I’d be hard-pressed to come up with a dessert that I personally love more than this. It’s the specific pairing of mouth-puckering citrus curd and clouds of billowing sweet meringue that gets me really excited!
Because I can simply never get enough of it, I’ve made various renditions based on the same pairing – Lemon Meringue Pie and Lemon Meringue Tarts, Lemon Meringue Cupcakes, as well as the more recent Lemon Baked Alaskas. And, I have no doubt whatsoever that I’ll continue to find other versions to make to satisfy my citrus/meringue obsession.
When it comes to citrus, it’s the good old lemon that remains our favourite here Down Under – we seem to have the ideal conditions for growing lemons and there’s barely a back yard that doesn’t feature a lemon tree. Limes are much less common and, more often than not, pretty darned expensive to buy at the supermarket. Consequently, you don’t tend to see a lot of lime-flavoured desserts. That said, I adore the extra tartness of limes and love using them when I can, despite the cost.
Intrigued by the idea of the American Key Lime Pie (but, sadly, with no access to Key Limes), I’ve previously made a Lime Meringue Pie using the stock-standard sweetened condensed milk base. In addition, egg whites were, rather unusually, folded into the mixture to produce a light mousse style filling and the whole thing was topped with fresh cream. As lovely as that was, this time around I wanted to try a straight lime curd filling, paired with meringue to deliver a stronger flavour contrast. I eventually went with this recipe from David LeFevre, found on Tasting Table.com.
I made quite a few changes to the recipe, the main one being to the curd itself. I wanted more of it to fill the bigger tart pan I had, but didn’t want to increase the already whopping amount of butter. So, I increased the recipe by half, but reduced the amount of butter comparatively. And, to ensure the curd was still nice and thick, I added a couple of egg yolks into the mix. We don’t have Graham Crackers here, so I used shortbread biscuits, adding some roasted hazelnuts for added texture and taste.
The resulting curd was spectacular – strikingly tangy and delightfully oozing – the perfect contrast to the sweet cloud of marshmallow-like meringue. With the 10 inch tart pan I used, it ended up being quite a sizeable pie and there was plenty to go around, with a few slices left over. I snaffled one of them and I have to say that it made for a spectacular breakfast the next morning!
- 250g (8.8 oz) plain biscuits (I used shortbread biscuits plus 1/2 cup roasted hazelnuts)
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 80-90g (2.8 - 3.1 oz) unsalted butter, melted (or as needed)
- 4 large eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 to 1-1/4 cup granulated sugar (depending on tartness of limes)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 170g (5.9 oz) unsalted butter, diced
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons water
- 4 large egg whites
- Add enough water to a medium saucepan to come about 1-2 inches up the side and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
- Meanwhile, combine eggs, yolks, sugar, salt and lime juice in a medium size bowl and whisk until smooth.
- Once water reaches a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low and place bowl on top of saucepan (bowl should be large enough to fit on top of the saucepan without touching the water). Whisk until the mixture begins to thicken (this will happen right towards the end of the cook – it will move quite quickly from liquid to a custardy coating which you’ll see forming on the sides of the bowl). Depending on the stove, this will take about 15-20 minutes. If using a thermometer, the mixture should reach 170F (76C).
- Immediately remove from heat and stir in butter, a piece at a time, allowing each addition to melt before adding the next. Continue whisking the mixture until thoroughly combined, then lay a teatowel lightly over top of the bowl and let it cool down a bit. Once cooled, lay some plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd (this will ensure it doesn’t form a skin), and refrigerate until needed.
- Preheat the oven to 180C (350F). In a food processor, pulse the biscuit crumbs and the sugar till combined.
- Pour the melted butter over the mixture (start with 70g and add incrementally until the mixture looks like wet sand and holds together when pinched between the fingers).
- Transfer the mixture to a 9-inch pie plate or flan tin and use the bottom of a measuring cup or glass to compact the crust across the bottom and up the sides of the pan.
- Bake until the crust is golden-brown and aromatic, about 10-12 minutes. Remove the piecrust from the oven and set aside to cool. Once cooled, refrigerate, lightly covered with plastic wrap, so that it can set firmly.
- If using a tart tin with removable bottom, remove the chilled tart casing and place on a serving dish.
- Spoon the chilled lime curd into the crust and level out with a spatula. Place plastic wrap lightly over the surface of the curd and refrigerate. Close to serving time, make the meringue.
- In a small saucepan set over medium heat, add the sugar and water and stir until the mixture resembles wet sand. Cook, without stirring, until the sugar-water mixture reaches 240F (115C).
- While the sugar mixture cooks, whip the egg whites: To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add the egg whites and whip on low-medium speed until they form soft peaks. Once the sugar syrup has reached temperature, take off the heat and, with the egg whites still beating, slowly drizzle down the side of the mixing bowl into the egg whites. Then on high speed beat until the meringue is glossy and holds stiff peaks and the bowl has cooled.
- As soon as the meringue is made, remove the pie from the refrigerator and discard the plastic wrap. Use a spatula to top the lime curd with the meringue, using an offset metal spatula or butter knife to spread the meringue and create soft and pointy peaks (alternatively you can pipe on the meringue). Use a kitchen torch to scorch the meringue lightly. Otherwise, place under a broiler (grill) and bake until the meringue browns (1-3 minutes). Refrigerate until you're ready to serve.
Food Photography Info: Canon 550D (EOS Rebel T2i); Sigma 30mm 1.4 DC ‘Art’ lens / Natural lighting