When the temperature rises, the idea of turning on the oven sometimes becomes inconceivable, so it’s always good to have a few no-bake dessert recipes in your repertoire. Here’s a recipe that appeared in my book Flavorful: 150 Irresistible Desserts in All-Time Favorite Flavors (Harvest, 2015), and it’s a favorite of mine. It’s half cheesecake, half frozen Key lime pie, and has a creamy texture similar to that of a semifreddo, never getting rock-hard in the freezer. It’s topped with an Italian meringue that you brown right before serving, which softens up the filling just enough to make it even more creamy and delectable. I serve it with a blackberry sauce and a few fresh berries, and it’s always a hit.
Makes 8 to 10 servings
Graham Cracker Crust
- 1 1/2 cups (181 grams or 12 whole graham crackers) graham cracker crumbs
- 2 tablespoons (27 grams) light brown sugar
- 5 tablespoons (71 grams) unsalted butter, melted
- Lime Cheesecake Filling
- 8 ounces (227 grams) cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar, divided
- ¾ cup (181 grams) sour cream
- ½ teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
- 3 large egg yolks (save egg whites for meringue topping)
- ¼ cup (60 grams) freshly squeezed lime juice
- 2/3 cup ((155 grams) heavy cream
- 2 cups (250 grams) ripe blackberries (or use thawed frozen berries)
- 1/3 cup (32 grams) confectioners’ sugar
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice
- Pinch of salt
- Meringue Topping
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon (20 grams) light corn syrup
- 1/3 cup (77 grams) water
- 4 large (120 grams) egg whites, at room temperature
- 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
- Optional Garnish
- Fresh blackberries, cut in half
- Finely grated lime zest
Make the crust
1. In a bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter until evenly blended. Pour the mixture into a 9-inch deep dish pie pan and press it evenly over the bottom and sides with your fingers. Freeze the crust while you make the filling.
Make the filling
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese at medium speed while gradually adding ½ cup (100 grams) of the sugar. Continue to beat at medium speed until well blended, about 2 minutes. Beat in the sour cream and vanilla. Turn the mixer off while you heat the yolks.
3. Place a medium saucepan half filled with water over medium heat until the water is simmering. Reduce the heat just to maintain a simmer. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining ½ cup (100 grams) sugar and the lime juice. Place the bowl over the pot of simmering water and heat, whisking vigorously, until the mixture thickens slightly and is the consistency of hollandaise sauce about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the bowl from over the saucepan and gently stir the yolk mixture into the cream cheese mixture.
4. In another bowl of the electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or by hand with a whisk), whip the cream at high speed to medium peaks. Gently fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture. Scrape the filling into the frozen pie crust and freeze for at least 1 hour.
Make the Blackberry Sauce
5. Put the berries in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to break them up. Sprinkle over the confectioners’ sugar, water, lime juice and salt and then process until combined and smooth. Pass the sauce through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing down on the berries with the back of a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. Place in a covered container and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Make the Meringue Topping
6. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup and water.
7. Put the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of an electric mixer and begin mixing them at medium speed.
8. Put the saucepan containing the sugar mixture over medium-high heat and cook, stirring at the beginning to dissolve the sugar and occasionally brushing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush to avoid crystallization. The goal here is to time things so that the egg whites are at soft peaks when the sugar syrup reaches 240°F, because that’s when you need to pour it over the whipping whites. Once the syrup is at 240°F and the whites are just at soft peaks, pour the syrup down the side of the bowl (so that it doesn’t spatter) into the whites while whipping at medium speed. Once all the syrup has been added, increase the speed to high and whip until the meringue is stiff and glossy and is cool.
9. Scrape the whites into a large pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip (Ateco #7). Pipe pointed dollops of meringue over the top of the pie, covering it completely (or ditch the bag and just spread the meringue of the top in dramatic swirls). Freeze the pie until ready to serve.
10. Right before serving, lightly brown the meringue with a blow torch or under a preheated broiler. Sprinkle some lime zest over the top, and serve a slice of the frozen pie with the Blackberry Sauce and a few halved berries.