Saturday, March 31, 2012

Key-Lime Pie with White-Chocolate-Coconut-Rum Cream and Macadamia-Lime Pralines

The Setting: Still dark out...I snuck out of bed to squeeze in some tea and typing before the little one rouses.

The Soundtrack: Nothing, technically, because I am trying not to wake the baby or the Hoosband, but I've got salsa music stuck in my head right now. The craving for Latin food is imminent.

Steaming up the Kitchen: Hot tea now...but for breakfast...maybe waffles?

The Scenario: It's on every menu in every restaurant in just about all of my favorite destinations. It's tropical, tart, sunny, bright and sweet. It's that perfect, creamy bite of Florida when I'm 1100 miles away. It's (I just realized I am starting to sound like a Kenny Chesney song, but that's more or less appropriate) key-lime pie.

I've been ordering key lime pie at restaurants since I was old enough to use a fork, but only last year did I actually make one for myself.

I think I may have tried once or twice (sans recipe) when I was scarcely tall enough to turn on the oven, but the resulting soupy messes were enough to scare me off for far too long.

Little did I know, key-lime pie is one of the easiest pies you can make from scratch. The filling needs nothing more than limes (key-limes if you're a stickler), egg yolks, and sweetened condensed milk (okay, so not completely from scratch...but SCM is one shortcut I will take any day); the cooking time is minimal; and the recipe (unless unnecessarily fooled with) is foolproof.

The recipe for my first homemade key-lime pie came from Cook's Illustrated, which, as I've said before, is a can't-be-beat source for tried and tested (and tested and tested) recipes.

The one I'll share today is solidly based on the CI version, with a couple minor tweaks and a few major twists.

I hope it will transport you to the Keys, or to the sunny destination of your dreams. Who knows? Maybe I'll see you there!

Key-Lime Pie with White-Chocolate-Coconut-Rum Cream and Macadamia-Lime Pralines
Initially the macadamia nuts were supposed to go in the crust. All week long I kept telling Hoosband, "Stop eating the macadamias! They're going in my pie!" And then I left them out. But the pralines make a pretty nice garnish, don't you think? Oh yeah... I should probably mention that real key-lime pies should be made with real key limes (but I used big fat Persian ones, and they're really just as good). Also, while the filling and toppings would still be tasty in a store-bought crust or a crust made with store-bought grahams, the homemade graham crackers send this pie over the top!

~For the White-Chocolate-Coconut-Rum Cream~
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
8 oz white chocolate chips
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp coconut rum (I used Malibu)

~For the Filling~
1 (very tightly packed) tsp very finely minced fresh lime zest (avoid the white pith; took me 2 large limes)
4 large egg yolks
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (took me 2 1/2 large limes)

~For the Crust~
2 cups Homemade Graham Cracker crumbs
2 T butter, melted
2 T dark brown sugar

~For the Pralines~
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 T butter
2 tsp water
2/3 cup roasted, salted macadamia nuts
1 lime (for zesting)

Make the white-chocolate cream: Place the cream in a medium-sized microwave safe bowl, and microwave for 1 min, 10 seconds. Add the white chocolate chips and stir until smooth. Stir in the vanilla and rum. Allow to cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate till ready to whip.

Make the filling: Make sure the lime zest is very finely chopped.

Beat the zest and the egg yolks together with a whisk till light and frothy. Whisk in the sweetened condensed milk and then the lime juice. Set aside to thicken while you make the crust.

Make the crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Mix together all crust ingredients with a fork until uniformly wetted and sandy-looking. Press into a 9-inch pie pan. Bake at 350 for 8 minutes. Cool. Leave oven on.

Once the crust is cool, pour in the prepared filling, and bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Place on a cooling rack and cool completely before placing in the fridge to set for at least 3 hours.

Meanwhile, make the pralines: Line a small baking dish or a space on your counter with parchment paper. Place the butter, water, and brown sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil, watching carefully to avoid burning. Stir in nuts, remove from heat, and spread mixture in an even layer over the parchment.

Zest a lime evenly over the top of the praline (avoiding the white pith) and allow to cool. Gently break into pieces and place in an airtight container at room temperature till ready to use.

Finish the Pie: Transfer the white-chocolate cream to a med-large bowl and whip just until it can hold a firm peak. Transfer the cream to a pastry bag.

Pipe the cream onto the pie in a way that is pleasing to you, and garnish with the pralines.

Pop on your shades, kick back, and listen for the sound of the ocean.

Thanks for reading! Here's to Being the Secret Ingredient in your life.

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