I’ve had a long-standing fascination with Key Lime Pie, since the very first time I saw it in a recipe magazine when I was young. But I had never tried it, let alone baked it until now! I always thought of it as the cousin of the Lemon Meringue Pie, which was one of my childhood favourite desserts.
The recipe originated in Florida during the 19th century, where you can find key limes, which smaller and a little more tart than regular limes. Floridians are serious about their famous dish, in 1965 even calling for a fine to be put into place for anyone advertising Key Lime Pie that was not made with key limes! Unfortunately key limes (or even bottled key lime juice) are almost impossible to find here in Australia, so I had to use regular limes. Just don’t tell anyone!
Surprisingly, I learned that the recipe has hardly changed since its invention. Before refrigeration, condensed milk in cans could be stored much more easily than fresh cream or milk. And with limes in abundance, it’s likely that fishermen combined the condensed milk and eggs from their supplies to create what then became one of America’s most famous desserts.
I used homemade Graham crackers, which were then pulverised into crumbs for my crust, and the recipe from Pepe’s Café in Key West (via Bon Appetit) for the filling. The addition of whipped egg whites gave the pie a lighter texture, in fact it was almost like cheesecake. But boy was it sweet. Next time I’d add a little finely grated lime zest to the filling along with the juice for a little more tang. I topped my pie with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream and a handful of Coconut Chips, my new favourite snack.
So tell me, what is your favourite American dessert?
Key Lime Pie with Homemade Graham Cracker Crust
Graham Crackers (from Citrus and Candy)
- 1 ¼ cups plain flour
- ½ cup brown sugar, packed
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 50g unsalted butter, cut into 1 inch cubes and frozen
- 40ml mild-flavoured honey
- 40ml whole milk
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steelblade, combine the flours, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Pulse on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the honey, milk and vanilla. Add to the flour mixture until the dough barely comes together. It will be very soft and sticky. Turn the dough onto a surface well-floured with sweetrice flour and pat the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 2 hours, or overnight.
Sift an even layer of flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will bequite sticky, so flour as necessary. Cut into 4 by 4 inch squares. Gather the scraps together and set aside. Place wafers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes.
Adjust the rack to the upper and lower positions andpreheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Prick the wafers with toothpick or fork, not all the way through, in two or more rows. Bake for 25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the touch, rotating sheets halfway through to ensure evenbaking. When cooled completely, place biscuits in the bowl of a food processorand pulse until they’re crumbs and no lumps remain.
Key Lime Pie (adapted from Bon Appetit)
- 1 ½ cups Graham cracker crumbs (see recipe above)
- ¼ cup sugar (optional)
- 75g butter, melted
- 2 large egg whites
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1 x 400g can sweetened condensed milk
- ½ cup lime juice (from about 3 limes)
- 1 tablespoon finely grated lime zest
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons icing sugar, sifted
- Coconut chips, optional
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). In a medium bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs and sugar (if using). Drizzle with the melted butter and stir until well combined. Press the mixture evenly onto the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie plate. Bake until set and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Leave the oven on.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or alarge mixing bowl with a whisk or hand mixer, beat the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sweetened condensed milk. Add the lime juice and zest and whisk until combined.
Gently fold in about 1/3 of the egg whites to lighten the mixture thenadd the remaining egg whites and fold until just evenly combined. Spread themixture in the pre-baked crust and bake until just set in the center, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely then refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. The pie can be baked and stored, covered, in therefrigerator, up to 3 days.
To serve, combine the heavy cream and sugar in a bowl and whisk until soft peaks form. Cut the pie into slices and top each with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkling of coconut chips.