Tart au Calamansi

I sing once again praises of the calamansi, humble but noble and never lacking of punch in the citrus department. Lemon and lime desserts are a wonderful thing and there plenty of good ideas out there but you can easily switch it up to make this lovely little citrus the center of your creation. The more I bake, the more I use calamansi in my experiments. It has quickly become my favorite citrus to use.  It’s tart but never bitter – in fact, I think there’s something about the flavor of a calamansi that lends itself to the sweetness of sugar or honey a little better than with lemons or limes.

You can expect more calamansi baked goodies in the future, but for now let’s talk about this tart au calamansi. Inspired by the classic tart au citron and the tart au citron vert, but with, yes that’s right, calamansi as your main citrus.

Now listen: This dessert is for serious citrus lovers. Each bite is bright and fruity, but like the calamansi which serves as it’s base, it does not hold back. It is not shy about its tartness.

But that’s why it goes wonderfully with this crust – this crust, which I consider nothing short of miraculous. Why, you ask? Well, allow me to also sing the praises of Paule Callat, who developed a recipe that might make a lot home bakers blow a gasket. Her easy to follow recipe (as shared here by David Leibovitz) not only requires that you melt the butter, but also has you working with it while the butter is still hot. This is an aneurysm-inducing instruction to most of us bakers who have been taught to always keep the butter chilled or to make sure the butter doesn’t melt when working with tart or pie dough. But after trying it out myself, I can now tell you: Trust the recipe, brothers and sisters of the home baking persuasion. Work through the fear and disbelief and you’ll be rewarded with a perfectly fragrant, sweet, flaky and buttery shortbread crust. Your baking life might never be the same again.

For the crust:

1 cup flour
6 1/3 tbsp/90g/3oz unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
3 tbsp water
1 tbsp sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt

For the filling:

3 eggs
3 egg yolks

8 tablespoons  / 115g unsalted butter
3/4 cup fresh calamansi juice
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt

For the candied rind:

1/2 cup calamansi rind, without the pith
1  cup sugar
1/2 cup water

Make your crust. Preheat the oven to 410ºF/210ºC. Combine butter, oil, water, sugar and salt in oven-proof bowl. Place bowl in oven for 15 minutes or until butter is bubbling and slightly brown around the edges. Add all the flour. Stir quickly until it comes together. When the dough is cool enough for handling, transfer to a 9in/23cm tart mold. Spread evenly. Pat and press it up on sides of the tart mold with your hands (or use a fork if necessary). Prick the dough all over with the tines of a fork about ten times. Bake the tart shell in the oven for 15 minutes or until the dough is golden brown. Set aside.

Make your filling. Whisk eggs and egg yolks in a bowl. Set aside. Warm the butter, lime juice, sugar, zest, and salt in a medium saucepan. Once the butter is melted, gradually pour some of the lime juice mixture into the egg mixture. Whisk constantly to make sure eggs don’t fluff or cook. Add back to the saucepan once the eggs and the juice are well-combined. Stir the mixture constantly over a low heat until it thickens. Be careful not to let it boil. Set aside.

Assemble your tart. Fill your baked tart crust with the curd filling. Bake for ten minutes or until the filling has set in a preheated 375ºF/180ºC oven.

Make your candied rind. Remove the pith from your squeezed calamansi. Take the rind and chop into little slivers. Place rind in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook for 7 minutes then drain. Return the strips to the pan and add 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water. Cook over low heat for 10-15 minutes or until the zest is translucent and the syrup is slightly thickened. Combine the rind and the rest of the sugar in a small bowl. Set aside to cool. Extra tip: This can also be made ahead of time, stored in an air-tight container and refrigerated for up to a month.

Have a slice. Sprinkle a some of the candied rind on top (and a little bit of powdered sugar, if you like). Have it with a little bit of honey-sweetened tea and feel the rest of your day get brighter with every bite.

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