Florida Pie

I was born and raised in Florida. Eleanor spent the last half of her life in Florida. My parents spent their entire childhoods in Florida, and honestly, it's a place I still miss on days when I have to put on a scarf and a jacket to go outside in August.

When I was a kid, my parents would drive me around and point out subdivisions and shopping centres and parks around our central Florida town and tell me 'when I was your age, that was all orange groves' or 'when I was learning to ride a bike, that was a construction site and I wiped out on my bike trying to rescue a turtle from there.' As a kid, I did not care and was convinced all these stories made my parents ancient. But now I'm the same age my mom was when I was born, and every time I go back to that city, all I can see is places that used to be orange groves, and subdivisions that used to be swamps, and candy shops where my mom used to take me when I got a good report card.

Maybe Florida is special to me because it's stuck in a time warp since I haven't lived there since I was a kid, or maybe because it's so totally opposite of the city where I live now in climate and culture, but I really love visiting there: hanging out with my family, eating all the seafood I can get my hands on and swimming in the Gulf of Mexico until my fingers are prune-y and my manicure has all but chipped off.

When we had the chance to visit and stay at my family's house on the beach for a week in July, we were excited. A friend of ours from Atlanta who happens to be from the same town came down to stay with us, and we filled our days with sunshine and beach time and our nights with seafood and rainbow-coloured cocktails. Highlights included drinking the most incredibly expensive martinis at the Don Cesar, an all-pink super-fancy Art Deco hotel down the street from our beach house, finding starfish and sand dollars and a whole load of conch shells at Fort DeSoto when the tide was out, eating ice cream from The Candy Kitchen and most of all, visiting Universal Studios and Disney World- you know, all the things you do on a Florida vacation if you're a proper tourist. We finished the trip physically exhausted but mentally rejuvenated, hungover and in need of some green vegetables and lots of hydration, but so happy to have gotten to see many of the people we love most in the world.

Crackers can be broken by hand to the size demonstrated here- you want a mixture of small pieces that will blend into the meringue and slightly larger pieces to provide a salty crunch.

Crackers can be broken by hand to the size demonstrated here- you want a mixture of small pieces that will blend into the meringue and slightly larger pieces to provide a salty crunch.

Lumpy meringue base straight out of the oven.

Lumpy meringue base straight out of the oven.

The only downside of living away from the country where we grew up is that our friends are split up all over the globe. Coming back to Edinburgh was bittersweet- bitter to leave some of our best friends but sweet to come back to our adorable dog, our lovely flat and all of our friends here in Scotland.

So of course, my first order of business whenever I'm feeling a little homesick is to head into the kitchen- and this time I knew exactly what I'd make: Florida Pie. This recipe sparked my interest when I came across the handwritten card two years ago as I sorted through the Recipe Box, but it wasn't until I sat down to make it last week that I actually read the ingredients. I anticipated loads of citrus would be included- a tart grapefruit curd or a bright lime custard... or maybe it would be an icebox pie layered with ice cream and meringue, something cold and frozen and perfect to eat after a day in the hot sun. Imagine my surprise when I realised there was no fruit in this recipe, and instead it was just a basic meringue with nuts and Ritz crackers (or, over here, Tuc crackers because good luck finding Ritz in Bruntsfield) mixed in? I was horrified, but it was too late to go back now; I had already decided to make it.

But then something wondrous happened: this pie was incredible. I know I've been on a roll of recipes lately that I assume will be gross and I tell you how weird they are and then I have to spend a whole blog post trying to convince you they are tasty, but this time you're not only listening to my opinion- you're listening to the opinion of all the coworkers who tasted this pie and were equally into it. It's the perfect combination of salty-sweet, crisp and fluffy, and it's served cold- perfect for a summertime dessert. Maybe it is more Florida than I realised.

The verdict:

5 spoons out of five. I would make this again right now if I had any more Tuc crackers to hand.

two years ago: Simple, Classic Cheesecake

the recipe:

Florida Pie

the directions:

Preheat oven to 175C/350F.
Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.
Add sugar and baking powder gradually and continue blending until glossy and smooth.
Gently fold in vanilla, crackers and nuts until of uniform consistency.
Spoon into a 9-inch round pie plate and gently smooth the top.
Bake for 20 minutes until crisp.
Remove from oven and allow to cool completely at room temperature.
Once cool, beat whipping cream (and optionally 1 tbsp powdered sugar and additional tbsp vanilla) until fluffy.
Top meringue with whipping cream and refrigerate overnight before serving.

the ingredients:

3 egg whites
1 c sugar
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
18 plain Tuc crackers or 20 Ritz crackers, crushed
1 c pecans, roughly chopped
1 c whipping cream
Optional: 1 tbsp powdered sugar and 1 additional tbsp vanilla