Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Key Lime Squares

For some reason, I seem to have a fixation on squares this summer. I find this a bit odd, because I associate squares with winter....

Perhaps I'm all over the squares because of the winter-like conditions in my office where the air conditioning blasts frigid bursts of life into the atmosphere? I dunno.

I DO know that this recipe is kind of "the bastard love child of Pioneer Woman and David Lebovitz". I've borrowed the key lime filling from Pioneer Woman, and paired it with a little blast of David Lebovitz's meringue. The crust is a standard graham wafer crust (with a little sugar thrown in because who doesn't love a little sugar?) Also, the sweet crust when paired with the tart lime, is divine I tell you!

I wanted something that could do double duty. I needed a bit of a dessert that I could take to a tea on Sunday afternoon, but from which I could steal a few slices for a dinner on Saturday night. This fit the bill.
I can't say I mastered the meringue. In fact, if I were one of the contestants in Hell's Kitchen, Gordon Ramsey would have my arse on a platter. I think that the egg whites might have "cooked" a bit during the double boiler part! So the meringue wasn't as smooth as it should have been. I'm pretty sure I know why though. I didn't use an instant read thermometer, so I think the temperature of the egg whites was higher than the regular-read thermometer indicated..... I mean, it was fine for piping a wee blast on each tart, but wouldn't have really worked well in other contexts. I do plan to master this at some point in the future though. Mark my words! [shakes fist in the air] "Meringue, you will not bring me down!!"

All of that being said, these were perfect for a tea - pretty and wee and properly bite sized. They went beautifully with the cucumber sammiches.

Start by buttering a 13 X 9 X 2 pan
Preheat the oven to 350

For the crust:
44 graham wafer crackers
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup butter
Pop 44 graham wafer crackers into a food processor and crush!
Melt 2/3 cup butter in a small pan
Mix graham wafer crackers, melter butter and 2/3 cup sugar together.
Press into the bottom of the pan
Bake for 5-7 minutes until golden brown

For the filling:
2 Tbsp lime zest (key limes if you can get 'em)
1 cup key lime juice (I bought mine at a specialty gourmet shop)
4 egg yolks
2 cans sweetened condensed milk
Mix lime zest, lime juice and egg yolks. Add condensed milk and mix on high until it's thick. And smooth. Pour mixture into the crust and bake for 15-17 minutes until the filling is "set".

Remove from oven and cool. Refrigerate for at least an hour before cutting.

For the meringue: (good luck! Report back!)
2 egg whites
5 Tbsp sugar
pinch of kosher salt
couple o' drops of vanilla extract

Whisk together the egg whites, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk as it heats. Check it with an instant-read thermometer. Once it reaches 60C or 140 F, transfer the bowl to the standing mixer and beat at high speed until cool, scraping down the sides of the bowl midway through mixing. Add the vanilla at this time. Whip until light and fluffy (the meringue - not you).

Turn on the broiler.

Scoop the meringue into a pastry bag with a star tip, and pipe a floret of meringue on each "square".

Pop the pan under the broiler and keep your eye(s) on it as it will brown super quickly. When the broiler has done its work, remove and cool completely and then refrigerate before cutting.

Prepare to be admired. And loved....

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