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.
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!
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!)
- 3/4 cup cold heavy cream
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- Toasted graham cracker crumb mixture
- Preheat oven to 350° and put rack in center of oven.
- Mix in a medium bowl the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, salt, and cinnamon.
- Add the melted butter to crumb mixture and stir until combined.
- 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.
- Bake crust on center rack in oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool. Leave oven on.
- Over a medium bowl, grate lime zest (do this before cutting and juicing!).
- Add egg yolks to lime zest and whisk lightly.
- Add condensed sweetened milk and whisk to combine.
- 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.
- 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.
- Once pie is cooled to room temperature, chill in refrigerator for at least two hours, or preferably overnight.
- 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!
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!