A delicate shortbread crust provides the delicious foundation and coconut cream creates a velvety rendition of the classic key lime tart, made from the aromatic and tangy key limes. The hand-torched meringue candy frosting, garnished with fresh thinly sliced limes, and sprinkled with verdant lime zest complete the picture-perfect dessert for any occasion.
For the Shortbread Crust:
12 ounces shortbread cookies
5 tablespoons coconut or palm sugar
5 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons coconut cream
1 teaspoon key lime juice
For the Key Lime Filling:
9 farm-fresh eggs, separated
2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
1½ cups coconut cream
1 cup key lime juice
For the Toasted Meringue & Garnish:
2 farm-fresh egg whites
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons cold water
1½ cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Creating a Successful Meringue Frosting !
Classic sticky meringue, marshmallow fluff, 7-minute frosting, boiled frosting—all of these delicate, white, light, and airy toppings require the use of egg whites, a bain-marie process, and beating for volume and pointy peaks.
Basically, meringue requires egg whites and granulated sugar. Oftentimes, pastry chefs add vanilla or almond extracts for flavor and cream of tartar to stabilize the egg whites. Corn syrup or honey and water (is using fewer egg whites) provide greater marshmallowy softness and stiffness.
Grease and egg yolk protein are two of meringue’s destroyers. Even a tiny particle of grease may break down the whites and prevent them from ever achieving meringue’s quintessential fluffiness. To avoid grease, remember to use metal and never use plastic mixing bowls, scrapers, measuring cups or utensils, or rubber scrapers. Furthermore, vinegar may naturally degrease metal tools used for meringue. Carefully separating eggs will ensure that egg yolk proteins do not taint the egg whites.
The use of a bain-marie, the indirect slow-cooking method of ingredients in one pot set over some heated water in a bottom pot, allows the delicate egg whites to heat while the sugar dissolves without curdling. Traditionally, 7 minutes provides ample time and heat to create perfect peaks, but be sure to beat the egg whites until they reach beautiful form-holding peaks with no droopy curls.
To Prepare the Shortbread Crust:
Preheat the oven to 375°F. With cooking spray, coat the interior of an 11½-inch tart pan. Set the tart pan atop a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Set aside.
In a food processor, pulse the shortbread cookies into a fine crumb. Add in the coconut or palm sugar, the butter, coconut cream, and key lime juice. Pulse until the ingredients come together. Press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared tart pan. Place the tart pan on the parchment-lined baking sheet into the preheated oven. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove and allow the crust to cool slightly on a rack. The crust will be very soft and buttery.
To Prepare the Key Lime Filling:
Reduce the oven’s temperature to 325°F.
Separate the eggs. Place all the egg yolks in a mixing bowl. In a clean top pot of a double boiler or in a metal mixing bowl that may sit down in a pot without touching the water, place two of the egg whites, ensuring that no yolk proteins enter the egg whites. Set aside the egg whites aside for use in preparing the meringue frosting.
Whisk the 28 ounces of sweetened condensed milk, the coconut cream, and the key lime juice into the bowl of egg yolks until well blended. Pour the filling over the baked crust.
Bake 35 minutes, or until the filling sets with only a slight jiggle. Remove from the oven and immediately place in the refrigerator to cool. Chill for at least 2 hours.
To Prepare the Toasted Meringue & Garnish the Pie:
Fill the bottom pot of the double boiler, or the pot in which the metal bowl may fit, with enough water, usually 1 to 2 inches deep, that when the water boils, it will not touch the bottom of the top pot or metal bowl. Set the water-filled pot over medium to medium-high heat and bring the water to a rolling boil.
In the metal pot or mixing bowl containing the reserved egg whites, add the granulated water, sugar, corn syrup, and cream of tartar. Whisk ingredients together gently. Set the top pot over the boiling water in the bottom pot. Using a hand mixer with grease-free beaters, beat the egg white mixture at high speed until the meringue increases in volume to form stiff peaks, about seven minutes.
Remove the top pot or bowl containing the meringue from the radiating heat from the water-filled bottom pot. Stream in the vanilla extract while beating the meringue for one more minute, or until it becomes thick enough to pipe and firmly hold its peak.
Remove the chilled pie from the refrigerator. Spoon the meringue into a prepared pastry bag fitted with a large tip. Decorate the top of the pie. Using a butane or propane torch (commonly used for caramelizing the sugar on top of crème brûlée), lightly toast the meringue.
If desired, add thin slices of fresh lime. Be sure to remove as much moisture as possible as it will cause the Swiss meringue to break down. Chill and serve.
Recipe Created & Stylized by R. Shannon Mock
Photography by Robyn J. Mock
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