Entry 29: Key Ingredients

Hello Koala fans!

In addition to being a baker and marsupial wrangler, I’m also a very keen reader. One of my favourite novelists is an American author called Carl Hiaasen. I first became aware of his books after rummaging through one of these 10p bookstalls they sometimes have in hospitals. The cover of the book featured some kind of small furry rodent with a revolver pointed against its head and, intrigued, I decided to give it a whirl. The story is called Native Tongue and I’d definitely recommend it.

What has all this got to do with baking? It was in one of Carl Hiaasen’s books that I first heard about something called key lime pie. It’s a dish that originates in Florida (traditionally made with limes from Florida Keys hence the name) and it’s a wonderfully zesty twist on lemon meringue pie.

Yep, I'm pretty sure *everyone* saw this joke coming.

Yep, I’m pretty sure *everyone* saw this joke coming.

The recipe we’re following is one that I’ve tried a long time ago, rather successfully:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/keylimepie_93185

This recipe is a little bit of a cheat; traditionally key lime pie has a pastry base to it but being the lazy slacker I am, I decided to go with something a little simpler. Provided the biscuit base is well mixed and the biscuits finely crushed, it will do just as well as a pastry case for containing the filling.

While the limes may count towards your 5 a day, the rest of this certainly doesn't.

While the limes may count towards your 5 a day, the rest of this certainly doesn’t.

The first stage involves making the biscuit casing. The method is pretty much identical to making a cheesecake base. First, take a few digestive biscuits:

"It's not easy balancing on top of all these...."

“It’s not easy balancing on top of all these….”

…then place them into a clear plastic bag and then pound them into oblivion with a rolling pin. The name “digestive” comes from the fact that when these biscuits were first made, because they contained sodium bicarbonate, it was thought they helped people with digestion problems. The same school of thought was probably responsible for adverts like these:

Guinness may not be good for you but it’s probably keeping chiropractors employed.

Coming back to the kitchen, as I’ve mentioned before, using a plastic bag to crush the biscuits in not only helps keep your kitchen tidy but it also helps you ensure all your crumbs are finely broken up.

An absolutely spotless kitchen top. Let's see how long it lasts.

An absolutely spotless kitchen top. Let’s see how long it lasts.

Once the biscuits are powdered, set them aside and melt the butter over a sauce pan. Then it’s just a matter of mixing it into the biscuit crumbs, along with a small amount of sugar. Don’t be afraid to use clean hands to mix it all.

Furry paws are probably less of a good idea.

Furry paws are probably less of a good idea, no matter how clean they are.

Press the biscuit mixture over the pie case. Try not to make it too thick as the lime layer will need to sit in there as well.

An absolutely textbook biscuit casing. Or it would be if I'd gotten the recipe from a textbook instead of a website.

An absolutely textbook biscuit casing. Or it would be if I’d gotten the recipe from a textbook instead of a website.

Not only was the case looking very neat and tidy, the kitchen top is still perfectly spotless as well!

"One minute thirty six seconds."

“One minute thirty six seconds.”

Although it slows down the baking process, it’s always important to clean up between stages. This is because a) you run the risk of a clip round the earhole if you leave the kitchen looking like a bombsite and b) the texture of both the lime layer and meringue are very important. Stray biscuit crumbs will add nothing positive to either of them. Once the case is ready, the next step is the lime layer and so we need to prepare the fruit:

Zesting the limes quickly became a chore; it was really beginning to grate.

Zesting the limes quickly became a chore; it was really beginning to grate.

Limes are a wonderful ingredient, giving sharpness and a certain spark to whatever dish they’re used in. A long time ago, when I was a student, I was very fond of mojitos and cuba libres (coke or soda water mixed with lime and dark rum). However, I quickly became rather snobbish about them – many places use lime cordial when mixing cocktails and it completely wrecks the flavour. Cordial has a nasty chemical aftertaste to it, so whether you’re baking in the kitchen or getting plastered with friends, always insist on fresh lime juice, not cordial.

"There's not much juice here though...."

“There’s not much juice here though….”

This struck me as odd – the last time I followed the recipe, I didn’t recall being short on lime juice. Topping up with water is okay provided you don’t use too much. What you *don’t* want to do is top up your lime juice with water, mix it with all the other ingredients and then notice that you only juiced one of the limes and left the other next to the microwave.

Lively lime layer lovingly ladled into the case.

“Because only a complete moron would do that.”

Quite. The lime layer is pretty straightforward; mix the egg yolks, condensed milk, lime juice and zest together with a spoon. You don’t need any extra sugar for this bit as the condensed milk is fairly sweet anyways but because you also want as much of that amazing lime zestiness to come through as possible. The last stage is whisking up the meringue. It sounds odd but no matter how many times I type the word “meringue”, I always feel as though I’ve spelled it incorrectly. Maybe it’s just that my brain has trouble lining up the phonetic pronunciation with it.

"Enough of the English lesson, get cracking with the whisk!"

“Enough of the English lesson, get cracking with the whisk!”

When mixing meringue, it’s crucial to get plenty of air mixed into it. You want the meringue to sit lightly on the tongue, almost as though you’re eating a cloud….

"FLUFFY LIKE KOALA!"

“FLUFFY LIKE KOALA!”

…yeah, basically. There’s one additional advantage to using a biscuit case instead of a pastry case; you don’t need to prebake the case, you can put the whole in together in the oven. 20 minutes later on gas mark 4….

The finished key lime pie.

The finished key lime pie.

If you recall earlier, I mentioned that I topped up the lime juice with water and then noticed the other lime. What I didn’t mention was that I juiced the other lime and threw it in as well. This was probably not the wisest of moves as it caused some of the lime juice to seep through the casing. This made what should have been a good, firm biscuit layer rather soggy. =/

It's like Pac-man took a trip to the Florida Keys.

It’s like Pac-man took a trip to the Florida Keys.

The meringue was wonderful though. If it had been any lighter I think the pie would have started floating. Despite the escaping lime juice, the middle layer was very zesty and flavoursome. It’s a recipe I’ll follow again but I just need to be a bit more careful with that central layer again.

See you again soon folks!

4 responses to “Entry 29: Key Ingredients

  1. I probably wouldn’t have seen the key joke coming if it weren’t for the fact that the koala holding the keys was the main picture that came up in my subscriptions reader 😛

    Looks tasty!

  2. Marie-Claire

    Hey Buddy! Hope your doing well, heard you left the hospital, hope you are doing well, just thought to pop by your blog see whats going on and all is well;anyway keep in touch friend 🙂 Best Regards.

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