Serve the bright flavors of key lime pie for Pi Day (3.14) and then save a slice for a bit of green on St. Patrick’s Day.
Jenna announced that she wanted to throw a pie potluck for her February birthday party this year. She was making pizza pies and the guests were to bring whatever pies tickled their fancy. Since I was bringing Eric, I let him choose the pie. “Key lime pie,” he said without missing a beat.
The days may be longer but winter in Boston is dragging on. And on. And on. At first, a summery key lime pie might sound like an odd choice for a winter afternoon but actually it turned out to be a bright splash of citrus flavor that everyone is craving.
To check off the shopping list, I went searching for key limes. Finding none in the large grocery store I visited, I tracked down a produce guy unloading a carton of cabbages nearby.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “We used to carry key limes. But nobody bought them and they spoil really fast so we had to keep tossing them out.”
Good to know. So I settled for some regular limes. Because key limes are smaller and pack a more intense flavor, my solution was to find a recipe that uses zest in the pie filling – an easy way to heighten the citrus taste.
This is a simple pie to make. Just give yourself enough time to refrigerate it and then freeze a few minutes before serving so the pie is nice and firm when you slice into it.
When Eric and I arrived at the party, triumphantly carrying our homemade pie, we settled it among the pie spread, which included multiple squash pies, a blueberry pie, and a rapidly disappearing lemon chiffon pie. We helped ourselves to slices of pizza and then watched in utter dismay as our key lime pie began diminishing before we could chew our way through one pizza slice! I set my plate and social graces aside to shamelessly elbow my way in for the last remaining wedge of lime pie, offering only a half-hearted apology that the bakers had not yet had the chance to sample their work.
It was delicious.
Unfortunately, the birthday girl, who was busy flowing between the oven where she was pulling out more rounds of hot pizza and the dining room, missed the key lime pie completely. That’s OK. We will bake another pie just for her.
(Key) lime pie
For the crust:
1 sleeve of graham crackers (about 9 graham crackers)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
For the pie filling:
Zest of 1 large or 2 small limes, about 1-1/2 teaspoons
3 egg yolks
1 14-ounce can sweet condensed milk
2/3 cup freshly squeeze lime juice, about 4 or 5 large limes (key limes are smaller)
For the topping:
I cup heavy or whipping cream, chilled
3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F., and butter a 9-inch pie pan.
2. Either wrap a tea towel around the sleeve of graham crackers and pound with a rolling pin or pulse in a food processor until the crackers are reduced to fine crumbs. Pulse in the melted butter and sugar (or if pounding, add graham cracker crumbs, butter, and sugar to a bowl, and stir until combined).
3. With a large tablespoon gently press the buttery crumbs into the pie plate and bake for about 8 minutes until it just begins to turn a darker golden brown. Remove and set on a wire rack. Keep the oven on.
4. In a mixing bowl with a wire whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks on high with the lime zest for 5 minutes until they are nice and fluffy.
5. Gradually add the sweetened condensed milk and continue mixing on high for another 3 to 4 minutes.
6. Reduce the beater speed to low and carefully add lime juice. Stop mixing once the juice is fully incorporated. Do not overmix.
7. Pour into the graham cracker crust and bake for 10 minutes or until the pie has set. One tip: Look for tiny air holes evenly across the surface of the pie. If you see them in the center the pie is set.
8. Cool fully on a wire rack, then refrigerate. Freeze for 15 or 20 minutes right before serving.
9. To make the topping, whip the cream and sugar together until soft peaks form.
10. Slice, add topping, and serve!