For ages I thought you were either on Team Lemon Meringue or on Team Key Lime. You couldn’t be on both.
I think for me it was a simple reason of colour. Lemon Meringue is just such a bright lemon yellow, it is as if beams of sun got trapped inside that lovely curd. On the other hand, key lime pie was just rather insipid. Not that it didn’t taste amazing. It still had all the bright tartness that lime should have. So it wasn’t a flavour issue. It was just that the pale, yellowy (due to the egg yolks over-riding the lime juice colour) colour didn’t sing to me. Of course, if I was handed a slice, I would happily eat it, I just never bothered to make one at home. I guess if I closed my eyes, I could have!
Some try to enhance the colour with food colouring. I don’t like that route. I don’t care if the colouring being used is all natural, with nothing to harm me. The colour just never looks natural- it looked more like a crayon green. Then it all changed. Matcha powder entered into my world! Suddenly a way of colouring my baking became a little bit more exciting. The colour that matcha offers is truly more subtle and looks exactly as something green should look: totally like it came from nature. So I could finally make key lime pies at home and hold my head up high.
The other reason some don’t like key lime pie as much is the texture. They are used to the bouncy curd-like quality found in lemon meringue pie. This is an understandable issue. Isn’t texture the reason some people turn their noses up at most things (mushrooms, oysters etc) The difference between the two pie bases is butter vs sweetened condensed milk. Key Lime relies on the milk combining with the egg yolks to achieve the firmness as it bakes and then cools. But once you get used to the difference in texture, and the flavour is perfectly balanced between the tartness of the limes with just enough sweetness, this pie can become one of your favourites as well.
Instead of baking my pie in a traditional pie plate I like to use a tart pan with a removable bottom. And instead of a traditional graham cracker crumb crust, I like to use a chocolate almond crust. It is a visual thing. I love the contrast of the dark chocolate crust against the pale pastel green of the filling. And when you bake it up in a tart pan, the fluted edges add to the visual finished product. Plus the chocolate flavour adds depth and is a perfect compliment to the tartness of the filling.
So much of baking is a visual thing for me. Baking is a creative outlet for me. So when I am baking any sort of custard pie, like this pie, which traditionally doesn’t get covered in pastry, the finished pie can be somewhat boring. So immediately I begin to think how I might jazz it up. It can’t be something that rests on top as it bakes, as it will just fall into the filling, which is just a waste of time and will ruin the clean texture of the pie. So it has to be decor added afterwards.
Of course, this is where piped whipped cream or piles of fluffy egg white meringue can step in. Always a classic choice. Candied fruit slices can be another addition. Sprinkles or mint leaves can be even another layer. And this pie is pretty well sporting all of the above. Instead of candy-ing entire lime slices, I like to candy lime peel instead. It becomes more of a candy that you can easily eat along with the pie. Slices can be a bit cumbersome. So I’m including the method for the candied lime peel along with the pie recipe below. This isn’t new though. I use the method found in my Lemon Mint Yogurt Pound Cake, which really makes for a fun garnish. And the remaining sugar can easily be used in other baking.
How to candy citrus peel: Candying lime (or any citrus for that matter) is made much easier if you have a bar zester. This is a tool that has a row of small sharp holes at one end. As you pull it along the citrus fruit, it will cut along the rind, pulling up the rind but still leaving the white pith behind. Which is fantastic, as you don’t have to sit there trying to cut the white away with a sharp knife. The pith is where all the bitter is. Then you drop the peel into boiling water to soften and remove any residual bitterness. Drain them and then add them to a simple syrup. Cook this until the rind slices have softened and turned somewhat translucent. Drain these and place them on parchment paper. And then roll them in a plate of sugar. Dust them off and you are ready to eat them. Just don’t eat them all before you want to use them to garnish your baking (which is what I’m always afraid of- they are so yummy!) Or else just make extra to nibble on while you are decorating your tart!
The crust is from one of my favourite baking books: Alternative Baker by Alanna Taylor-Tobin. This book is a fabulous collection of all sorts of sweet baking using alternative flours, like teff, almond, mesquite, sweet rice etc. Her Chocolate Almond Crust is one I turn to again and again. So really, this final tart recipe is one you can serve to ones with gluten issues, and yet no one else will even miss the fact that there isn’t wheat flour involved. It’s that good!
By the way, I usually only make this when key limes are in season, even if juicing them is a bit of a pain. But if you get the craving, you can easily use key lime juice, making this a year round tart. There are some great ones on the market. But having citrus like key limes in season in the middle of our winters is such a wonderful thing. They make for the happiest and brightest of desserts and baked goods. Exactly what we need to get through the dull, gloomy winter days. They truly do harken to the warmer days ahead, and help us hang on till those days return.
So go ahead, have a foot in both lemon and lime teams. I do! ;D
In case you wanted to use the confetti or sequins that I used to decorate this pie (the white against the green is just so lovely, don’t you think?) you can find them here at Supernatural Kitchen. They have great all natural products to make your baking and decorating even more joyous! For those of you who simply can’t find Key Lime juice, I’m including alternatives in the recipe below.
Key Lime Tart with Chocolate Almond Crust
A classic key lime pie gets all gussied up and taken to the next level. The filling includes a hint of matcha powder to bring out the lovely green hue of limes. It is baked off in a most dramatic and tasty chocolate and almond crust, making this perfect for those with gluten intolerances.
Candied Lime Ribbons
- 3 to 4 organic limes washed
- 1 cup sugar plus 1/2 cup
Chocolate Almond Crust
- 1/2 cup almond meal
- 1/2 cup dutch processed cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup sweet rice flour
- 2 tbsp tapioca flour
- 1/4 cup granulated cane sugar
- 1/4 tsp plus 1/8 tsp kosher salt
- 5 tbsp cold unsalted butter , cut into 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) cubes
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 large egg yolks
- 14 oz sweetened condensed milk this works out to 1 3/4 cups or 415 ml)
- 1 lime
- 1/3-1/2 cup key lime juice from about 12 limes: alternatively you can used bottled key lime juice
- 2 teaspoons lime zest
- 1/2 tsp food grade matcha powder
- lime slices, whipping cream, mint leaves for garnish
Candied Lime Ribbons:
Using a bar zester or vegetable peeler, remove the peel from the limes in vertical strips, trying to leave as much of the bitter white pith behind.
In a small saucepan, combine the peels with 2 cups of cold water and bring to a boil. Immediately drain, refill the pan with water, bring to a boil and drain again. Repeat this process three times to remove the bitterness from the peel. After the third dunking remove the peels from the pan and set aside. (if using ribbons created by a bar zester, you will only need to go through this process once)
Measure 1 cup of the sugar into a saucepan, and add 1/2 cup of water. Set over medium-high heat, bring to a boil and whisk until the sugar dissolves. Drop in the peels, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered until the peels are tender and translucent. Drain and cool the peels. Keep the syrup for adding to cocktails etc.
Place the remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl and add the peels. Toss with your fingers until the peels are thoroughly coated. Remove one peel at a time shaking off the excess sugar. Place on a clean plate until needed.
Reserve the unused sugar (even if there are lime bits in it) it works great for other citrus baking needs.
Store any unused lime peel in an airtight container. Keeps for several weeks this way.
Chocolate Almond Crust
Position a rack in the centre of the oven and preheat it to 375F (190C)
In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the almond flour, the cocoa powder, the sweet rice flour, the tapioca starch, sugar and salt. Give it a slow stir to combine.
Scatter the butter pieces over it all and then drizzle the vanilla extract over everything.
Turn the mixer to medium-low and run until the butter is blended in and the dough comes together in clumps. This should take about 3-5 minutes.
Dump the crumbs into your 9-10 inch (23-25cm) tart pan with removable bottom.
Press the dough evenly over the surface, starting with the sides and then moving on to the bottom. The challenge will be in keeping the sides square (as you can see from the photos of my latest tart, I didn't do a perfect job!) It can take up to 10 minutes to get it looking pretty. Don't rush it.
It may be crumbly. But it will come together, trust me.
Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork and place in a freezer for 15-30 minutes. Sometimes it is too crumbly for me to use the fork on it without disturbing the surface. (this can be affected by the weather or humidity in the air- in the winter if you have the heat on, it will be much drier, and this will affect the moisture content of the dough. But no worries- I have baked it without the fork step with no ill effects)
Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake until it is set and firm to the touch. This should take 22-25 minutes. Since the dough is dark you may not be able to tell if it has darkened past the point to getting too brown. So do use a timer, and look closely for edges that are pulling away from the sides of pan.
If it starts to puff up in any way while baking, you can use a tea towel to gently push back down.
Let it cool completely before filling.
Key Lime Filling
Preheat oven to 350-degrees.
You can use a stand mixer, a handheld mixer or even a bowl and a whisk for the following:
Beat the egg yolks until they are thick and turn to a light yellow (it takes a while, just keep beating).
Slowly add sweetened condensed milk while mixing on a low speed.
Zest 1 regular lime, making sure not to get any of the pith ( a microplane is good for this), then juice it.
Pour the fresh lime juice into a 1/2 cup measuring cup then fill the cup with the Key Lime juice to make a full 1/2 cup of juice.
Gradually add the lime juice and zest to the mixing bowl. Then, using a small sieve, push the matcha powder through it into the mixture. This will eliminate any lumps that may be in the matcha powder. Continue to mix on a low speed just until blended.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pie shell and bake 15 minutes. Remove and let cool. The filling should be just set, not loose and jiggly all over.
Once cool you can decorate as you wish. I use fresh fruit slices, mint leaves, whipping cream, edible confetti, candied lime peel, fresh zest, or even lime jelly beans.
Of course, some of them will need to be removed for slicing. So take a picture and then slice away. You can serve the candied lime peel directly on the tart, as it will be a lovely crunchy contrast to the creamy texture of the filling.
For those of you who simply can't find key lime juice or limes here are alternatives for the filling: use Persian limes if they are available. Or use a combination of 3/4 regular lime juice and 1/4 lemon juice to achieve the appropriate liquid amount. These work perfectly.
The base filling was inspired by the Key Lime Pie recipe found here at Favourite Family Recipes.