This dessert started life as a mock key lime tart. “Mock” because have you ever tried to find key limes in France? And then juice them? So I was using juice from regular limes (with a splash of lemon juice, as suggested by Jenni, who is to be blamed– or thanked – for my key lime craving). I also hadn’t really planned on writing about it, until inspiration struck while I was at work doing something completely unrelated and the ungarnished tart was sitting helplessly at home in the fridge.
“COCONUT!!!” The dessert center of my brain screamed. Put the lime in the coconut! And then that songwas stuck in my head for the rest of the day. I’d already decided to go with a meringue topping, as Jenni suggested, because I was dubious as to the quantity and age of the cream I had on hand. And toasted meringue makes me happy.
Topping it off with a sprinkling of unsweetened coconut sounded like the right thing to do. And as you can see, the tart turned out to be very photogenic. (Delicious, too, obviously.) The pictures came out so well, in fact, that no sooner had I posted them to my Flickr photostream than I received a threatening email demanding that I post the recipe at once.
Well, I’m not going to do that. Not really. I’m going to give you the necessary ratios (by weight, naturally), and then you can make any size kind of key lime pie you like! (Although I would not dissuade you from the coconut variation. It was super tasty. Almost made me wish I had thought to put some coconut in the crust, or some rum in the filling before baking it. Oh, well. Next time.) I think ratios are making a comeback, thanks in no small part to Michael Ruhlman and his inspiring book on the subject.
First, the crust: I actually used the same crust as I used for my French fruit tart, minus the chocolate, which has a ratio of 2:1:1 – flour, butter, and sugar (plus a little salt and milk). But feel free to use a standard pie crust, the ratio for which is 3:2:1 – flour, butter, and water (I suggest a little salt here, too). It is the very same as my quiche crust, so you can follow those directions if need be.
Next, the filling: real key lime pie has three ingredients, which make for an easy ratio. 8:3:3 – sweetened condensed milk, key lime juice, and egg yolks. Use Nellie and Joe’s key lime juice if you can get your hands on it, otherwise, do like I did and juice about 3 limes and add in a squirt of lemon juice for good measure. In my case, 8 oz. of SCM and 3 oz. each of juice and yolks filled my 8″/20 cm tart pan perfectly. I’d double that at least for a deeper pie.
Finally, the meringue: I made a Swiss meringue, because it’s really easy and cooked meringue tends to be more stable and easier to work with than raw (French) meringue. The ratio here is 2:1 – sugar to egg white. Use the egg whites you have left over from making the filling. Whisk the sugar and egg whites together in a bowl big enough to whip the meringue in later. If you have a standing mixer, that’s by far the easiest way, though I did it by hand, so that’s possible, too. Place the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water and stir until the sugar dissolves and the mixture feels quite warm to the touch – don’t scramble the egg whites, though! Then, start whipping. Whip until the meringue holds its shape – medium peaks or so – and is irresistibly glossy and appetizing.
As for procedure, make the tart shell and bake it. Fill with filling and bake at 325 F/165 C until it is set, about 20 minutes for a shallow tart, up to 45 minutes or so for a deep pie. Cool completely. Crank up the oven as hot as it will go while you’re making the meringue. Sprinkle the pie with something to help the meringue stick, i.e. coconut, graham cracker crumbs, crushed cookies, what have you. Pipe or spread the meringue onto the cooled pie/tart as you see fit. Bake, checking every 2-3 minutes, until the meringue is toasted to your liking. If you have any leftover meringue, turn the oven way down and make meringues, like I did.
Cut into slices that are way too big and enjoy!
Originally published on Croque-Camille.