Key Lime Pie


My first experience with key lime pie wasn't much of an experience at all. My memory may be fuzzy after all this time... but I had never even heard of key lime pie until one afternoon about 12 years ago, when my parents came back from a trip to the Florida Keys with one in hand. But much to my dismay, I was catching a flight back to Pittsburgh that evening and they didn't want to break into it until my brother arrived the next day (since it was at his request they bring one home, not mine). Honestly, if I brought this up now they would probably deny it, but I do believe this story to be true and I still have never tried an actual from-the-keys key lime pie! But I have since tried many others in my quest for the best one.

Whether you have or haven't ever had key lime pie, you'll find that there are many iterations of it depending on where you look. The premise is always the same - a graham cracker crust topped with lime curd (made from key limes and not regular limes, if you're lucky) and finished with a whipped topping. I've found that the whipped topping is where you'll get the most variance - sometimes it's light and fluffy, other times it's thick like cream cheese; sometimes it's spread across the entire pie in big dollops, other times it's piped on carefully just around the edges. Regardless of how it's topped, I've never had a bad key lime pie. My favorite is still the one from the Amish stand at the farmer's market I used to go to back in Philly; it was one of those ones with the cream cheesy type whip piped around the edges, and it had just the right amount of tang and sweetness and coated your mouth in the most pleasurable way.

This is not that pie. I'm still working on figuring out how to recreate that one. This one definitely falls on the other end of the spectrum - rich tart filling topped with light, fluffy, melts-in-your-mouth cream. It's still really freakin' good. It's also not as complicated as it looks, I promise. Trust me; try it, and let me know what you think! And don't be afraid to try key lime pie wherever you can find it... it's my go-to whenever I have the option!



Key Lime Pie

Crust:
  • 1 ¼ cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • ⅓ cup white sugar
Filling:
  • zest 1 lime
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
  • ⅔ cups key lime juice (fresh, if you can find them, or this)
Topping:
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup confectioner's sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°. Melt the butter over the stove or in a microwave, set aside.

If you have a food processor- Break up graham crackers and run until crumbs form. Add butter and white sugar and pulse to combine.

If you don't have a food processor- Break up graham crackers with a mortar and pestle, or in a zip-lock bag with a rolling pin. In a bowl, combine the graham crackers, melted butter, and white sugar until a coarse crumb forms.

Gently press the crust into your pie pan, making sure to get an even layer up the sides. Use the palm of your hand or the base of a measuring cup to press the base of the crust down. Bake for 10 minutes. Turn oven down to 325°.

While the crust is cooling, in a large bowl beat together the lime zest, egg yolks, and sweetened condensed milk using a spatula and strong hand or using a handheld mixer. Once the mixture looks thick and glossy, pour in the key lime juice and beat until combined.

Pour the filling into your slightly cooled crust and return the pie to the oven for 20-25 minutes. The filling should be set but not browned. Allow the pie to cool completely before topping with whipped topping.

To make the whipped topping, use a handheld mixer to whisk heavy cream to soft peaks. Add in the cream cheese, vanilla extract, and confectioners sugar and continue to whisk until stiff peaks form. Top cooled pie with whipped topping and smooth with a spatula. Enjoy!

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