Sunday, March 24, 2019

Lime Meringue Pie



If you are a follower of my Instagram, you know how much I love pie. I've been having a lot of fun lately with decorative elements and putting twists on classics. Personally, when I want a pie, I want a classical taste that is familiar in taste but somewhat conceptual in design. Remember my Lucky Charms Pie? The point is that I love lemon meringue pie...but lemons weren't on sale at the grocery store for 6/$1, so guess who won that fight.

This isn't key lime pie because key limes are tiny and actually are a citrus hybrid with a spherical fruit that can be quite small. Really they're best for juicing and making pie out of, since they're quite tiny to eat or enjoy. They also have a specific flavor that translates into something a little more fragrant and sweet than the lime you might find from the grocery store. Most of our limes come from Mexico and South America, where they grow easily.

In Pinoy cuisine, one thing can be said about the flavor profiles we seem to enjoy: put vinegar with everything. Pinoy people love vinegar and sour things, and I'm no exception to that rule. Sour things make your mouth pucker and water and they round out flavors that might otherwise be flat. One thing I learned in school that has sort of stuck with me in my career has been: if you taste something and it's tasty, but something is missing, 9 out of 10 the answer will be "acid." It could be a squeeze of lemon, a dash of vinegar, a little reduced wine or a smear of sour cream, but it is acid that elevates everything else and is a key component to delicious food. Learn to harness the power of sour!


Lime Meringue Pie
yields 1 9" pie

  • 6 oz flour
  • 1 oz walnut flour (or just fine-ground walnuts)
  • 1 oz powdered sugar
  • 4 oz vegan butter 
  • Ice water A/N
  • 8 egg yolks + 2 whole eggs
  • 1 c fresh-squeezed lime juice, strained (from about 5 or 6 fresh limes)
  • 1 3/4 c powdered sugar (sorry I don't know the oz, I always did by volume on this one!)
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 8 oz vegan butter 
  • Zest of 2 limes
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 4 egg whites
  • 7 oz granulated sugar
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
Sift the walnut flour into the 6 oz AP flour and pinch in the fat using your finger tips. Don't stop until it all comes together and the butter is about pea-sized. Sprinkle a little bit of water over it at a time and press gently until it all comes together. Chill in a disc in the freezer while you prepare the rest of your stuff. 

In a sauce pot, melt your 8 oz vegan butter in with your lime juice and powdered sugar over a medium-low flame. Meanwhile, whisk together your eggs and egg yolks with the granulated sugar until completely homogeneous. Set up a bowl lined with a fine mesh strainer for later. When your butter is melted completely, give that butter-lime mix a quick stir and splash in about 1/2 cup of the liquid into the eggs, and then whisk gently to warm it. This is called tempering, and is essential to do with any liquid/custard product that will contain egg. 

Scrape your egg mixture all into the pot and whisk gently, constantly, over a medium flame until thick. Do not let this mix boil under any circumstances! Remember, with curds, low and slow is the way to go. When the mixture is a gloriously thick and shiny consistency, quickly dump your curd into the bowl lined with the strainer, and strain out lumps that may have occurred. Once passed through, stir in your lime zest and vanilla paste. If you want to make this a little more green, it's 100% okay to add a drop of green food coloring. It's okay, but optional. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic film into the surface of the curd to prevent from getting a skin. Store in the fridge.

Turn your oven to 350 degrees. With this dough, you will be flouring your surface. Sorry, you need it this time - the walnuts are worth it for flavor but with this crust they really do need a little more flour and structure, as they do release quite a bit of oil. Flour your marble surface and rolling pin and roll out your dough to a thin flat disc, and line your pie pan with it. I like to let my dough rest in the pan for about 5 minutes to let the glutens relax a little before I decide how I trim it and decorate it.

You can do polka dots, braids, whatever you like for yours!
With this particular crust, I knew that I was going to have a meringue mounding up the top so I needed to have any design I was going to decide on be around the edge, but I still wanted a little bit of a three-dimensional element happening. With decorations, I really love leaves as elements, and I have this pretty cutter that looks like lime leaves. Unfortunately, it's too big to go around the edge of the pie, so I took my smallest circle cutter and cut a lot of small circles to go around the edge. I stuck them on with a little bit of egg wash, but you can use a little almond milk if you like. You may as well use egg wash, though, since you're going to want to brush the sides of your pie dough with the egg wash to make it brown.

Never throw away the pie crust trims! Turn them into little decorative elements that will go on your pie!

Prick your pie crust with a fork and line with a parchment sheet, and fill with baking beads (or dry beans) and bake for 20 minutes, or until fully cooked and browned. To make the leaves, cut them with a mold and bake them until crisp, about 10 minutes. I got the 3D shapes by propping the leaves against the lip of my baking sheet. Set aside to cool. Now, we're going to make a meringue!

Place your egg whites in the bowl of  your standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Meanwhile, place your sugar in a small saucepot with just enough water to cover. Fit it with a candy thermometer and bring it up to a slow boil on a medium high flame. Please note that it's very important to not jostle the pan in any way while it's coming to the temperature that you're going to want it at. Otherwise, it might crystalize and you're going to have to start again. Your goal temperature is 260 degrees F. When it gets up to 250, you can turn on the standing mixer and start whipping it to foam up.

Whip your egg whites until they've become quite white and fluffy, to about a medium peak, which should be the right amount it takes to get from 250 to 260. If you need a little more time, turn your whisk down to the lowest possible setting and let it stir. If it sets, you're in trouble. 

When all is ready, turn your whisk up to high and carefully pour the hot sugar syrup in a thin stream, being very careful to avoid the whip. Pour it in slowly, as you continue to whip to stiff peaks, until all the sugar is gone. Turn the speed down to medium-high and let it whip until the meringue is cool, about 3 minutes. What you've just made is an Italian meringue, and it's the most structurally sound of all meringues and will last you the longest. 

I totally used a smear of green gel dye in this. Why? Because look at that gorgeous color.
Now, we're finally ready to assemble! Obviously this takes quite a bit of time to do, a couple of hours, but it is worth it. Assemble by removing the baking paper and beads from your pie crust and dumping your curd in, smoothing the top to be even. Dump in your meringue and use an offset spatula to swirl and make attractive flips and whirls. You can use a torch to make it toasty, or a super-hot oven, around 450 degrees, for 3 minutes tops. Finish with your leaves, set in the side, against the meringue. 

To cut: heat up your knife with the flame of a torch or some near-boiling water, and your meringue will be cut smoothly!

And there you have it! A gorgeous, super-tart, super tasty lime meringue pie. I hope you've enjoyed reading, and please don't hesitate to tell me if you try it out.  Happy cooking and happy eating!

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