My mother called me last weekend to let me know that she and my dad were taking a quick side trip to Cambodia. Oh, you know, just for funsies. To see Angkor Wat. Get it off the bucket list, no big deal. My jaw literally dropped open in jealousy. I wanted to go somewhere beautiful and exotic too! Especially since I haven’t taken a real, proper vacation (or, at least, a vacation without any wedding or family obligations involved) from work since… 2010. Ugh.
Later that day, as I was brainstorming recipes to bake, I still couldn’t get over my jealousy for my parents’ exciting trip. My eye definitely kept drifting to the Asian cookbooks on my bookshelf. Staring at the books filled with Southeast Asian recipes got me thinking — even if I couldn’t be somewhere gorgeous and exotic, maybe I could be there in spirit…or something. And that’s why I made this beautiful lime and coconut tart:
Inspired by Asian flavor combinations, this tart is light as a feather and ever-so creamy. This tart is so light that I almost ate half of it in one sitting — unlike some desserts that become too heavy and sickly sweet after a few servings, I never filled up or felt overwhelmed. I just wanted more and more. Why? Because this tart is literally nothing but cream on cream; more specifically a tart, tangy, and pale yellow lime cream topped off by slightly sweetened whipped coconut cream:
Admittedly, the books initially inspired me to make a more traditional Asian dessert. Maybe some yellow mango pudding, or some fresh coconut and jackfruit ice cream. But looking around the grocery store, I couldn’t help but laugh. Where on earth was I going to find fresh mangos, coconuts, and jackfruit in Portland, Oregon?
So I rolled up my sleeves and decided to use the best ingredients that were most accessible to me. After all, we’re still at the tail-end of citrus season and those limes looked mighty fine to me. And did you know that Trader Joe’s sells cans of coconut cream, as opposed to the more ubiquitous low-fat coconut milk you find in stores? Surely this would be of some use. And of course, there was the fact that I’d recently bought a beautiful, rectangular tart pan that I’d been meaning to try. All of which combined to create this tart:
And while it may not be as awesome as a trip to Cambodia with my family, it’s definitely the kind of dessert that takes you out of your surroundings and takes you away to another place. A place with bright blue skies, white sands, and umbrellas in your fruit drinks. Every spoonful reminded me of my family’s past holidays in warm, humid, and slightly sticky places where the heat is fought off by creamy and cold desserts like this lime and coconut cream tart.
Or maybe I just need a vacation.
Get the Recipe: Lime and Coconut Cream Tart
For the Brown Butter Tart Shell
- 9 tablespoons (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon water
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cup flour, scooped into a measuring cup with a spoon and unleveled (around 7 1/2 oz.)
For the Lime Cream Filling
(makes about 2 1/2 cups, enough to fill a 14 x 5-inch rectangular tart pan)
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed and strained lime juice
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup sugar
- a pinch of salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter, cold
For the Coconut Whipped Cream Topping
(makes about 1 cup)
- 1 14 oz. can coconut cream (or full-fat coconut milk), chilled in the refrigerator overnight
- 1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime zest
- a medium, oven-safe glass bowl with a rim (I used Pyrex)
- a 14 x 5-inch rectangular tart pan
- a medium stainless steel bowl with a rim
- a deep saucepan large enough so that the medium stainless steel bowl with a rim can rest securely in the rim of the saucepan without having to touch the bottom
- an immersion blender (A countertop blender will do, but I used a Cuisinart immersion blender. They come in pretty colors too!)
- a quick-read thermometer
For the Brown Butter Tart Shell
- Preheat the oven to 410 (F).
- In a Pyrex type oven-safe bowl, combine 9 tablespoons unsalted butter, 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil, 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon water, 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, and a 1/8 teaspoon salt.
- This is going to sound weird, but place the bowl in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, until the mixture is boiling and the butter starts browning.
- After 15 minutes, remove from the oven, and add 1 1/2 cups of flour quickly spooning in flour in 1 tablespoon sized chunks. Use a heatproof rubber spatula to stir in the flour until it pulls off the sides of the bowl. The mixture is gonna bubble and smoke, but trust the recipe! This will result in the most delicate crust you will ever eat.
- Once the dough is cool enough to touch, transfer the ball of dough into your tart pan. Use the back of your hand to flatten out the dough onto the bottom of the pan, and your finger tips to mold the dough up into the corners and sides of the pan. It's gonna feel really greasy and kinda unpleasant, but go with it. Make sure you spread the dough around into a thin, even layer so that you're still able to see the tart pan through the dough — it's going to look like there isn't enough dough for the pan, but the thinner your dough, the crispier your crust. I would err on the side of using not enough dough as opposed to too much.
- Use a fork to poke several holes into the crust.
- Bake at 410 (F) for 15 minutes, or until the crust is light brown and starts to appear flakey. This crust is very forgiving — it should have hardly any cracks.
- At 15 minutes, remove carefully from oven and let rest on a cooling rack. It is ready for filling when the tart reaches room temperature.
For the Lime Cream Filling
- Pour water to a depth of about 2 inches into deep saucepan, place over medium heat, and bring to a simmer.
- Combine 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lime juice, 3 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk, 3/4 cup sugar, and a pinch of salt in a stainless steel bowl that will rest securely in the rim of a saucepan over and not touching the water. Whisk until the mixture becomes very thick and registers 180 (F) on a thermometer this will take 10 to 12 minutes. If you don't have a thermometer, don't worry — the mixture should thicken to the point that your whisk leaves a trail through the curd. Just be sure to never let the egg yolks and sugar sit together for more than a moment without stirring; the sugar will cook the yolks and turn them granular. Don't let that happen.
- Remove the bowl from over the water and let cool to 140 (F), stirring from time to time to release the heat.
- While the mixture is cooling, cut 1 cup cold unsalted butter into 1-tablespoon sized pieces. When the cream is cooled, turn on your immersion blender (or transfer into your countertop blender) and add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time, blending well after each addition and making sure it is fully incorporated into the mixture before adding the next piece. This will take longer than you think it will, and the cream will start to turn into a pale yellow with a thick, opaque texture.
- Once all the butters have been fully incorporated, the cream is ready. Use a rubber spatula to carefully pour the mixture into the prepped shell, smoothing out the cream with the spatula so that it spreads around the tart pan evenly.
- Transfer to the refrigerator to chill for 2-3 hours before serving. The lime cream should be chilled to the point that it will be stable and retain its shape even when sliced.
For the Coconut Cream Topping
- After you've chilled the coconut milk overnight, remove it from the fridge, taking care not to disturb or shake the container. The coconut milk will separate with the white coconut cream on top and the clear coconut juice on the bottom. Once cold, flip over the can, open it, and carefully pour the clear liquid into a small container to save for another purpose — be careful, because if you get too much of the clear liquid mixed with the white cream, the coconut milk will not whip up properly!
- Place the thick, white coconut milk into the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer with a whisk attachment and whisk in 1 tablespoon powdered sugar. Continue whipping the coconut milk on high for 5-7 minutes while it increases in volume and gets soft peaks.
- Use the whipped cream immediately, scooping it on top of the chilled lime cream and tart. Garnish with 1 tablespoon fresh lime zest and enjoy immediately.