Key Lime Pie
For as much as I love pie, you’d have thought that I would have been all over key lime pie by now. The truth? I ate key lime pie for the very first time when I was in Florida back in March. As in, two months ago. The first time in my entire life. At first, I wasn’t sure how I had missed key lime pie for the last 32 years. Then, when I mentioned to my mom that I had made it this week, she said that she had never had key lime pie either. Mystery solved. Apparently, we are not very tropical people when it comes to our desserts? I also tend to sway waaaayyyy far to the side of pies made with traditional pie crusts. When given the option, I’ll always pick flaky and buttery over graham cracker. Yet another potential reason key lime pie slid down my pie priority list. Is this starting to feel like a Sherlock Holmes investigation to anyone else? (Speaking of which, have you seen the movies with Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law? Two of my recent favorites!) Long story short, I may have been late to the party with key lime pie, but the good news is that I finally made it. To my surprise, this was one of the easiest pies I have ever made. Ever. It was also drop-dead delicious. A perfect balance of a creamy, tart filling, a fluffy, sweet topping, and buttery graham crust. This key lime pie now has a permanent place in my summer baking rotation!
As I mentioned above, this was one of the easiest pies that I’ve ever made. After eating it for the first time in March, I was convinced that the filling was some type of elaborate curd/custard that would need to be painstakingly cooked on the stove, and then baked in the oven. Not so! All you do is whisk together lime zest, egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk, and lime juice, let it sit to thicken, and then pour it into the crust and bake briefly. Key lime pie dates back to the late 1800’s in Key West, Florida. At the time, modern refrigeration wasn’t available, so fresh milk wasn’t a common commodity. Instead, canned milk was widely used. As a result, this incredibly easy pie came to be. Believe it or not, up until recently, the pie wasn’t baked at all. The combination of the lime juice with the egg yolks and condensed milk creates a chemical reaction that causes the mixture to thicken all on its own (the acid causes the proteins in the yolks and milk to bond together). Nowadays, due to concerns over raw eggs, the pie is baked, which actually creates a much better filling consistency since it sets wonderfully and is less droopy than its unbaked counterpart.
Aren’t key limes adorable? They’re so itsy bitsy! I had some questions on my Facebook page about the difference between key limes and regular (Persian) limes, which are the ones that you see year-round at the grocery store. The biggest difference is that key limes are more acidic than regular limes, which makes them more tart and much more aromatic. Key limes can sometimes be hard to find in regular supermarkets, so if you can’t get your hands on them, you can absolutely substitute standard limes in this pie. No sweat!
Key lime pies can be made with a meringue topping (more traditional) or a whipped cream topping (more modern). I am a whipped cream girl all the way, so there was no question which way I was going here, but feel free to customize based on your personal preferences. Now that I know how easy and delicious this pie is, there is zero excuse for me not to make it. That goes for you, too! Make this part of your summer baking agenda!
Five years ago: Cheesy Baked Ziti with Sausage
Key Lime Pie
For the Lime Filling:
- 4 teaspoons grated lime zest
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
- ½ cup fresh lime juice
For the Graham Cracker Crust:
- 9 graham crackers, pulverized into crumbs (about 1 cup cracker crumbs)
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and still warm
For the Whipped Cream Topping:
- 1½ cups heavy cream, chilled
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
- Make the Filling: Whisk the lime zest and egg yolks together in a medium bowl for 2 minutes. Whisk in the sweetened condensed milk, then the lime juice. Set aside at room temperature to thicken while you prepare the crust.
- Make the Crust: In a medium bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs and the granulated sugar. While stirring and mixing continuously with a fork, slowly drizzle the melted butter into the graham cracker and sugar mixture. Once you are done, all of the dry ingredients should be moistened and it should look like wet sand. Transfer the crumbs to a 9-inch pie plate and evenly press the crumbs into the pie plate. Bake the crust until it is fragrant and beginning to brown, 15 to 18 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool to room temperature.
- Once the crust has cooled to room temperature, pour the lime filling into the crust. Bake until the center is set, yet still wiggly when jiggled, 15 to 17 minutes. Return the pie to a wire rack; cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until well-chilled, at least 3 hours. (At this point, the pie can be covered directly with plastic wrap sprayed with non-stick cooking spray and refrigerated for up to 1 day.)
- Make the Whipped Cream: Using an electric mixer, whip the cream on medium speed until soft peaks form. At this point, add the powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, while continuing to whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Decoratively pipe the whipped cream over the filling or spread the whipped cream evenly with a spatula. Garnish with lime slices, if desired, and serve. Cover leftovers with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days.