Sunday, July 1, 2012

Cooking my Bookshelves: Key Lime Pie, without the Keys

Ok, I figured after being home for a week and a half, it was time to haul out a cookbook and make something new. I actually completed my first pulled pork (a two day and many hour project) but failed to take any pictures or actually record the recipe, which was an amalgam  of helpful suggestions of friends on Facebook and recipes I found online. Next time, I'll track it and pass it along.

Today I went for a dessert. Husband loves Key Lime Pie, and I've never made it. So I decided to give it a shot. I had been perusing one of my cookbooks that I haven't actually made anything out of over the weekend-- Saveur The New Comfort Food: Home Cooking from Around the World, edited by James Oseland. Strangely, I can't find a date on the thing, but it is fairly recent, and published by Chronicle Books.

Here's the recipe, as written (p. 211):

Key Lime Pie
1 cup plus 2 1/2 tbsp. graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup sugar
5 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 tbsp. lime zest (from two limes)
3 egg yolks
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup fresh lime juice, preferably from Key limes
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
1 tbsp. confectioners sugar

Serves 8

1. Heat oven to 350 F. Pulse cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter in a food processor to combine. Press evenly into bottom and sides of a 9-inche pie pan. Bake until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
2. In a medium bowl, beat lime zest and egg yolks with a hand mixer until pale and thick, about 5 minutes. Add milk and beat until thickened, 3-4 minutes more. Add lime juice; mix until smooth. Pour filling into pie crust; bake until filling is just set in the middle, 8-10 minutes. Let the pie cool.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk cream and confectioners' sugar to stiff peaks. Spread whipped cream over the top of the pie and chill 2-3 hours before serving.

I more or less followed the recipe, with a few minor changes. First, I didn't have any key limes. If they appear in the grocery store at all in Oklahoma, it's for about two weeks in the late winter or early spring. I didn't want to use bottled juice, because it's not as bright. So, I used regular Persian limes. First, I zested them.

Then, since I only had four, I hoped like hell that I would have enough for 2/3 cup of juice. I squeezed away using a citrus reamer until...
Hot dog! Just about exactly 2/3 cup. Whew! Now that I knew that I had enough lime juice, I proceeded with the crust. Luckily we usually have graham crackers. I guessed at how much I would need (most of one packet) and buzzed it up in a blender. Why a blender rather than doing the who thing in a food processor, as instructed? Because disassembling the food processor and cleaning it is a pain in the butt. The blender is easer. I measured out the crumbs and it came out exactly right. Score! I then mixed in the sugar and melted butter by hand until everything was well mixed. The fun part is pressing it into a pie plate.
I baked it for the suggested 10 minutes and set it aside to cool.

Next, I worked on the filling. I mixed three egg yolks with the lime zest then beat with a hand mixture until it was thickened and pale yellow, about 5 minutes.
I then beat in the sweetened condensed milk for a few minutes, and finally stirred in the lime juice. Filling done, I poured it into the pie shell.
I baked it for about 10 minutes, until the middle was just set. I let the pie cool to room temperature. Now, at this point what I did NOT do was  make the whipped cream and put it on the pie before chilling. Why? While I prefer fresh whipped cream, my kids like the stuff that you squirt out of the can, which we happened to have. So, I tossed the cooled pie in the refrigerator for about an hour and a half. Here's the result!

The result? It's not quite as tart or lime-y as it would have been using key limes, but it was still quite good. Slightly sweet for my tastes, but husband really liked it, which was the intention in the first place. The kids? "Yuck, we don't like limes." Turns out I could have made fresh whipped cream after all.


  1. Key limes are available at Walmart the whole summer. I keep them in the fridge and use them in my drinks... I was also wondering about the 2.5 tbs of graham cracker in the original recipe. Really? But just pulsing one package of graham crackers sounds more reasonable. Looks like a delectable desert!

  2. Thanks, Nuri. I go to Homeland usually, but I'll check for key limes here at Walmart. As for the 2 1/2 tbsp of graham crackers, I was close so I just went with it. Not sure why such and odd amount. A little less than a package got me there, which just happened to be what was already opened. It does seem a bit silly. Maybe a whole package and push the butter to 6 tbsp?