I love calamansi so much that I grow my own on a small tree on my balcony. The citrus fruit, which is also called calamondin, hails from the Philippines. It is tiny – only about 2cm in diameter – but it’s intense and tart. The fruit is usually harvested when the rind is still green but, even when under-ripe, the flesh is bright orange. It makes a fantastic drink – stir it into tonic water, adding a shot (or two) of rum if you want an alcoholic hit. It’s also delicious in this tart.
Calamansi and crème fraîche tart with toasted macadamia crust and meringue
You can buy calamansi in shops specialising in produce from the Philippines, such as those in World-Wide House, in Central, and around Spring Garden Lane, in Wan Chai. Many of the shops receive shipments just a few times a week, so you might need to order them in advance. You’ll need about 30 for this tart.
Calamansi are so small that you can’t juice them using standard citrus juicers. The easiest way is to cut each one in half and squeeze by hand, then strain through a sieve, pressing the pulp and seeds to extract every last drop. Adding crème fraîche to the filling balances the acidity of the fruit, making it less sharp.
Use shallow pans or rings for these tarts. For this photo shoot, the pans I used were 11cm in diameter and 2cm deep and the recipe made five tarts of a generous serving size. Pans/rings that are 8cm or 9cm in diameter (and no deeper than 2cm) make a more reasonable serving.
The tart shells can be baked in advance. The filling shouldn’t be baked more than a couple of hours before serving, or it will make the shells soggy. Add and torch the meringue at the last moment.
For the tart dough:
120 grams unsalted macadamia nuts
190 grams icing sugar
1 tsp fine sea salt
250 grams unsalted butter, chilled
440 grams plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for rolling the dough
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
For the filling:
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk (save the white for the meringue)
130ml granulated sugar
¼ tsp fine sea salt
100 grams crème fraîche
135ml fresh calamansi juice
For the meringue:
1 large egg white
¼ tsp fine sea salt
Icing sugar, as needed, sieved
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Put the macadamias in a pan and bake them for about 10 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Cool to room temperature.
Put the macadamias with the icing sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the nuts are finely ground. Add the flour and process to combine thoroughly. Cut the butter into 1cm cubes and add them to the nut-sugar-flour mixture. Process until the butter is about the size of peas. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Whisk the eggs with the vanilla extract and drizzle this over the dry ingredients. Mix with your fingertips to form a rough dough. Very lightly knead the dough so it’s cohesive, with no dry spots. Divide the dough into three even portions, shape them into discs, then wrap each one in cling film. Refrigerate for at least two hours.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough to 2mm thickness. Cut the dough to fit your chosen tart pans or rings; you’ll need five 11cm pan/rings, six 9cm pan/rings or seven 8cm pan/rings. Drape the dough without stretching it so it fits into the contours of the pan/ring and trim it so it’s flush with the edge. Place the pans/rings on a parchment-lined baking pan and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes while preheating the oven to 200 degrees. (You won’t need to use all of the dough for this recipe; it keeps in the fridge for about two weeks, or frozen for longer storage, and is good for other sweet tarts.)
While the dough is chilling, make the calamansi filling. Whisk the eggs with the yolk. Add the salt and sugar and immediately whisk until the mixture is slightly frothy. Whisk in the crème fraîche until fully incorporated, then whisk in the calamansi juice.
Use the tines of a fork to press holes at 1cm intervals over the bottoms of the chilled tart shells. Press squares of aluminium foil into the shells, fitting the foil into the contours. Bake the shells at 200 degrees for five minutes, then turn the heat to 180 degrees and bake for about five more minutes, or until the edges of the crust are pale golden and firm. Remove the foil and bake the shells for a few more minutes, or until their surface is matte. Reduce the heat to 160 degrees.
Put the rack holding the tray of tart shells on the lowest shelf of the oven. Pull out the rack slightly from the oven and carefully pour or ladle the calamansi filling into the baked tart shells, filling them almost to the top of the crust. (If you pour the filling into the shells while they are sitting on a kitchen surface, then try to move the tray into the oven, the filling will almost certainly slosh out.) Bake the tarts at 160 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until the filling is set – it will be slightly wobbly at the centre. Take the tarts from the oven and cool to room temperature.
Just before serving dessert, carefully remove the tarts from the pans/rings and place them on individual plates.
Weigh the egg white, then weigh out an equal amount of icing sugar. Sift the icing sugar. Use an electric mixer to whip the egg white with the salt until frothy. Add one quarter of the sugar and whip to combine. Whip in the remaining sugar in three more additions, then continue to whip until the mixture forms a meringue with medium-stiff peaks. Transfer the meringue to a piping bag fitted with a star tip. Pipe a rosette in the centre of each tart. Use a propane (or butane) torch to brown the meringue. Serve immediately.