And a mango-meringue tartlet
Having close female friends is one of the more rewarding and sustaining events we women can experience throughout life. Loving and devoted allies, they can often provide the compassion for ourselves that we let dissipate in times of stress or high anxiety, which can be more frequent and more severe as we get older and struggle to move through life and its challenges in work, family and intimate personal relationships. A loyal, long time female friend can come and go in close physical proximity, but she is always there to remind us of who we are, in moments when we need most to be reminded.
This past January, I had just that experience when my long time friend Danielle came for a visit. I have known her for over half my life, she’s has been there through all the struggles and joys of my life thus far and she has shown up with compassion, loyalty, wisdom and her big bright signature smile. She of course, also brings her perfection in the art of sass, which is one of her most charming qualities. Our ability to laugh together never ceases to amaze me and she appeared recently when I needed her most, which is what the good ones do- show up.
We have always been great kitchen partners from the get go. We perfected the Pecan Sandie, while listening to Cubanismo in Oregon, hint, lots of butter. We cooked up a few ravishing dinner parties in my tiny Brooklyn apartment and we baked some amazing cakes together inside the Ger-Nis culinary kitchen. She was by my side when my love of fresh herbs took over my life. We made grand meals from the most distressed produce and used some of NYC’s most luxurious offerings. She has always appreciated my need to do my own thing in the kitchen. I’m not totally a team player while cooking and Danielle has always recognized that, she gives me my space and takes initiative with hers. I think most people like their own space in the kitchen when cooking together and I witnessed for the first time this past January, Danielle truly reveling in her space and appreciative of our way of cooking together– connected yet independent.
My Bolinas kitchen is a magical place and since it’s also the Crespo Organic Kitchen, a mango recipe was inevitable. Danielle has a sweet tooth and is the pastry chef between the two of us, so a mango desert was the obvious choice. Being winter made the pairing of citrus another clear decision. The fact that I had a kitchen blowtorch for Danielle to play with made the whole thing come together. Everyone likes playing with fire.
This recipe combines the best kitchen skills of two old friends. I came up with the creative and multi ingredient curd recipe and Danielle, did the scientific baking portion of the tart component as well as the meringue idea. I enhanced the final version for the meringue, after she left. She really wanted a more marshmellow-y texture in the meringue but I but I didn’t want to use corn syrup, which is often the case with those marshmellow-y meringues. I finally perfected the version that is the simplest and produces the most marshmellow-y texture I could achieve without using the Swiss Meringue method, which is fantastic but a little more work.
Mangoes pair wonderfully with the abundance of winter citrus and give a sweet, perfumed scant tropical flare to the desert and the vanilla meringue is an exquisite yet simple addition that made our end result seemingly fancy and thus servable at a dinner party with fancy guests. The combined natural sweetness of peak season citrus and ripe mangoes allow for less sugar than the ordinary tart.
A huge shout out to Smitten Kitchen, whose “great unshrinkable tart shell” recipe Danielle used. In a world where everyone and everybody throws recipes up on the internet, the Smitten Kitchen blog is one of the last places where you can 100% rely on the recipes to work.
Here is the final outcome of our mango experience together. A recipe made with equal parts laughter, tears, anger, compassion, understanding and love between two “old tarts”.
Two Old Tarts’ Winter Citrus & Mango Meringue Tartlets
Makes 4 tartlets (use the 4.75 inch tartlet pans)
For the meringue
1 cup superfine sugar plus ¼ cup
1 fresh vanilla bean
5 egg whites, room temperature
¼ teaspoon of cream of tartar
½ teaspoon vanilla
For the tartlet shells (this recipe is from Smitten Kitchen’s, the great unshrinkable tart shell recipe)
1 ½ cups flour
½ cup powdered sugar
¼ cup salt
2 teaspoons orange zest
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) very cold, unsalted butter, cubed small
1 large egg
For the mango citrus curd
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 teaspoon mandarin zest (page, golden nugget, clementine, tangelos dancy etc)
1 teaspoon cara cara orange zest
1 – 1 ½ cups of citrus juice (I choose 2 lemons, 2 limes, 3 mandarins, 1 blod orange, 2 cara cara)
2 ripe or semi ripe mangoes, chopped
¼ cup raw sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
4 eggs and 2 egg yolks, beaten
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ teaspoon salt
Make the vanilla bean sugar for the meringue before starting this recipe. Ideally you want to do this the day before and set the jar on the counter so you are reminded to “shake it” often. You’ll have extra you can use to sweeten your coffee (like Danielle did).
Place on cup of sugar in a mason jar. Place the vanilla bean on a flat surface and cut it in half. Cut each side open, lengthwise. Using the edge of the knife scrape the inside seeds out, holding the pod against the cutting board while you scrape down. Do this on both sides of the cut bean and both halves. Place the emptied pods and the seeds/insides you scraped out into the mason jar. Cover and shake. Shake often for a day before use.
Make the tartlet shells next. Follow the recipe on Smitten Kitchen here. This recipe makes enough for 4 -4.75 inch tartlets
Prepare the curd. Place the mango and the citrus juice, sugar and vanilla in a blender and blend until totally smooth. Pour the mixture into a heavy bottom sauce pan on medium-high heat, cook for a few minutes until sugar is melded and the mixture hot. Ladle a little of the hot mango and citrus mixture into the beaten eggs to temper them. This prevents the eggs from scrambling when you put them in the hot liquid. Pour the eggs into the sauce pan and gently whisk while the mixture comes to a slight boil. Once it boils turn the mixture down on low and whisk gently for about 6-8 minutes or until the mixture is very thick. Remove from heat and stir in the butter and salt. Mix well and refrigerate until cold, 2 hours minimum.
When the tart shells are totally cool and the curd cold. Fill each tart shell almost to the top of the shell. I like to fill a little of each at a time to make sure I end up with uniformity of the fill. Refrigerate until the meringue assemble stage.
For the meringue
Combine 5 egg whites in the bowl of a kitchen aid mixer with a whisk attachment. Beat the egg white until foamy and add the cream of tartar. Continue to beat the egg white and when the egg whites just begin forming peaks, add the 1 cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, while continuously whisking the whites. This process will take about 7-10 minutes and the egg whites should be stiff peaks at the end. Add the vanilla and beat a few more minutes until the stiff peaks are all glossy.
Place the meringue in a pastry bag fitted with the tip of your choice. Decorate the meringues in the pattern that most amuses you.
Sprinkle the vanilla sugar over the top of the meringue and blowtorch cook it! Slowly cook/brown the meringue to desired doneness- darkness is really the key, you want a deep amber color with parts of the white meringue peaking through. Be Careful not to burn the meringue.
Refrigerate tartlets until ready to serve!