The sweet and zesty key lime pie is a much-loved staple in diners all across the United States, but nowhere more so than in its sunny state of origin, Florida. Apparently, the pie’s provenance can be traced back to the island of Key West in the 1850s when an ‘epicurious’ local sponge diver decided to get creative with his rations of condensed milk, eggs and the area’s abundant supply of zesty and aromatic native key limes. Or so the legend goes.
Back here in Melbourne, chef Paul Wilson agrees the pie is an American icon, ripe for a starring role in his upcoming Fourth of July festival at the Newmarket Hotel. It’s also a dish that lends itself perfectly to a few honest Aussie tweaks.
In Wilson’s adaptation, he’s added macadamias to the pastry crust, a pavlova topping and a striking garnish with crimson-hued, caviar-like native Australian finger limes – sourced from the New South Wales hinterland. In keeping with the Newmarket’s Cal-Mex theme, he also adds sea salt, plus a cheeky dash of tequila to the lime-flavoured filling. “Tequila and lime, as we know, is a combination that makes you smile,” he says. “It also adds lovely mellow warmth to the dish.” And we’re not going to argue with that. God bless America.
Paul Wilson’s Native Lime and Tequila Tart
560g macadamia nuts
900g plain flour
450g unsalted butter at room temperature
2 large eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1. In a food processor, pulse the nuts a few times to create a sandy texture. Add the sugar and flour, then pulse until mix resembles a fine meal.
2. Transfer mix to a suitable bowl, then add the butter, egg and vanilla extract. Transfer to a mixer with a paddle attachment then mix to a smooth dough.
3. Divide into two equal parts, then wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 30 mins prior to using (you’ll only need half a batch for this recipe – you can save the other half for the next pie).
4 egg yolks
2 whole eggs
400ml condensed milk
Juice and zest of 6 limes
25ml Anjo tequila
Wilson recommends a good blanco style tequila or agave for its fresh and bright flavour, which works well with the tartness of the lime.
6 native finger limes (three with flesh crumbled into little caviar-like gems, and the other three limes sliced thinly)
160ml egg whites
1 tsp vinegar
For the pastry, pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees, then grease and flour a 9-inch tart mould and place in the fridge to chill.
Meanwhile, partially flatten the pastry with a rolling pin – there’s no need to roll it right out at this point.
Arrange pastry into the chilled tart mould, then using your hands, mould the dough inwards around and up the sides of the tart mould. Trim off the excess dough and bake for 15 mins until golden brown.
Once cool, sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt flakes and set aside.
Set up a bain marie (water bath) with a pan slightly smaller than your bowl. Fill with about 5cm of boiling water.
Place the eggs, lime zest and tequila in the bowl and whisk over the bain marie for about 2 mins, until the mixture starts to become thick and foamy. This step is crucial: keep an eye on the mixture so that it doesn’t start to cook (take off the heat briefly if needed). It’s also an effort to keep whisking, but it’s essential to stick with it. You can use the whisk attachment on your Kitchen Aid if it all gets a bit much.
Gradually incorporate lime juice to the egg mix. Each time you add the juice, whisk the eggs back up to a thick and foamy consistency. Continue to do this until all of the lime juice has been incorporated. This step will take about 10 mins. Once all of the lime juice has been added and the thick, foamy consistency reached, then remove mixture from the direct heat and gradually add the condensed milk and combine well.
Pour mixture into the blind baked pastry shell and bake for 10 mins at 140 degrees, until just set.
Cool slightly, then allow the pie to set in the fridge.
While the pie is setting, prepare the pavlova topping.
Once pie is set, place pavlova mixture into piping bag and pipe a tower or nest shape, covering the top of the tart.
Bake tart again for 40 mins at 90 degrees to gently brown the Pavlova topping.
Sprinkle pie lightly with sea salt flakes and some slices and flesh of native Australian finger limes.
Serve with coffee, iced tea or tequila.