Key Lime Pie

All answers are found within.

All answers are found within.

As I mentioned in the post preceding this one, my mother passed away a very short time ago. As the days pass, I find the grieving process to be intensifying rather than lessening. I still can’t believe she is gone. I have begun forcing myself back into my old routine, but it’s hard. When I made this pie, I had to laugh, because Mom never did like Key lime pie all that much, yet I’m a Key lime pie fanatic. I love Key lime pie. And the weather is warming up, so I decided it was time for this post. I wrote the text for this prior to Mom’s passing, and it’s a bit bouncy for my mood these days, but I’m leaving it as is.
***

I bring you magic with today’s post! Read on, and all will make sense. One of my great dessert loves is Key lime pie. The texture is out of this world! Does anyone remember the Frasier episode in which Maris was toying with the idea of having an affair with her fencing teacher, who called her his “not quite human woman”? This is the dessert version of the spirit behind Gunther’s nickname for Maris: a pie that is not quite a custard, not quite a gelatin, and not quite a fruit curd. Some part of me realises that this is an extremely strange parallel to draw, but I stand my ground.

I say this with great reluctance, but it must be said nonetheless: the copycat version of this pie – i.e., the one made with lime juice instead of Key lime juice – is not as good as the bona fide Key lime version. The lime pie is still an excellent pie, with the same killer texture and a wonderful array of flavour. But it is Key lime juice, not regular lime juice, that affords this classic Floridian pie its tartness, that makes serving this pie with fluffy clouds of sweetened whipped cream no longer optional. And how stellar is the combination of soft whipped cream (known as crème Chantilly by some) and Key lime pie? Magic, I tell you!

Now that I’ve said my piece, I must urge you to make this pie even if you cannot find Key limes. Remember the texture I was raving about just a paragraph ago? It will still be amazing with regular limes (or lemons – hell, try grapefruit if you’re so inclined!), and you will still have a devastatingly good pie to show for your efforts. Believe me, this pie is good.

Since this was my first Key lime pie, I was nervous taking it out of the oven after the requisite time had passed. It fit all the visual criteria, but that nagging voice in the back of my head had visions of the pie being oozy instead of, well, glamorous. So I baked it for an additional five minutes, and it turned out spectacularly well.

In case you were wondering where I stand in the great Key lime pie crust debate (oh, trust me, there is one), wonder no longer: I am firmly ensconced in the graham cracker crust camp. Shortbread crusts have no business being bonded to Key lime pie. Nor do I colour my Key lime pie: I leave it yellow, the way the Key lime deities intended it to be.

You go ahead and do what feels right to you. Needs must.

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Key Lime Pie

Ingredients:

For the crust:
1 1/2 cups (6 – 8 sheets) graham cracker crumbs
1 1/2 sticks butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1 TBS butter, melted (for preparing the pan)

For the filling:
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup Key lime juice*
3 – 4 tsp grated lime zest, optional

For the crème Chantilly:
1 cup heavy whipping cream, very cold
1 cup powdered sugar

Method:

For the crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush the inside of a 9″ pie dish with melted butter.

Process graham crackers in a food processor until finely pulverized. (Alternatively, crush graham crackers with a potato masher until finely ground, OR place graham crackers inside a plastic ziplock bag and crush with a rolling pin until finely ground.) Transfer crumbs to a medium bowl and add sugar; toss with a fork to mix well. Add butter and mix until thoroughly combined. Press mixture on bottom and 1 1/2″ up the sides of the pie dish. Use the bottom of a glass measuring cup or a drinking glass to uniformly press the crumbs on the bottom of the pan.

Bake 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack while you prepare the filling. Do not allow crust to cool completely. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.

For the filling:
Whisk together the sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks, and lime juice (and zest, if using) until well blended. The mixture will thicken almost immediately, the result of the reaction between the milk and the lime juice. Pour filling into prepared crust.

Bake until the center looks set but is still quivery when the pan is nudged, 15 – 17 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Refrigerate until cold before serving with sweetened whipped cream.

For the crème Chantilly:
Combine powdered sugar and heavy whipping cream in a large bowl. Using a hand whisk or an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat mixture until soft peaks form. Serve immediately.

*Variations: 1/2 cup of lime, lemon, orange, or grapefruit juice, or a combination thereof.

Source: Adapted from The Joy of Cooking: All About Pies and Tarts by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker

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One thought on “Key Lime Pie

  1. Pingback: The Cheesecake Factory in Chicago | KitchEnchanted

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