I love this time of year at the market, when mountains of fragrant mangoes seem to surround me as I shop. Mangoes lure me in with their promise of sweetness and a juicy, tropical taste.
When I thought about making a mango confection recently, I was skeptical at first. Could they be any better than they are plain? Would their natural sweetness make for a wince-inducing, sugary dessert? After much thought and experimentation, I decided to pair my mangoes with a crispy graham crust full of macadamias, coconut and lime. Then I slathered the creation with fluffy vanilla meringue and toasted it like a marshmallow. The result was a perfect spring treat, and it disappeared before I knew it.
Despite the long recipe, this pie is pretty simple to make. The most difficult task is finding the very best mangoes around; their flavor really comes through. I urge you to use fresh, seasonal mangoes that are very ripe. They should be incredibly fragrant and hold an indention when you push on their skin.
I chose not to strain the mango puree, so the tiny threads of mango fiber and all their pleasant flavor are present. This texture also helps the gelatin form a sliceable but not rubbery structure. (I’ve made mango curd with corn starch instead of gelatin before, but the outcome was more pasty than pie-worthy. I’ve also tried making mango fillings and custards with cream and eggs, but I found the additions did little but dilute the delicious mango. So in this recipe, gelatin it would be.)
Mango Meringue Pie
Makes a 9-inch pie. Serves 8-10.
FOR THE CRUST
¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut (a little over .75 ounce)
1/3 cup whole shelled macadamia nuts (about 1.75 ounces)
1 medium lime
9 whole graham crackers (1 sleeve; about 5 ounces)
1/3 to 1/2 cup melted butter
2 tablespoons flour
Dash of salt (omit if butter or nuts are salted)
Preheat oven to 325℉. On a large baking sheet, spread out the coconut and macadamias separately, side by side. Toast in oven for about 6-8 minutes, until edges of nuts are golden brown, coconut is browned, and both are fragrant. Leave oven on. Finely zest and juice the lime; set juice aside for later. Crush graham crackers into even, coarse crumbs. Once they are cool, chop the macadamia nuts finely.
Lightly butter a 9-inch pie pan, preferably glass. Mix coconut, nuts, lime zest, crushed graham crackers, flour, salt if using, and butter until moist. Press mixture evenly and very firmly into pie pan, holding it up to light (if glass) to check for thin spots, especially in the center. Bake for 15-20 minutes, then cool (place in freezer to hasten cooling if desired). Note: Drier graham crackers and/or larger coconut shreds can make this crust stubborn about sticking together. If you have this problem, try gradually adding a little more melted butter, and/or pulsing the ingredients in a food processor before pressing firmly into pie pan.
FOR THE FILLING
4 large mangoes (such as the common Tommy Atkins or Haden variety), very ripe and fragrant, weighing about 14-16 ounces each
1.5 tablespoons gelatin (from 2 envelopes)
Juice of 1 lime (from lime above)
¼ cup powdered sugar
Cut mangoes and discard pits and skins. Place in food processor and blend until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Place lime juice in measuring cup and add water to make ½ cup liquid total. Heat the lime mixture to scalding (a minute in the microwave will do). Whisk gelatin and powdered sugar into the liquid; mix rapidly until all powder has dissolved. Quickly pour into the mango puree and blend for another minute or so.
Transfer the mixture to the cooled crust, cover with tin foil, and chill for a minimum of 3 hours. (My fridge is not the coolest, so I placed mine in the freezer for one hour and in the fridge for two more; the texture was perfect.) When ready to serve (within a day), make the meringue.
FOR THE MERINGUE
3 egg whites
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
Whisk egg whites and sugar in a large metal bowl (preferably the bowl of a standing mixer). Place bowl over a pot of simmering water; do not let bottom of bowl touch the water. Whisk constantly for 3-5 minutes, until mixture feels hot to the touch and all sugar granules have dissolved. Remove bowl from heat and beat egg whites on high for 6-8 minutes, until stiff, shiny peaks have formed, adding vanilla bean paste at the last minute. Spread meringue over pie in a decorative fashion, then toast the meringue with a kitchen torch or place under oven broiler for a minute or two.
Mango meringue pie is vivid with complementary flavors. The crumbly, coconutty crust is perfectly studded with rich macadamia pieces, and the trace of lime is just enough to highlight the tangy fruit filling. Mango lovers are sure to enjoy the filling of almost pure mango, while those with a sweet tooth will happily devour the sweet meringue topping. Taken all together, though, this pie is surely at its best. There is a marvelous magic that happens when creamy, sweet, fruity and nutty meet in one bite.
Moriah VanVleet is the voice behind butter, sugar, flowers where this post first appeared.