Key Lime Pie, Belize Style
During my few days in Belize, I had more variations of the key lime pie than I can ever remember. For one thing, I used to shy away from lemon or lime. Secondly, I live in Switzerland, not quite the Florida Keys.
As you may know, I am a huge fan of meringue. And I tend to gravitate toward any dessert that is made with soft, sweet meringue. There was no hesitation on my part at Ka’ana Boutique Resort in San Ignacio, where a lemon meringue pie was on the menu. Out came an oversize triangular slice of pie with tall meringue piled atop a tart crust and lemon filling, a diner classic (accompanied by a scoop of that bright pink dragon fruit gelato). Citrus and meringue showed up next at Elvi’s Kitchen, where Ms. Elvi is keeping her key lime pie recipe a top secret. But just up the road in San Pedro, another chef was busy in the kitchen perfecting his take on the dessert as well. And his recipe… is below.
Venezuelan Chef Andres Futo runs the kitchen at Red Ginger, named after the bright tropical flower native to Belize. The restaurant is at the Phoenix Resort on Ambergris Caye, modern and luxury condominium suites outside of San Pedro town, right off of the beach. Futo focuses on Belizean and Caribbean flavors, using local ingredients in dishes like conch chowder and seafood ceviche, as well as in empanadas, salbutes and tiraditos. That said, the most talked about dish on his menu is a New York strip steak with white truffle mac ‘n cheese, gingered broccoli and a Cabernet reduction! It was November when I was there, and even though his pumpkin cheesecake with marshmallow sour cream topping and a gingersnap crust was getting all the raves (and had marshmallow which I love!), I was most interested in his take on the key lime pie. A ginger butter cookie was topped with key lime mousse and caramelized Italian meringue cream in a trendy, deconstructed way. The presentation was excellent, and I wanted to order an entire bowl of that meringue. I didn’t wish I lived in the Florida Keys, I wished I lived in San Pedro. (Read more about the Phoenix apartments here and see why that’s where I’ll be staying next time I’m in San Pedro!)
Chef Jose Luis Ortega was also playing with limes, not far away at the Victoria House, in a romantic setting, candlelit yet casual. Even though his dessert was meringue-free, I felt I needed to continue with the theme. And so it was, the Caye Lime Brûleé (below left), an individal graham cracker tartlet with pineapple and guava coulis. The recipe for this refreshing and attractive dessert is also below. I’d recommend a visit to the restaurant itself so you can begin with Ortega’s sophisticated “Mayan Bistro Cuisine.” This was definitely the place I had the most difficulty ordering dinner. Want lobster? Well what would you get: the pecan crusted Caribbean lobster tail with coconut rice, drawn lime-garlic butter and grilled vegetables; or tender strips of fresh lobster tail in a hand-battered almond crust with a citrus honey sauce and a salad of baby mesclun leaves; or the char-grilled lobster tail in a pineapple citrus butter sauce with roasted guajillo garlic mashed potatoes and sautéed cho-cho? Dessert was easier, I didn’t choose – I ordered several.
Are you a fan of Key Lime Pie ? Besides never using green food coloring [gasp], what else makes a traditional dessert for you – graham cracker or pastry crust? Cooked or uncooked filling? Meringue or whipped cream on top, or neither?
Red Ginger’s Key Lime Pie
“I wanted to feature the Key Lime Pie, since it is a pretty popular dessert, but wanted to give it a twist. So I basically ?deconstructed? the dessert. Instead of using whipped cream, I changed it to caramelized Italian meringue. Instead of using a regular pie crust, I created a ginger cookie for the base of the dessert. And for the filling, I did a hard Key Lime mouse that could be molded, yet keeping the flavors and texture as similar as possible.” – Chef Futo
1 cup lime juice
Zest of 1 lime
3 egg yolks
1 14 oz can condensed milk
250 ml heavy cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 oz unflavored gelatin
2 oz dark rum
Whip the heavy cream until you can make stiff peaks. Incorporate the powdered sugar and mix thoroughly. Reserve.
Combine the lime juice, egg yolk, condensed milk, gelatin and rum. Mix well in a blender and then put it in a double boiler until it gets hot. Let cool down, using an ice bath if you would like, and fold in the whipped cream.
Cover a baking pan with saran wrap and place round cylinders on top. Cylinders can be plastic or metal and should be approximately 2? wide by 3? high. Cut pieces of wax paper and place inside the cylinder so that it covers all around the inside of the cylinder mold. The wax paper should stick out about 1? from the top of the mold. Pour the key lime mixture and fill 2/3 of the way up. Place the baking pan in the freezer until mixture is fully frozen, then transfer to refrigerator. Once the mixture defrosts you can unmold it and remove the wax paper. The mouse cylinders can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days.
2 1/2 cups flour
220 grams butter
120 grams powdered sugar
2 oz finely grated fresh ginger
Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor. Mix well. In a baking pan lined with a Silpat or parchment paper, stretch dough to 1/5? thick. Using a butter knife, make cuts in the dough 5? x 5? before baking. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius) until they brown. Rotate the pan halfway through to ensure all sides cook evenly.
120 g water
300 g sugar
150 g egg whites (approximately 5 eggs)
Put egg whites in mixer and beat on high until stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes.
Combine the sugar and water in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the mixture until it starts to thicken and golden. Turn the mixer to the highest speed and very slowly start adding the hot water and sugar mixture. Once you combine the ingredients reduce the speed to medium-high and continue mixing until the metal bowl cools down, about 10 minutes. Place the meringue in a pastry bag with a star-shaped tip.
To plate the dish, place a spoonful of the meringue in the center of the plate. Place ginger cookie on top. Put a key lime mouse cylinder in the middle and pipe meringue on top. Caramelize the meringue using a torch (same type of torch you may use for a crème brûlée). Decorate with chocolate syrup, toasted coconut flakes and caramel syrup.
Victoria House’s Caye Lime Brûleé
Yield: 1 dozen
1 1/2 cups fine ground graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup white sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
Mix cracker crumbs, sugar, melted butter and cinnamon until well blended. Press mixture into 5? 5? by 3/4? loose bottom tartlet pans. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 5 to 7 minutes. Remove and cool. Refrigerate until ready to assemble dessert.
3/4 cup lime juice
3/4 cup white granulated sugar
1/2 lb unsalted butter
1/3 cup sour cream
6 oz cream cheese
Combine the lime juice, butter and sugar over a low heat until well mixed. Allow to cool. Beat the three eggs well. Combine the beaten eggs with the lime juice mixture and cook on a low heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Mix well with cream cheese and sour cream. Spoon into chilled graham cracker crust filled 5? by 3/4? loose bottom tartlet pans. Refrigerate. Sprinkle white granulated sugar over top and caramelize carefully with a butane or electric caramelizing torch just prior to serving.