For the Love of a Mango

Nothing says celebration like mango dusted with chili powder – enrobed in a dove-soft bed of lime cream curd and atop a crisp cinnamon cookie crust – creating this dessert was a fitting Friday afternoon endeavor, as I had spent the morning putting the finishing touches on my last paper for graduate school (hooray!). This is a victory pie of sorts – the type of treat that has style, tang and an innate sense of PARTAY oozing through its nooks and crannies. Finally, after weekends dictated by homework and the stresses of becoming a special ed/art teacher, my life is this pie at this moment. It is achievement. It is happiness. It is very tangy. And I’ve even been called a mango by lovers and friends . . . oozing with sweetness, sexiness and lusciousness, I consider the nickname the highest of compliments.
You see mangos got me through my program – buying them bi-weekly; placing their soft little bodies on the windowsill to ripen, hurry hurry! They were my constant companion, greeting me when I got home, so smooth and soothing in shape . . . And, if I was lucky, one would give slightly to my gentle prodding, proving its ripeness and I’d dig out my sharp knife, a lime wedge, and some chili powder for a date with decadence (in the hammock, no less!) and a taste of my Southern California roots – when I was little, the Mexican community in my small town inspired my love of the sensuous snack – one taste and I was hooked for life.
Thus, upon completion of a major event-- a graduate degree, I knew a pie should be spun from these perfect flavor partners. It indeed satisfied the love of my mangos, my past as a California girl and my future – hopefully tinted yellow from all the mangos I’ll eat in everyday indulgence and celebrations of milestones.
PS. I’m going to India for a 2-month mango-festival that occurs every April and May in Mumbai – that should be a good thing for me, eh?
Chile Lime Mango Celebration Pie
2 ripe mangos, sliced in pretty half-moons
sprinkle of chili powder
1/4 c sugar
1/4 c water
for lime cream:
2 c non-dairy milk (I like vanilla almond for this, but anything will work)
1/2 c flour
3/4 tsp corn starch
zest of two limes
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c lime juice
1/2 c sugar
1/4 c Agave nectar

for crust:
1 c flour
1/2 c veg butter (Earth Balance is my preference)
1/3 c sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
3 tbsp cold water

To assemble:
First, make the crust (I like to do this a day before the pie is served, much easier to get it out of the way) – cream the butter and sugar together in a mixer, add flour, cinnamon and salt and gradually incorporate cold flour until rough pie dough forms. Stop mixing and gather barely holding together dough into large ball on top of plastic wrap. Shape into a large disc, wrap up in plastic and chill for at least 2 hours. After two hours, roll out on floured surface. Poke about 5 fork marks in the crust. Lightly grease a 9 inch pie or tart pan, place rolled dough into shell – folding over edges for double-thick sides. Wrap tightly in plastic and freeze until day of serving pie.
Meanwhile, make the lime cream – place non-dairy milk, sugar, and vanilla into a medium-sized pot and stir on medium heat for approximately 5 minutes. Place cornstarch into small bowl, mixed with a splash of milk or water, whisk until starch is dissolved. Mix this starch slurry into the milk/flour mixture and cook for 5 minutes more, whisking the entire time (or else clumps will form). Mixture will thicken into a pudding-like texture. Take off heat and mix in remaining ingredients – lime zest, juice, Agave nectar. Pour into a bowl, cover with plastic, and chill until ready to assemble pie (about an hour, at least.)
Now, back to the crust. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove frozen crust from freezer and grease the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and tightly cover crust, pressing into the sides so that it is directly on the crust. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 3-4 minutes more. Set aside to cool.
Remove lime cream from fridge, whisk it up if it has set into something a little too firm. Pour almost all the lime cream into the crust. Spreading it into the edges with the back of a spoon.
Arrange mango slices into whatever pattern you like, trying to fit as many as possible into the pie. Heat 1/4 c sugar with 1/4 c water over low heat to make a simple syrup. When mango slices are all in place, drizzle syrup over entire tart. Finally, sprinkle a tiny dusting of chili powder over entire pie.

Garnish with lime wedges or lime leaves, as I had on hand. Chill for at least an hour or so, and then serve. Perfect for celebrating anything.

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