Lime Icebox Pie with Meringue Topping

"Necessity is the mother of invention." (Plato....maybe)

Necessity presented itself in the form of 4 pounds of limes, gifted by a dear friend, which prompted some killer Virgin Mojitos plus this variation on the Lemon Icebox Pie.  I didn't have any heavy whipping cream on hand, so instead I frugally used the recipe's leftover egg whites and made a meringue topping.

Most meringue recipes include sugar, but the second time making the pie, I forgot the sugar and actually liked it better.  I find the pie filling plenty sweet already, so I didn't miss the extra sugar in the meringue.  You can choose to add or omit depending on your tastes.

Timing is important when using meringue which doesn't like to sit around once it's ready.  The meringue must be applied to a hot filling to ensure it's cooked through from top to bottom.  As soon as the pie filling has been heated, you should have the meringue ready to go.

When applying the meringue, make sure to first spread a band around the edge of the crust before filling the center. Anchor the band by having it touch the crust all the way around.  Otherwise, the meringue will pull away from the edge during baking.

If you prefer skipping the meringue, though it's really not that fussy, you can top the pie with whipped cream instead.

Lime Icebox Pie 
Makes one 9.5" pie

Prepare Crust
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place in microwave-proof mixing bowl and melt in microwave:
1 stick unsalted butter (4 oz or 8 tablespoons)

Mix together with melted butter:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs (approx. 13 - 5" x 2 1/4" graham crackers)  [I use a food processor to pulverize the crackers, but you can also place crackers in a ziploc bag and crush with a rolling pin.]
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Press into a 9.5" glass Pyrex pie plate and bake for 6 - 10 minutes or until lightly browned.  Set aside to cool on a wire rack.  (Leave oven on.)

Prepare Filling and Meringue
4 large eggs

Place the egg yolks in a large bowl and place the egg whites in a stand mixer bowl.  Set them aside for the moment.

To stabilize the meringue, prepare a cornstarch paste.  In a very small saucepan, thoroughly mix:
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon sugar

Gradually stir in, making a smooth, runny paste:
1/3 cup water

Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly, then boil for 15 seconds.  The paste should be thick and translucent. Remove from heat and cover with lid.

Whisk together with the 4 egg yolks:
2 (14-oz) cans sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon grated lime zest
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice, strained

Pour filling into cooled crust and bake for 6-7 minutes.  Meanwhile finish preparing the meringue.

Beat the 4 large egg whites on medium speed until foamy.  Add and continue beating until soft but definite peaks form:
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

If using sugar, beat in very gradually:
1/4 cup sugar, preferably superfine

Beat on high speed until the peaks are very stiff and glossy but not dry.  Reduce the speed to very low and beat in the cornstarch paste 1 tablespoon at a time.  When all the paste is incorporated, increase the speed to medium and beat for 10 seconds.  Immediately spoon meringue over the hot pie filling, anchoring a band around the edge of the crust first, then filling in the center.

Bake for 20- 25 minutes.  Let cool completely on a rack, then refrigerate.   Serve cold or at room temperature.

Whipped Cream Variation:
Save egg whites for another use.  Omit making cornstarch paste.
Bake filling in crust for 10 minutes.  Let cool on rack for 30 minutes, then refrigerate for another 30 minutes or until chilled.  Mound whipped cream on top of pie and chill for another hour before serving.

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