Last weekend, we took a family day trip to the Everglades while my sister and brother-in-law from Denver were down visiting. As I type this, the northern states are hunkering down for a big snow storm which somewhat idealizes the day's memories.
We began the outing with a lovely lunch at this old and comfy "Rod and Gun Club," built in 1864. We started out with a basket of fried gator (we were in the Everglades after all) which I personally think tastes like rubbery chicken, but my son loved it. We then had some wonderful seafood salads, grouper sandwich, and a seafood platter. Local Florida food at it's best! As usual, I was so excited when the food arrived that I forgot to take some pictures. The most memorable part of the meal came when they brought out my husband's luscious Key lime pie for dessert. Sunshine on a plate. And that, my friend, is why the following day I made my version of a Key lime tart and a Key lime custard.
Following lunch we took an airboat trip into the Everglades..... the mangroves were spectacular! Airboats are very loud (we wore headphones) and very fast (held on for dear life).
The captains of airboats tend to be a hardy bunch of characters and our daring captain, Picou, did not disappoint.....
He was a Cajun from Louisiana and had many-o-tales about the Everglades and it's critters.
In the afternoon we stopped at the little roadside "Café Havana" for an authentic cuban coffee, known as café cubano. Traditionally made by adding the first few drops of the espresso to the sugar and mixing vigorously to make a creamy light brown paste. The remaining espresso is then added to this paste.... resulting in a smooth, sweet expresso with a nice light brown foam on top called espumita.
This machine and the sẽnora who made my café cubano did a fine job indeed!
I just could not get that Key lime pie out of my mind so the next day I tried my hand at making this official pie of the state of Florida. Key limes are more tart and aromatic than the common persian limes and their rind is thin making them more perishable. The yellow filling in Key lime pie is due to the egg yolks not the juice. If you ever see a green key lime pie.... run, this would be due to added food coloring and is frowned upon by the purists of Key lime pie. However, those same purists would probably turn their noses up at my "key lime tart" but it was delicious anyway!
The first Key lime pie was invented in the late 19th century in, of course, Key West but the true creator is unknown, leaving room for several establishments to claim that their pie is the "original." Since milk was not readily available in the Florida Keys before the days of refrigeration, or before the railroad or the Overseas Highway were built in the 20th century, most cooks had to rely on condensed milk. Traditionally Key lime pie is made with canned sweetened condensed milk. I made my version with cream, Key lime juice, eggs and sugar. That's all. I poured it into a tart shell and baked..... and the left over custard went into a little ramekin to make a Key lime custard.
I hope my northern readers have enjoyed yet another slice of Florida sunshine. You certainly needed it this week!
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Key Lime Tart
2/3 cup freshly squeezed Key lime juice
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 recipe pâte sucrée - basic sweet pastry, pre-baked (see below)
(can be made in a 10" round, 9 " square or a 5' x 14" tart pan)
pre heat oven to 325 degrees
Whisk the 5 eggs together in a bowl. Add the lime juice, sugar and cream and mix together until smooth. Pour the mixture into a pre-baked tart shell. Bake for 15-20 minutes until just firm. Let the tart cool completely and then arrange thinly sliced Key limes on top.
Pâte Sucrée - basic sweet pastry dough
I use this basic dough recipe for most of my dessert tarts. This dough freezes well so I like to make this dough in a double batch when at home (for the tart business I would make in large batches) and freeze the other one for later use if I'm not using it right away. I figure if you're going to the effort to make pastry dough then you might as well make two... so this recipe is a double. Remember, the key to a successful and flakey crust is to work quickly and keep the dough cold. You want the butter to remain in little pea sized balls throughout the dough for a flakey crust.
300 grams flour (2 cups) I like to weigh my flour for more accuracy
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon sugar
14 tablespoons unsalted butter - chopped
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons ice water
In a food processor add the flour, sugar and salt and pulse until combined. Add the chopped butter and pulse until the butter is in small pea sized balls. Add the water and pulse until the dough just comes together.
Put the dough out to a floured surface and make into a large mound and cut in half with a pastry scraper. I like to weigh the halves so that they are equal. Put each half onto a square of wax paper and form into a disk. Wrap with the paper and chill for at least one hour.
If you are freezing at this time, then wrap again in foil and freeze. Let dough defrost in the refrigerator before use.
Roll out dough on a floured surface into a 13" circle. Place dough into a 10" tart pan and fold the overhang inward and press gently into the sides. Do not force or stretch the dough because a thin spot may cause the filling to leak. The dough edges should be a little bit higher than the side of the tart pan to help prevent shrinkage. Prick the bottom of the shell with your fork. Press a piece of foil (12"x13") into the edges of the shell and cover with the foil completely touching and covering the entire shell. Chill for at least a half an hour.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Completely fill the foil covered shell with pie weights or dried beans. Put the shell into the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes. Take out of the oven and remove beans and foil. Brush the inside of the shell with a beaten egg white to prevent leakage from small cracks. Return to the oven for about 10 minutes and bake until golden brown. Let cool on wire rack.
The shell is ready to fill!