leftovers do not hold in the refrigerator as they lose volume, so serve it that day if possible. Unfortunately we could not scale this recipe for less than 4 cups, so you will have extra if you make just one 6-inch cake.
Makes about 4 cups or enough to frost two 6-inch cakes
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup water
3 large egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine the sugar, cream of tartar, and water in a small saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer. Stir the sugar to dissolve and begin to heat it over medium-low. Have a heatproof measuring cup sitting nearby.
Put the egg whites and vanilla in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. When the sugar reaches 240 degrees F, immediately pour it into the measuring cup to prevent it from getting hotter. With the mixer on medium speed, slowly pour the sugar syrup into the egg whites, aiming for the side of the bowl rather than the whisk. When all the syrup is added, turn the mixer to medium-high and whisk until the icing becomes thick and holds a firm peak. Continue to whisk until the icing is just slightly warm and very thick, about 10 minutes total. Do not continue to beat, or the icing will become too thick to spread and pipe.
Use immediately on a Lime Meringue Tart, Old-Fashioned Cake, or on any other cake. Boiled icing must be used fresh and cannot be stored.
for Graham Cracker Crust
We created this graham dough for the lime meringue tart, but when we rolled it out a little thicker and punched cookie shapes, we discovered a superior version of this classic American cookie.
Graham is a type of whole-wheat flour that tends to have a coarse, uneven texture, so we don’t use it. Instead, we make our dough using regular whole-wheat flour to produce a smooth, crisp, buttery cookie, flavored with a touch of honey.
This dough might be the most versatile in the bakery. The Miette Cheesecake calls for these cookies crumbs in its crust. The Lime Meringue Tart calls for the dough to be rolled out (like a tart dough) and pressed into the pan before baking off.
You can wrap extra dough in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 2 months. Defrost at room temperature.
Makes about twenty-four 3 1/4-inch cookies, two 7-inch tarts or a dozen 3 1/2-inch tartlets
1 1/2 cups (7 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) whole-wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Generous 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup (6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (4 ounces) firmly packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
Sift together the flours, salt, and cinnamon into a bowl. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, brown sugar, and honey and beat until fluffy, about 5 minutes.
Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture in three additions, beating just until combined after each addition. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling, or for up to 2 days.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Unwrap the dough and place between two sheets of waxed paper. On a clean work surface, roll out to a thickness of about 1/4 inch. Using a 3 1/4-inch round cookie cutter with a scalloped edge, cut out the graham crackers. Arrange on the prepared baking sheet, placing the cookies about 1/2 inches apart. Bake until golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. They should snap crisply when cooled.
Gather up the dough scraps, reroll, and cut out to make more cookies. Bake as directed and let cool.
Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
(* An excerpt from Miette, recipes from San Francisco's most charming pastry shop (June 2011) by Meg Ray with Leslie Jonath, photographs by Frankie Frankeny, reproduced by permission of Chronicle Books, all rights reserved)