Key lime pie: a Floridian treat that will make your cheeks pucker in tart delight with its creamy filling and sweet, crunchy crust.
Many moons ago, I went to Miami with girlfriends for a convention and heard we had to eat at Joe’s Stone Crab. We ventured there, even though it was a haul from our resort, and indulged in stone crab and Key lime pie. We still talk about that meal today. And I’m not even a fan of Florida. It’s much too humid and buggy for me.
The sweetness and freshness of the stone crab was quite memorable, and it was one of those meals you can hardly get enough of, where you eat until your stomach is so full you can’t put another bite in your mouth – at least until they offer you Key lime pie. Then you split a piece, thinking you can’t eat your own, and it’s probably the responsible thing to do when you’re so full. Once you’ve had a bite of this Key lime pie, though, I promise you’ll never split a piece of it with anyone, no matter how much you like or love that person.
Another friend shared the Joe’s Stone Crab Key lime pie recipe with me probably 12 years ago, and I’ve whipped it up on numerous occasions – family gatherings, Fourth of July and picnics. It’s pretty straight-forward and needs to be made ahead of time since it needs refrigerating and then a short stint in the freezer. I’m a fan of do-ahead, especially in the summer months when things like the garden lure me in, and I have very little sense of time anyway (ask my patient husband).
These Key lime pies are very simple to make in multiples. I have a huge extended family and we entertain a lot, so I’m used to cooking in large quantities. It almost seems like a shame to make just one, and I would bet it would freeze beautifully. Now that’s being prepared: having a Key lime pie just waiting for the next dinner invitation. Who would say no to a Key lime pie for dessert in these dog days of summer?
You’ll notice I adjusted the recipe to reflect its name – with actual key limes. Over the years and out of convenience, I’ve mostly used regular limes. It takes a whole lot of Key limes to make it to 2/3 cup for the juice you need to make the pie. It’s worth the extra effort, as the Key limes are slightly more tart and more aromatic. Key limes do have more seeds and a slightly yellow rind in comparison to regular limes. They get their name because they were grown in the Florida Keys until the 1920s when a hurricane came through and wiped out most of the groves. Farmers mostly replaced them with larger limes, known as Persian limes, which is what you see at the supermarket most of the time. I picked up a bag of Key limes over the weekend at Sprouts, though, and Dillons oftentimes has them, too.
They say opposites attract. In citrus, Randy and I are opposite. He lives for limes in everything, and while I do love lime, I tend to go for lemons. I’m sure it’s because of my Lebanese heritage, but I add tons of lemon juice to everything. I like lime in desserts, Mexican food and Asian food, but if I’m adding citrus to my water, it’s usually lemon. Sometimes oranges, too. Speaking of that, I’ve been making “spa water” with different combinations lately and keeping it in the fridge. I have this plastic pitcher with a fruit infusion cylinder that screws into the lid. It’s so slick, and the fruit lasts for several days. I have fresh lemons and fresh mint in it now. Of course you don’t need a specific pitcher for it, but it sure is nice to keep the fruit and mint in the center instead of having it floating around in the pitcher. Mine was a gift that I use all the time, especially in the summer months.
KEY LIME PIE
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (1 individual package)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1 1/2 teaspoons Key lime zest (or regular lime zest)
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup freshly squeezed Key lime juice (or 3 regular limes, depending on size)
1 cup whipping cream, chilled
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
For the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch pie pan. Break up graham crackers and place in a food processor to make crumbs. (If you don’t have a food processor, place the crackers in a large plastic bag; seal and then crush the crackers with a rolling pin.) Add the melted butter and sugar and pulse or stir until combined. Press the mixture into the bottom and sides of the pie pan, forming a neat border around the edge. Bake the crust until set and golden, about 8 minutes. Set aside on a wire rack; leave the oven on.
For the filling: In an electric mixer with the wire whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks and lime zest at high speed until very fluffy, about 5 minutes. Gradually add the condensed milk and continue to beat until thick, 3 or 4 minutes longer. Lower the mixer speed and slowly add the lime juice, mixing just until combined, no longer. Pour the mixture into the crust. Bake for 10 minutes or until the filling has just set. Cool on a wire rack, then refrigerate. Freeze for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.
For the topping: Whip the cream and the confectioners’ sugar until nearly stiff. Cut the pie into wedges and serve very cold, topping each wedge with a large dollop of whipped cream.
Recipe courtesy of Joe’s Stone Crab