Todd’s been a little fixated on Key lime pie. He kept looking for it on menus at Disney World (because we were in Florida, and that much closer to The Keys), and lately he’s been talking about going to Key West just to eat pie. Sounds fun, but expensive. We have to save for Fuzz’s college, so rather than book a flight to The Keys, I tried a new recipe.
If you want to start an argument, put a bunch of people together and serve Key Lime Pie. Even though its exact origin is unknown (though historians trace it back to Bahamian settlers), people claim it’s only “authentic” if X,Y or Z. Everyone has an opinion. What I’ve never seen anyone argue about is the color, which should not be green. Limes are green and green is pretty, but true Key lime pie is more of a yellow. Another thing we can agree on is that condensed milk was used in early versions, because before the 1930s, it was difficult to get fresh milk to The Keys. So unless you just don’t like it, it’s probably safe to stick with condensed milk. And finally, everyone I know agrees it must be made with Key lime juice, either fresh or bottled. My personal favorite is Nellie & Joe’s, which is available in the grocery store. Fresh is good too, but a real pain and not necessarily worth it unless you have access to some amazing Key limes.
Now here are the areas of contention. Some say it *must* be topped with meringue, while others believe Key lime pie best with whipped cream. The level of tartness is also subjective. In my family, the more mouth puckering, eye squinting tartness the better, but pastry chefs have to feed the masses, so restaurant pie rarely hits the tartness I love. Which is okay, but we do like tart. The other key place where people get it wrong is the level of sweetness. Some recipes are just sickeningly sweet and a little too chalky from the condensed milk. I think this is why over the years there have been so many additions – -cream, sour cream, even melted ice cream to tame that chalky sweetness. Which brings me to this recipe, which does it with egg whites.
It’s not quite as smooth as some other key lime pies, but the beaten egg white that’s folded into the filling curbs the sweetness and helps tame the chalkiness of the condensed milk, which is a huge benefit. It’s not especially tart (though you could add a pinch of citric acid and fix that!), and it has a very thick and crumbly crust. In fact, the original crust called for only 5 tablespoons of butter. I used 6 to help bind it better and to reduce the sweetness. But overall, it’s a grade-A pie. Let me know what you think!
Oh, and here’s one last “tip”. Sorry about the pun, but I used a large tip from this Ateco set. The extra large tips are great for making a quick rim of stars or flowers around pies or icing cupcakes.
- 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (use 12 graham rectangles)
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 4 large eggs (you’ll be using 4 yolks and 2 whites)
- 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
- 1/2 cup fresh or bottled Key lime juice (Nellie & Jack’s)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and have ready a 9 inch pie dish.
- Process the graham crackers to make 1 ½ cup crumbs. In a food processor (or bowl) mix graham crackers, sugar, cinnamon and butter. Press mixture into and up the sides of the 9 inch pie dish.
- Bake on center rack at 350 for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for about 30 minutes.
- Make the filling. Separate the eggs so that you have 4 yolks and 4 whites , but put aside 2 of the whites because you’ll only be using 2.
- Beat the 2 whites until stiff peaks form.
- Pour the condensed milk into a mixing bowl. Whisk in the egg yolks, then gradually whisk in the Key lime juice. Fold in the 2 beaten egg whites. Empty the mixture into the graham cracker crust.
- Set pie on a baking sheet and bake on center rack for 20 minutes. Let cool at room temperature for about an hour, then chill for 4 hours or until very cold.
- Before serving, cover with sweetened whipped cream or pipe it around the edges