Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Florida is famous for its key lime pie, and in 2006 it became the official state pie. Key limes were grown in Florida before a hurricane in 1926 wiped out the crop. Now, key limes come from Mexico and a more hardy Persian lime is grown in Florida.
Key limes are smaller and more tart than regular limes. They have a lighter and thinner green skin (yellow when ripe) than the more common lime. Here’s a link to a picture of a ripe key lime with two Persian limes.
Since key limes are so small, they don’t have much juice. This means you have to squeeze a lot of key limes to get 1 cup of juice! Thankfully, I have a food processor!
Although some key lime pies use a pastry crust, Dorie’s recipe calls for a graham cracker one. What could be simpler? She even suggests buying one, but since they’re so simple to make, I wanted to make a homemade version.
On top of the crust is a layer of coconut and cream that’s been reduced to a delicious syrup. I’m a coconut fan, so the more coconut in a dessert, the better! A long time ago, I travelled to Papua New Guinea and visited a small island off the coast of Madang where a young school boy shimmied up a tall coconut tree in his barefeet to retrieve a fresh coconut as a snack for us to enjoy. It was the best tasting coconut I’ve ever had.
Three ingredients make up the key lime part of this dessert: sweetened condensed milk, lime juice, and egg yolks.
History says that there were no cows in Key West in the good ol’ days, so canned milk was the only dairy product available. Evaporated milk is not the same as sweetened condensed milk‑the key word being “sweet”. In both, water is removed from the milk. But, about 40% of sweetened condensed milk is sugar. It is a thick, yellowish color often used in caramel, toffee, and fudge (and Dulce de Leche).
A Swiss meringue with coconut folded in converts this tart into a pie (a tart is topless!). Sometimes whipped cream is used instead, and is so much easier than the fickle meringue.
This Swiss type of meringue is characterized by heating the egg whites and sugar on the stove to melt the sugar and then whisking with a mixer until cool and doubled in volume. When you heat the eggs on the stove, you must constantly whisk them so that you don’t get sugary, scrambled eggs (as I did in attempt #1). Also, you should take the eggs off the heat when they reach 130˚F (or as Dorie says “hot to the touch”). Meringue is best put on your pie as soon as the pie is cool. Meringue waits for no one and will separate if ignored (as I found out with attempt #2).
After finally getting some meringue on these mini pies, I threw them into the freezer, melted some chocolate, and then dipped the frozen pies into the chocolate (à la Dairy Queen). Adding more sweetness to this already sweet dessert seemed like a good idea, and one that might make it more like the Mounds bar Dorie talks about in her introduction to the recipe! You could also brush the bottom of the crust with chocolate instead, but you’d miss out on the photo opportunity!
Playing around: Dulce de Leche
In my reading, I found out that the popular Dulce de Leche that keeps popping up in posts from food bloggers is actually sweetened condensed milk that’s been cooked for hours to form an even sweeter milk that’s caramel-like. I was able to find a jar of Dulce de Leche at my local grocery store, but I also wanted to try making it. It didn’t sound hard. Just put an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk into a pot of water, cover the can with 3-4 inches so that it’s completely submerged, and boil for 4 hours, making sure the water always covers it so that it doesn’t explode! Then, cool on a rack. Sounds easy enough.
The homemade version was thicker and not as sticky as the store-bought one. It had a nicer, nuttier, full flavor. I then tried replacing the sweetened condensed milk with the Dulce de Leche in this Florida Pie, and it turned out great. Tart and sweet all at once.
I also crushed chocolate covered wafers for the crust instead of using a graham cracker crust.
Topped with whipped cream (because I wasn’t about to attempt meringue #4) and some flaked, toasted coconut, and it was ready to be served to the sweetest tooth in town.
You can find the recipe for Florida Pie at this blog Dianne’s Dishes or in the book Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. To see how the rest of the TWD group fared with this week's recipe, click here and then click on each blogger!
This is another sweet dessert, but the tartness of the key limes is a welcome reprieve. The Dulce de Leche version was good too--sweeter and more tangy. Another winning recipe from Dorie.
Recipe for Next Week (May 20)
Traditional Madeleines on pages 166-168 chosen by Tara of Smells Like Home.