This weekend I baked Key lime pie for my cousin's baby shower. Key lime pie happens to be my favorite dessert because I love the combination of sweet and tart. This American dessert originated in Key West, Florida in the late 19th century and is believed to have been created by a local sponge fisherman.
Classic Key lime pie recipes call for sweetened condensed milk, limes, and eggs. In early recipes this pie wasn't baked. A natural chemical reaction called souring occurs between the condensed milk and the acidic lime juice which causes the filling to thicken on its own. The acid essentially 'cooks' the filling to the proper consistency. These days we bake our pies because of safety concerns with eating raw eggs.
Some recipes call for regular limes but I prefer to use key limes which are smaller and more tart. If you've ever bought a grocery store Key lime pie, they tend to be green but that's mostly due to food coloring. A proper Key lime pie filling will be pale yellow because of the egg yolks. I'm visiting my parents in Florida so I was able to pick up a bag of local key limes from the farmer's market. For the crust, you can either buy a pre-made packaged graham cracker crust or use your favorite brand of graham crackers for a simple crust recipe. I prefer to make my graham crackers from scratch (see recipe at bottom of page.) The classic Key lime pie recipe I've included is a delicious and traditional pie that's smooth, creamy, and really sweet. Maybe a tad too sweet for my tastes. So, for Easter I looked for a Key lime pie recipe that didn't use sweetened condensed milk. I found one at Baked Bree which creates a curd-like filling that although slightly different in texture from traditional Key lime pie tastes equally delicious. I also baked a Fresh Strawberry Cream Pie for our family feast because you can never have enough pies.
Classic Key Lime Pie
1 1/2 cups Graham cracker crumbs (*recipe below)
3 tbsp sugar (optional)
5 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 large egg whites
4 egg yolks
1 can (14-oz) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup key lime juice
1 tbsp finely grated key lime zest
1 cup heavy cream
3 tbsp confectioner's sugar, sifted
- Preheat oven to 350º F. In a medium bowl, combine 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 pan. Bake until set and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely. Keep oven on.
- Using a stand mixer or a 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 the egg whites to lighten the mixture then add the remaining whites and fold until just evenly combined. Spread the mixture in the pre-baked crust and bake until it just sets in the center, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.
- To serve, combine the heavy cream and sugar in a bowl and whisk until soft peaks form. Cut the pie into slices and top with a dollop of whipped cream.
Nontraditional Key Lime Pie
by Baked Bree
graham cracker crust
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup key lime juice
1/2 cup butter, cut into small pieces
1 tsp gelatin, softened in 2 tbsp of water
1 lime zested
- In the top of a double boiler (or medium saucepan filled halfway with water and a large metal bowl on top) combine the sugar, eggs, and lime juice.
- Whisk constantly over medium heat until the mixture starts to thicken. Then, add one piece of butter at a time, whisking constantly until the butter has melted. Keep adding one piece of butter at a time until you have added all the butter. The lime curd will be thick.
- Add the softened gelatin (sprinkle gelatin over 2 tablespoons of water until it has dissolved) to the lime mixture.
- Strain the lime mixture to ensure a smooth filling.
- Add the lime zest to the filling.
- Pour filling into the cooled crust. Let chill for at least 3 hours before serving to ensure filling has set. Garnish with whipped cream and extra lime zest before serving.
1 1/4 cups plain flour
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tbsp and 2 tsp of mild-flavored honey
2 tbsp and 2 tsp of milk
1 tbsp vanilla extract
- In a large bowl or food processor, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Mix or pulse on low to combine. If mixing by hand, cut in the butter with pastry cutter of two knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. If using food processor, pulse on and off until mixture reaches coarse meal consistency.
- In a small bowl, whisk the honey, milk, and vanilla. Add to flour mixture and combine until dough starts to come together. It will be very soft and sticky.
- Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface or on plastic wrap and pat into a 1-inch thick rectangle. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill until firm, about 2 hours.
- Remove from fridge, and on floured surface or plastic wrap, roll out the rectangle until about 1/8-inch thick. Cut into 4x4 inch squares. Place squares on parchment-lined baking sheets. Chill until firm, about 45 minutes.
- Adjust the rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat to 350º F. Prick the squares with toothpick or fork, half-way and not all the way through, in two or more rows. Bake for 25 minutes, or until browned and slightly firm to the touch. Make sure to rotate the baking sheets halfway through for even baking. When the graham cracker squares come out of the oven, they may feel soft or doughy to the touch but they will harden and crisp when completely cooled.
- When squares are cooled, place in food processor and pulse until they are crumbed with no lumps.