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 paste-like 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” pie; serves 10)
- 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 (one sleeve; about 5 ounces)
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1/2 cup melted butter
- dash of salt (omit if butter and/or nuts are salted)
Preheat oven to 325 F. On a large baking sheet, spread out the coconut and macadamias separately, side by side. Toast in oven for about 5 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, fine to medium crumbs. Once they are cool, chop the macadamia nuts finely. Lightly grease a 9” pie pan, preferably glass. Mix coconut, nuts, lime zest, crushed graham crackers, flour, salt (if using), and butter until moist and even.
[TIP: Drier graham crackers and/or larger coconut shreds or nut pieces 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 into pie pan.] Using the back of a spoon, press mixture evenly and very firmly into pie pan, holding it up to light (if glass) to avoid thin spots, especially in the center. Bake for 20 minutes, then let cool to room temp.
- 4 large mangoes (such as the common Tommy Atkins or Haden variety), very ripe and fragrant, weighing about 14-16 ounces each
- 1.5 Tbsp gelatin powder (2 envelopes)
- Juice of one 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 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 at least 3 hours. (My fridge is not the coolest, so I placed mine in the freezer for one hour, and in the fridge for the other two; the texture was perfect.) When ready to serve (within a day), make the meringue.
- 3 egg whites
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- dash of salt
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla bean paste or seeds scraped from 1/2 vanilla bean
Whisk egg whites, sugar and salt 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 water. Whisk constantly for 3 to 5 minutes, until mixture feels hot to the touch and all sugar/salt granules have dissolved. Remove bowl from heat and beat egg whites on high for 6 to 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, like this:
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 almost-purely mango filling, while those with a sweet tooth will happily devour the sweet meringue topping. Taken all together, though, this pie is surely at its best; after all, there is a marvelous magic that happens when creamy, sweet, fruity and nutty meet in one bite.
Maybe next time… If you like your meringue piled high and your pie on the sweeter side, feel free to double the meringue recipe above. If you don’t have a kitchen torch (yes, it’s one of the most unnecessary yet addictive cooking gadgets), you can instead heat your oven to broil with a rack at the top position, and place the pie there for about a minute. To make this pie dairy-free, replace the butter in the crust with melted coconut oil. To make it vegetarian, experiment with agar agar in place of gelatin (though I’m afraid I’m not experienced enough with agar to give instructions; it acts different from gelatin). I think this pie would work well with other pulpy tropical fruits, such as pineapple, in place of the mango. Finally, if you want a chunkier pie, reserve some cubes of mango and fold them into the puree just after blending in the gelatin.