Saturday, February 18, 2012

Sunshine Seasons - Key Lime Tart

I love, love, love the Key Lime Tart at the Sunshine Seasons food court in The Land Pavilion at Epcot. 

Back in the day, The Land's food court was called the Farmer's Market.  There were different food stations (similar to Sunshine Seasons), but you had to purchase your food at separate cash registers.  I remember this being a real pain and hectic for my family because we would never want lunch from the same station.  There were windows for Ice Cream (and Toll House cookies... my dad's favorite), Pasta, Soups/Salads, Barbecue and Potatoes.  I would get either the spaghetti plate or a loaded baked potato.  Ahhh... memories. 

Now, the food court has a fresh, modern feel.  The food is freshly made and best of all... you get everyone's food and then pay at the same cash register.  The dessert station has many tempting options, but I go for the same thing almost every time... the Key Lime Tart!   I love the buttery sweet graham cracker crust and the tart filling. 

Just looking at that photo makes me hungry!  The recipes I have for the Key Lime Tart are very convoluted and perhaps incomplete... so I tried my best to follow the recipe.. knowing that it might not come out quite right.  

Here is a picture of the ingredients...

First, I took graham crackers and put them in a Ziploc baggie.... then I beat the heck out of them.  You could, of course, use a food processor... but mine was being stubborn and I couldn't get the darn thing to turn on.  Plus, this is a good stress reliever. 

You want to end up with 1 3/4 cup of crumbs.  Put this in a bowl with 1 cup of sugar and 1 1/2 cups melted butter.... yes, that's right.  1 1/2 cups! 

I couldn't believe how liquid-y this was... and that the liquid was all butter.  But, I was following the recipe.  I poured this into a pie plate and a bread pan (I don't have tart shells... but those would be better and your end product will be more like the original). 

I didn't really feel good about the recipe at this point... the crust seemed too strange... but per the instructions I put it in the refrigerator for a few hours to set up (you could do this overnight). 

Now this is where the recipe got a little confusing.  The instruction were very vague regarding what was supposed to be key lime filling and what was supposed to be in the meringue.  First step was to bloom 1 Tbs powdered gelatin and 1/4 cup water over a double boiler until it is clear.  Do not let it boil.  Then set it aside.

Then whip up 1 1/2 cups heavy cream until soft peaks form and then transfer to another bowl. 

Next, heat 1 cup of sugar and 4 egg whites (be sure not to have any yolk in there) over a double boiler, whipping constantly with a whisk.  I assumed that this was going to be my meringue. 

Transfer this meringue mixture to a mixer bowl.  Beat on high until very stiff.  

Now, the recipe says to mix the warm gelatin mixture with the meringue and the lime juice with the heavy cream.  I am not sure that is the proper procedure.  The picture is me folding the key lime juice into the cream. 

I filled my graham cracker crust filled pans with the cream mixture and then topped it with the meringue.  I have to say, the meringue was glossy and beautiful. 

Now, I have a kitchen torch... but when I went to use it to brown the meringue... I realized that I didn't have any fuel for the torch.  Duh.  Anyway, I put the pies under the oven broiler for a few minutes and it turned out nicely.   I know that the original tart has little blobs of piped meringue... but I love meringue so I just smeared it over the whole pie.

Here is a cross section of the pie after we took a few slices out...

The verdict?  It tasted delicious.  The crust was to die for (not surprising since it has so much butter and sugar!)... although it was tough to cut through.  Individual tart pans would have solved this problem.. The filling was tart and the meringue was sweet... yum.   

The problem with the pie was the texture.  The filling was way too airy... not as dense as the original Epcot tart.  It was just flavored whipped cream.  I think the issue is where the recipe said to put the gelatin mixture.  When I make this again I will put the gelatin in with the filling... not the meringue.  And I think it would be better if the filling chilled in the crusts and was allowed to setup a bit before putting the meringue on and serving it. Also, to be more like the original I might add a drop or two of yellow food coloring to the filling.... it would visually differentiate it from the meringue topping. 

I am not a very experienced baker and this was the very first meringue I have ever made.  Are there any bakers out there who have any advice?  I would love to perfect this recipe because I love key lime tarts/pies so much.   

What is your favorite dessert from Sunshine Seasons?