When I tasted my first Andy Bowdy pie at the Sydney Flour Market about a year and a half ago, my view of desserts changed forever. Gone were the days I thought desserts were just sweet. I’ve now come to appreciate that a great dessert has multi-dimensionality of flavour – it’s sweet, but also sour, salty and/or bitter. The best desserts are not just the ones that taste good and leaves you wanting more, but it’s ones that surprises you, lets you taste flavours you weren’t expecting, and leaves you curious.
This key lime pie was exactly that. A deceptively humble looking pie, just a key lime pie I thought. Oh how wrong I was.
By the way, for those of you who haven’t yet had the pleasure, Andy Bowdy is a pastry genius that creates one of the most outrageously delicious desserts in Sydney. He makes desserts look sexy. In a messy, decadent, eat me if you dare way. It’s all about the dripping fudge sauce, the oozing caramel, and of course, the mountains of soft, pillowy torched meringue.
In my attempt at replicating his pie at home, I had to make sure the following components were present: a crumbly buttery biscuit base, tangy lime curd, and soft pillowy meringue that adds another incredible layer of texture. But the x-factor of this pie is the hidden layer of dulce de leche, an unexpected carmelly nutty sweetness that hits you after you taste the tang of the curd. Don’t tell people it has dulce de leche and let them be very pleasantly surprised.
And yes, I know we don’t have key limes in Australia, so technically it’s not a “key” lime pie, but it doesn’t really matter, because any lime you use will be delicious.
This pie only has four components, so it doesn’t take long to make. It starts with a digestive biscuit base, filled with a layer of dulce de leche, then the rest of the pie is filled with lime curd, and finally topped with swiss meringue that is gently torched with a blow torch. The rustic-ness is part of the beauty of this pie, so just pile and swirl the meringue freely and let it fall naturally.
Makes approximately 10 – 15 individual pies depending on size of tart tins.
Dulce De Leche
2 x 395ml Skim Sweetened Condensed Milk
225g caster sugar
2 teaspoons of lime zest (approx. 1-2 limes)
1/2 cup of lime juice
3 whole eggs (135g) + 3 egg yolks (45g)
113g unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
1 or 2 drops of green food colouring (optional)
Digestive Biscuit Base
400g Digestive biscuits
200g unsalted butter, melted
5 egg whites (150g)
225g caster sugar
Loose base tartlet tins (I used a mixture of 8cmx1.8cm tins for decent medium sized individual pies, and 6cmx1.8cm tins for smaller pies)
- To make the dulce de leche. Preheat the oven to 200°C (fan-forced, increase to 220°C if using conventional oven). Pour both cans of condensed milk into a baking dish and cover the top tightly with foil. Place the covered dish into a roasting pan and fill the pan with boiling water so that it comes up to two thirds of the dish. Bake for 1 hour 45 minutes until it's golden brown. Check the water level halfway through baking and top up with boiling water if required. You want to make sure there's always water in the pan or risk the dulce de leche burning. Once the dulce de leche is cooked, spoon the mixture into a bowl and whisk until it's smooth. Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for 2-3 hours until cold, or overnight.
- To make the lime curd. In a medium sized heatproof bowl, rub the sugar and lime zest with your fingertips to release the oils from the zest. Add the eggs and yolks, and the lime juice to this bowl. Cook, over a pot of simmering water, whisking constantly, until the mixture has thickened and the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Take the bowl off the heat and let the mixture cool for 15-20 minutes. Using a spatula, gradually add the butter, one to two cubes at a time, stirring, until the previous cubes have been integrated into the curd before adding more. You should end up with a smooth mixture with no lumps. Add a drop or two of green food colouring if you want the curd to be green rather than yellow, and stir until mixed through. Pour the curd over a sieve into a clean bowl to get rid of the zest. Cover with cling wrap, so that it sits directly above the curd like a skin. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours until cold and firm, or overnight.
- To make the base. Preheat oven to 160°C fan forced (or 180°C conventional). Butter the base and sides of the loose base tartlet tins. Crush the digestive biscuits using a food processor or mortar and pestle until you get fine crumbs. Mix the melted butter in with the crushed biscuits. You should end up with a mixture that resembles wet sand. Press this mixture tightly into the tins, using pressure from your thumb or index and middle fingers, covering the base and sides of the tins. Bake in oven for 8 minutes. Let cool and refrigerate until firm (about 30 minutes).
- To assemble. Spoon the dulce de leche into a piping bag fitted with a plain nozzle. Leaving the pies in their tins, pipe a layer of dulce de leche on the base of the pie, covering the entire base. Spoon lime curd into the pies until just filled to the top of the pie. (Don't overfill or the curd will overflow out of the pie when you add the meringue).
- To make the swiss meringue. Wipe your stand mixer bowl with a paper towel dabbed with a bit of vinegar to get rid of any grease or detergent residue. Make sure your bowl is completely dry. Place egg whites and sugar in the clean stand mixer bowl and heat gently over a pot of simmering water. Using your hand (wear a food safe glove), whisk the egg whites and sugar until you can no longer feel any sugar granules and the mixture is just hot enough to touch (take off the heat just before it gets too hot for your hands to touch). Take the bowl off the heat and using a stand mixer, whisk on medium-high speed until stiff peaks.
- Using a small offset spatula, pile the meringue freely over the lime curd, making swirls with the back of your spatula. Don't overwork the meringue, just let it fall naturally on top of the curd. Using a blow torch, gently torch the meringue until slightly browned, turning the pies around as you torch. Be careful not to burn the meringue.
- Keep refrigerated and serve the pies cold. When ready to serve the pies, remove the pies from the tins carefully, firstly removing the tart ring, followed by the base. You can use a blow torch to gently heat up outer sides of the tins, so the tins slide off easily.
The dulce de leche and lime curd can be made the night before or several nights before as both keeps well in the fridge (dulce de leche about 4 weeks and lime curd about 2 weeks).
Make the base and compose the dessert on the day (or the day before) you are planning to eat it.
You probably won't use up all the dulce de leche, but it's easier to make a big batch and keep the rest in the fridge for later use.
The meringue is at its best on the day it is made, it will start to weep in the fridge after a couple of days.
The meringue has to be made just before you are ready to compose the pies as it loses its stiffness and becomes foamy if not used straight away.