I make the best lime pie in Texas. And yes, I will fight anyone who challenges my claim.
I’m sorry, but I am a Floridian. We’re discarded at birth if our lime pie genes aren’t optimal, like weak and deformed Spartans.
By the way, even though I titled this post “Key lime pie,” I did not use Key limes. Unless you have access to a South Florida farmer’s market, neither will you.
“But wait!” you say. “They sell whole bags of Key limes at my grocery store!”
I’m sorry, but no, they don’t.
Well, maybe. I’ve seen them at Central Market in winter before. They are tiny and almost spherical and most importantly, yellow. Not green.
Those tiny green limes that are advertised as Key limes in most of the country are Mexican limes. They are cute and tiny and make a nice garnish, but they do not have the thin skin (almost like a Meyer lemon) and extra sourness one finds in a real Key lime. Since the Mexican lime and the Persian lime taste the same, and the little ones are way harder to juice, I’d just use Persian limes. Unless you’re going to a farmer’s market in South Florida. Then, get the good stuff (and send me some, too!)
There are three parts to a lime pie: graham cracker crust, lime filling, and whipped cream. Some people say a meringue topping is more traditional, and that’s probably true (the Key lime pie would never have been invented if fresh milk had been widely available in Florida in the 20’s; fresh cream would have been equally unavailable). However, I find that barely sweetened whipped cream offsets the tartness of the pie perfectly without adding the overwhelming sweetness of meringue.
We’ll start with the crust. Please make your own. It’s quick as can be and the taste is vastly superior to the premade cardboard-graham cracker crusts you’ll find at the supermarket.
Ingredients (makes one pie. I made three, and still ran out without feeding everyone who wanted some. It is that good.)
for the crust:
9 graham crackers
6 T butter, browned
3 T dark brown sugar
1/4 t salt
For the filling:
4 egg yolks
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cups fresh lime juice (I was testing that bottled stuff above, hoping for real Key lime juice. It isn’t, but it is a perfectly good bottled lime juice if you, like me, always have 8,000 cuts on your hands and it hurts to squeeze citrus)
zest of 1-2 limes
For the topping:
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 T granulated sugar
1 t vanilla
one whole lime
For the crust:
Preheat the oven to 350°F
Crush the graham crackers into a fine powder. I used to put them in a bowl and smash them with my lovely
beat stick rolling pin, but now I make the food processor do all the work. I love that machine. Add brown sugar and salt.
Add browned butter.
And stir the crust mix with a fork.
Press the crumbs into your pie tin using your fingers or a cup or ramekin. I only own one pie tin, so I used that and two 8-inch cake pans for my three pies. It works.
You’ll want to make sure the crumb is pressed in well, or it will crumble in the oven.
Bake 15 minutes until the crust just starts to brown.
Voila, a graham cracker crust! If you want, you can replace up to 1/3 of the graham crackers with walnuts or other nuts. I like it best plain, though.
While that’s baking, start on your filling:
Take your happy little yolks (remember, I made three pies. You only need 4 yolks per pie)–
–and add in the zest.
Add the condensed milk. Order of operations is very important here. If you add lime juice before condensed milk, the acid chemically cooks the eggs. It’s not so good.
Mix it up, add your lime juice, and mix that up, too.
Pour the filling into the baked crust.
Bake the filled pie for 10-15 minutes. It should be jiggly but not liquid when you take it out. Do not let the filling brown!
Put the pie(s) in the refrigerator for a couple of hours at least.
When you’re ready to serve (or any time after it’s chilled; whipped cream stays good in the fridge) make the topping:
Combine cream, sugar, and vanilla and mix with a hand mixer on high until light and fluffy.
Spread whipped cream over the pie.
Now this part was once a secret. This is the part that makes people’s eyes go wide as they freak out about how perfectly limey your pie is.
Squeeze the juice of half a lime over the whipped cream. No, really. Slice the other half for garnish–sometimes I candy the slices, but usually not. Even if they’re candied, no one but Mr. B and I will eat them.
This pie is best served on its own or with fresh raspberries. It needs no ice cream or sauces.
I do have a few warning notes. If you dishonor the lime pie, I will know, and I will be sad.
1: Make your own crust. I know I said it before, but it’s important. The pre-made ones are garbage.
2: Do not use food coloring. I mean it. Lime pie is supposed to be yellow.
3: Don’t put too much sugar in the whipped cream. Milk is naturally sweet, and you want the lime flavor to shine through.
4: Don’t worry about calories. You’ve just made the official pie of Florida. Relax and enjoy it!