A Key Lime Pie starts with a sweet and grainy
graham cracker crust, that is filled with a creamy smooth lime flavored filling,
and topped with
lots of whipped cream. As its name implies, Key Lime Pie was first
made in the Florida Keys, which is also where Key limes are grown. John Mariani in 'The Dictionary of American Food and Drink' tells us that the
recipe for Key Lime Pie came after the 1856 invention of sweetened condensed
Although the first Key Lime
Pies were made with a pastry crust, many recipes, including this one,
use a graham cracker crust. It is, by far,
the simplest of all the pie crusts. Just graham cracker crumbs, a little
sugar, and melted butter are needed. If you have trouble getting the
right consistency of crumbs to butter, there
is a test. Once you have mixed the ingredients together, squeeze a little
in your fist; if the mixture holds together, you have the perfect crust.
Once the crust is made it is simply pressed into a pie pan and baked until
set. Instead of baking the crust, you can also just place the graham
cracker crust in the refrigerator until chilled.
Next, the filling. A Key Lime Pie is very similar to a Lemon Meringue Pie,
only instead of using lemons it is made with Key limes. Key limes are
instantly recognizable as they are so much smaller than a regular Persian
lime. In fact, it takes about 20-25 Key limes to get 1/2 cup (120 ml) of
lime juice whereas you need only 3-4 Persian limes to get the same amount of
juice. Key limes are a small, round, hard, yellow and green colored, very acidic fruit that grows in Florida. If
you cannot find Key limes in your area, don't fret, as regular Persian
limes also make an excellent pie. An interesting side note; although the
filling is made with green limes, the color of the baked filling is
actually yellow. The only 'green' you will find is from the flecks of lime
zest. Along with the limes, the
filling contains sweetened condensed milk which is made from whole milk and sugar that are heated until most of the
water has evaporated. It is a thick, sticky and very sweet
mixture that makes a wonderful Key lime filling. Because the filling
also contains egg yolks, we do need to bake the pie until the filling is
set. Once baked and cooled it is topped with softly whipped cream.
Key Lime Pies can
have either a meringue or a whipped cream topping. I prefer whipped cream
which is made from the cream (fat) that
rises to the top of whole milk. It has a smooth, satiny texture and is
labeled according to its butterfat content (heavy to light). The best
cream to use for this pie is "Heavy" Cream or Heavy "Whipping" Cream
(double cream) which
means it has a 36 - 40% butterfat that will double in volume when whipped
and hold its form. Because of its superior flavor, I recommend using an
organic brand of heavy whipping cream.
Key Lime Pie: Preheat the oven to 350
degrees F (177 degrees C) and place the oven rack in the center of the oven.
Butter or lightly spray with a non stick vegetable spray, a
9 inch (23 cm) pie or tart pan.
Graham Cracker Crust:
Mix together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter. Press
onto the bottom and up the sides of the prepared pan. Bake for about 10 minutes
or until set and lightly browned. Remove from oven and place on wire rack to
cool while you make the filling
the bowl of your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks
until pale and fluffy (2-3 minutes). Gradually add the condensed milk and beat
until light and fluffy (3-5 minutes). Scrape down the sides of the bowl and then
beat in the lime juice and zest.
Pour the filling over the crust
and bake for about 10 - 15 minutes, or until the filling is set. Remove from
oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Once it has completely cooled, cover
and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
Once the filling has chilled, in the bowl of your
electric mixer, with the whisk attachment (or with a hand mixer), beat the whipping cream
and sugar until stiff peaks form. Either pipe (I used a Wilton 1M star tip) or place mounds of whipping cream on top of the filling. Can
be stored in the refrigerator for a few days.
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