Monday, March 18, 2013

Mini "Golden Lime" Pies

If the limes that you're thinking of involve margaritas, there are actually no limes in this pie. "Golden lime" is another name for calamansi. They're also known as "Philippine lime".

Earlier this week, my brother-in-law Jeremiah brought over a nice big bag of calamansi from his parents' garden. Basically, every Filipino has a tree in their backyard, or they at least know an aunt/uncle/grandparent/relative/close friend/etc. who has one. Bagfuls of this citrus fruit get handed out at family gatherings, given to neighbors, or even just brought to work for colleagues to help themselves to.

If you're ever gifted with a bag of homegrown calamansi, a thought will pop into your head at some point..."Wow. This is a lot of calamansi." Then, you'll start to wonder if you're even going to be able to put all of it to use. Only a few calamansi are needed at a time to make dipping sauces, like toyomansi, or to squeeze over dishes, like pancit and arroz caldo, or even to marinate meat and seafood. After all of that, you'll still be left with a few dozen. This is when I started thinking about using calamansi in a dessert. I recently went to SusieCakes Bakery in San Francisco, and I bought one of the "Sweetie Pies" filled with lemon curd. (More on this trip coming soon!) Substituting calamansi for the citrus element in the curd made pretty good sense to me. This is how I came up with "Golden Lime" Pies!

Left: My nephew, Jon Jon, picking calamansi.
To make the filling, it all starts with the calamansi. These are photos of my Auntie Jessie's tree (left), Jeremiah's parents' (top-right), and my Uncle Romy's (bottom-right).

The size and color of the fruit can vary, depending on the tree. They can have green or orange skin, but the pulp is usually a golden or bright orange color. Their size ranges from as small as a berry to as big as a mandarin.

The ones from Jeremiah's parents were about the size of marbles and had gorgeous apricot-hued rinds. No matter the color or size, though, calamansi tastes like a cross between a sour orange and a lime. It's tart and sweet, much like the kumquat, and has a more fragrant and floral complexity to it than a typical lemon or lime would. I like to call them little golden bursts of sunshine...

My usual farmers' market trip left me with a fruit bowl full of limes and meyer lemons (all from Snow's Citrus Court). I thought their flavors would highlight all the right notes in the calamansi and would be perfect in the pie filling.

I used one small lime, half of a meyer lemon, and about a dozen large calamansi to make 1/3 of a cup of freshly squeezed juice. But, if you prefer or don't have any limes/lemons on hand, you could use calamansi juice all by itself.

In a large, heat-proof mixing bowl, combine 3 large eggs and 3/4 cup of sugar. Whisk this together until smooth, then add the calamansi juice.

Over a pot of simmering water, gently cook the pie filling. Stir with a wooden spoon constantly to keep the mixture from curdling and forming lumps.


After about 10 minutes, the filling should be thick and creamy. Stirring in some butter makes it even creamier.



Rich, luscious, citrus-y pie filling. Mmmmmm. Pour this over a bowl of fresh fruit, fill cupcakes with it, or eat it by the spoonful. It. Is. Sooo. Gooood.



However, this is for a pie... To make the crust, I recommend a recipe that I found on The Pioneer Woman for "Perfect Pie Crust". It makes a flaky, melt-in-your-mouth crust for this particular pie size and the baking time/temperature.





Confession: Using shortening used to scare me. I would avoid it at all costs, usually just substituting with butter. (Don't ask me why. I really don't know.)

Then, I finally tried a couple of pie crust recipes that included shortening. I was pleasantly surprised by the results. So, if you're wondering if shortening can make a difference...Yes. Yes, it can. And this recipe uses only shortening.

That's right. No butter.



Use a pastry blender to combine the flour and shortening, until all of the big chunks are gone and the texture is similar to a coarse meal.

In a separate bowl, lightly beat one whole egg, then pour it over the flour and shortening mixture.


Add 5 tablespoons of ice cold water and 1 tablespoon of white vinegar, just like the recipe says. But, instead of regular iodized salt, you can use 1 teaspoon of fine sea salt like I did. (PS. If you're worried about the pie crust having a funky vinegar-y taste to it, the vinegar is undetectable.)


After stirring lightly with a wooden spoon, press the dough into a ball and wrap it in plastic wrap. The dough needs to refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (or hang out in the freezer for 15-20). This helps to keep the pie crust from ripping and falling apart when you roll it out and form the mini pies.


To assemble, first divide the chilled dough in half, then roll it out until between 1/4" and 1/8" thick. Cut out 8 pie crusts with a round or rectangular cookie cutter.

However, I have to admit, I was pretty excited to finally whip out my mini pie press! It was an impulse buy from the last time I wandered through a Bed, Bath, & Beyond (only $6!), and it was getting a little too lonely sitting in one of my kitchen drawers.

Pour about 2 - 2 1/2 tablespoons of curd in the center of one pie crust. (Since this is a more loose filling, the shape of the press helps keep everything from spreading all over the place.)


Next, lay another piece of pie crust right on top. Close the press and lightly apply pressure, or use a fork to seal the edges.

And voila! Miniature pies! They're like dessert hot pockets...or homemade pop tarts.

Altogether, the dough is enough to make 8 miniature pies.


Bake them in a 400 degree oven for 10-12 minutes, until the edges start to brown. The pies will look pale still. If you prefer a more browned pie, you could always brush the tops with cream or egg-wash and sprinkle with sugar before baking.

The crust comes out so, so flaky and melts in your mouth, the filling is sweet, tart, and ultra-smooth, and the calamansi isn't as sharp and assertive as a straight-up lemon curd can be.This pie is much more mellow and buttery, with floral hints of orange and lime.


You can serve the pies with extra pie filling, freshly whipped cream, or a powdered sugar glaze. Their small size and bright flavor make them perfect for upcoming Easter gatherings, or even for baby and bridal showers. Give "Golden Lime" Pies a try this Spring!



Golden Lime Pies (makes 8 individual pies)

Print Recipe

Ingredients:
Crust:
3 cups All Purpose Flour, plus extra for rolling
1 1/2 cups Vegetable Shortening
1 large Egg
5 tbsp Cold Water
1 tbsp White Vinegar
1 tsp Fine Sea Salt

Filling:
3 large Eggs
3/4 cup White Granulated Sugar
1/3 cup freshly squuezed Calamansi Juice
4 tbsp Unsalted Butter, cubed

  1. To make pie crust: Combine all purpose flour and vegetable shortening in a large mixing bowl. Using a pastry blender, "cut" the shortening into the flour until the mixture becomes a coarse meal. In a separate small bowl, lightly beat 1 egg. Add the egg to the flour and shortening mixture. Add the water, vinegar, and sea salt. Stir with a spatula or wooden spoon just until the ingredients are incorporated, but do not overwork the dough. Then, press the dough into the shape of a disc and tightly wrap with saran wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  2. To make filling: Whisk together 3 whole eggs, sugar, and calamansi juice in a large, heat-proof mixing bowl (glass or stainless steel). Next, place the bowl over a pot with 2-3 inches of simmering water. The bottom of the bowl should not be touching the water. Gently cook over medium heat until the filling has thickened (about 10-12 minutes). To prevent curdling and lumps, make sure to stir constantly with a spatula or wooden spoon. Remove the bowl from the heat, then stir in the cubes of unsalted butter. Cover and set aside until ready to use.
  3. To make the pies: Divide the dough in half. Roll one half out on a floured surface, until between 1/4" and 1/8" thick. Using a large round or rectangular cookie cutter, cut out 8 pie crusts. Place 2 tbsp of filling on 4 of the pie crusts, then lay the other 4 pie crusts on top. Use a mini-pie press or a fork to seal the pie crusts together. Make small slits on the top of each pie. Repeat this process with the other half of pie dough.
  4. Bake the pies, on a parchment or foil lined baking sheet, for 10-12 minutes at 400 degrees. (The pies will still be pale.) Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to come to room temperature.
  5. Serve with more "Golden Lime" filling, whipped cream, or a powdered sugar glaze. Enjoy!

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