April 29, 2018

Frozen Margarita Pie

The weekend is winding down, but I'm already excited for the next one. I'll be done with classes and homework, I'll have more time to cook, and it will be Cinco de Mayo. Even though my friends are going all out at the bars, I know the real fun is with the food. There's nothing better than a party with a taco bar, and don't forget the salsa and guacamole. As for dessert? This frozen margarita pie is like the best key lime pie that made a pit stop at the bar. It has a bright, citrusy lime filling spiked with tequila cradled in a sweet and salty pretzel graham cracker crust, all topped with a torched meringue topping.

Normally I prefer a graham cracker crust for my custardy pies, especially the lime ones. I didn't stray too far off with this recipe, but I did add a secret ingredient: pretzels. They maintain the crunch and add some notable saltiness, which contrasts well with the sweetness and the tartness of the rest of the pie. Also, margaritas need salt and this is easily the tastiest way to incorporate it into the pie. I use the same method as a homemade graham crust: pulse the graham crackers (and pretzels) in a food processor until fine, add some sugar and melted butter, and quickly press into your pie plate. I pop it in the oven for a few minutes to firm up and toast a bit, then let it cool until the filling is ready.

The filling is surprisingly easy compared to other pies. I combine sweetened condensed milk, lime juice and zest (no need for key limes here unless you really want them), a splash of orange juice, some sugar, and, of course, tequila. I've made this recipe with other citruses and other (or no) alcohol, but I've found that the combination of lime and orange is unbeatable, and you really need the tequila to capture the essence of a margarita and hold on to the spirit of Cinco de Mayo. That all yields a very tasty but poorly textured filling, so I combine it with some stiff whipped cream to make a mousse-like filling. I prefer it frozen for a few hours to firm up and provide more textural contrast since you'll also have the fluffiness of the meringue.

The meringue is also very straightforward. I whip egg whites with some cream of tartar to stabilize them until soft peaks form. I then add some sugar and whip until the peaks turn stiff and glossy. There's a lot of debate about when to add the ingredients, how fast to whip the eggs, what order to do everything in, etc. but I've found that this turns out just fine. For some extra pizzazz, I broke out my new kitchen blowtorch and toasted the swirls of meringue. It adds that nice toasted marshmallow-y flavor and makes the dessert truly show-stopping. This could also be achieved by broiling it very carefully for about a minute on the top rack of your oven, though it runs the risk of melting the filling. If you've more risk-averse, this pie is still very tasty without the topping.

If this pie isn't enough, I have plenty more recipe ideas in my recipe index, so make sure to look for more dips, salsas, tacos, and other mains. I'm not sure what else could top this pie, but I'm sure I'll come up with something eventually. For now, enjoy this creamy, cold, refreshing dessert, and I'll get back to you soon.

1 Cup Pretzels (2 oz)
3/4 Cup Graham Cracker Crumbs
3/4 Cup Sugar
6 T Butter, Melted
1 Cup Heavy Cream, Chilled
1 Can Sweetened Condensed Milk
4 Limes, Juiced & Zested
1/4 Cup Orange Juice
2 T Tequila
3 Egg Whites, Room Temperature
1/4 tsp Cream of Tartar

Heat oven to 350F. Grease a 9" pie plate.

Pulse the pretzels in the bowl of a food processor until only small bits remain. Add the graham crumbs and 1/4 cup sugar; pulse a few times until sandy. Add the melted butter. Quickly press into the prepared pie plate. Bake for 6-8 minutes or until set. Set aside to cool.

Whip the cream until it holds stiff peaks. Set aside.

Whisk the sweetened condensed milk, lime juice and zest (1/2 cup lime juice, 2-3 T zest), orange juice, tequila, and 1/4 cup sugar together. Gently fold in the whipped cream in 3 additions. Spread into the cooled pie crust and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours.

In a clean bowl, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar together on medium speed until they reach soft peaks. Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and whip until stiff, glossy peaks form.

Spread the meringue onto the pie and toast with a kitchen torch or under the broiler for 1 minute or until golden.

Serves 8

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