Key Lime Pie

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Spring is coming, so it’s time to make something that looks like an Easter egg, but better yet, that tastes SO good! Limey, creamy, tangy sweetness on a crispy graham cracker crust with a hint of cinnamon and little bursts of salt.

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A neighbor mentioned that she would travel far and wide to find the perfect Key Lime pie, and I do so love a challenge…. First stop was the Joy of Cooking. And then I read a LOT of cooking blogs. The first Key Lime pie I made was so good! I followed the Joy of Cooking recipe, with a few tweaks. My only complaint was that the crust was too thick; that was my fault, not the Joy of Cooking recipe. I really love crust, so I made more of it to be sure there was plenty. And there was plenty!

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Then, in my typical fashion, I had to look around more and decided to make a Key Lime pie using a different technique that is recommended by many. This included beating the egg yolks until they are thick and ribbon-y. Sounds good, right? After all, the Joy of Cooking just said to mix all the ingredients together. Too easy, right? So I tried with the whipping of the egg yolks, and I was NOT happy with the results. The filling ended up more like a mousse, and what I was going for was something dense and silky. Sometimes simpler is just better.

Key Lime Pie

(Adapted from the Joy of Cooking)

For the crust:

  • 13 full graham crackers, crushed to fine crumbs (I use my Vitamix blender) You end up with about 1 3/4 cups of fine crumbs.
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon (or a tad more) sea salt or kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted (for a more crispy crust, use a butter with a higher fat content, such as Kerrygold or Plugra)

For the filling:

  • One 14 oz can sweetened condensed whole milk
  • 4 large egg yolks (save the egg whites for macaroons!)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice , strained (I actually use one lemon, then all the rest is lime juice. Use Key limes if you can find them.)
  • Freshly grated zest of one lime (Don’t skip this part!)

For topping:

  • 3/4 cup cold heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar

Alternate topping:

  • Toasted graham cracker crumb mixture
  1. Preheat oven to 350° and put rack in center of oven.
  2. Mix in a medium bowl the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, salt, and cinnamon.
  3. Add the melted butter to crumb mixture and stir until combined.
  4. Press graham cracker mixture along the side of a 9″ pie pan, going all the way around. That’s right. You do the side first. Then put enough of the mixture on the bottom to make a nice even crust, pressing all the way to the edge where the crust will combine with the side crust. Pressing with fingers is fine, or use the bottom of a measuring cup. If you have some extra of the crumb mixture, and you should, set aside for later.
  5. Bake crust on center rack in oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool. Leave oven on.
  6. Over a medium bowl, grate lime zest (do this before cutting and juicing!).
  7. Add egg yolks to lime zest and whisk lightly.
  8. Add condensed sweetened milk and whisk to combine.
  9. Add lime/lemon juice and whisk just until all ingredients are well combined. Do NOT over mix. The mixture should start to thicken quite a bit.
  10. Pour mixture into warm (not hot) crust and bake on center rack of oven for about 15 minutes, until center looks set but is still a bit quivery, like gelatin, when the pan is nudged. Remove from oven and let cool completely on a cooling rack. Before turning oven off, place any remaining graham cracker crumb mixture, crumbled, on baking sheet and bake in oven for 6 minutes, or until the crumbs just start to brown. Set aside to cool, then store in an airtight jar.
  11. Once pie is cooled to room temperature, chill in refrigerator for at least two hours, or preferably overnight.
  12. Just before serving, whip the heavy cream together with the powdered sugar to top the pie, or top with the toasted crust crumbs, or both!

Very fine graham cracker crumbs.

Ready to go in the pan.

I love this trick! Sides first for a nice even crust.

Use your fingers to evenly spread the crumb mixture to the edge.

Flatten with a measuring cup if you like.

Zest adds the occasional chewy texture – divine.

Whisk until combined… don’t over do it!

Adding the sweetened condensed milk.

The addition of lemon mellows the lime juice a bit.

Strain out the pulp!

Ready to go in the oven.

Let it cool to room temp, then refrigerate.

Have fun decorating!

Add crunchy topping just before serving.

Note: I know the crunch topping is not as pretty as the whipped cream, but I promise that it really adds something special and unexpected to this pie. It’s worth the trouble!

 

 

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