just desserts: key lime pie

Mention the words Key lime and automatically thoughts are turned toward (a) pie and (b) Key West, Florida. Key lime pies and Key West, Florida are synonymous. As a matter of fact, on July 1, 2006 Key lime pie became Florida’s state pie. Key limes are also known as Mexican limes and West Indies limes. Originating in the Indo-Malayan region Key limes traveled by way of Arab traders North Africa and the Near East. Carried by the Crusaders to the Mediterranean regions of Europe and then, according to some accounts, Columbus brought the key lime to Hispaniola in the New World. The Key lime made its way to Florida along with the Spanish settlers. It flourished in the Florida Keys until a hurricane destroyed the groves. Today, most Key limes are grown in Mexico.  Key limes are much smaller (ping-pong to golf ball-sized) than Persian limes. They are nearly spherical, thin-skinned, and often contain a few seeds. Green key limes are actually immature fruits. As they ripen to a yellow color, the acidity diminishes making it sweeter.

Whether you enjoy Key lime pie with a graham cracker crust, a pastry crust or no crust,* with a dollop of whip cream or peaks of cloud-like meringue there is no one correct way to enjoy Key lime pie. However there are two ingredients that are a must for the filling: Freshly squeezed Key limes, of course, and sweetened condensed milk.

It is unclear who made the first Key lime pie, but it is clear that Aunt Sally, cook to the ship salvaging, multi-millionaire William Curry (1821-1826), perfected it. Curry resided in Key West Florida at a time when there was no refrigeration or ice therefore making it difficult to keep perishable food products. Fresh milk was not enjoyed by the Floridians living in the Keys. After the invention of condensed milk, by Gail Borden, in the mid 1850’s canned or sweetened condensed milk was a common household product found in Key West kitchens.

Key lime pie, no matter who made it first, has always been made with condensed milk. So, no matter what crust you prefer or what topping you prefer, never use a substitute for sweetened condensed milk and call you your pie Key lime.

Key Lime Pie Graham Cracker Crust

Ingredients
2 ½ cups flour
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces (Butter should remain chilled until ready for use.) 1/3 cup honey
5 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons vanilla extract

1. Combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix briefly until dry items are blended. Add the butter. Mix until the mixture is course.
2. Add in the honey, milk and vanilla. In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, milk, and vanilla extract. Made two balls with the dough and wrap them each in plastic wrap. Pat the balls into discs and chill for at least 30 minutes. This dough can be frozen for future use.
3. While the dough is chilled roll it out to a round (that is suited to your pie tin) on a flour dusted surface. Fit the dough into the pie tin. Place a round piece of parchment in the center of the pie tin. Lay pie weights in the center. Place into the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. Then, remove the pie weights and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes.
5. Remove the pie from the oven and cool while making the filling.

Filling
Ingredients
8 large egg yolks 2 14oz cans sweetened condensed milk 4 teaspoons Key lime zest 1 cup Key lime juice pinch of salt

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment beat the yolks until pale in color. Add the condensed milk, Key lime zest, key lime juice and salt and mix until combined.
2. Pour the mixture into the crust. Bake at 350 degrees until filling is set, about 20 to 30 minutes.

Meringue
Ingredients
8 large egg whites 2/3 cups sugar 1/4 teaspoon salt
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine egg whites, sugar and salt.
3. Beat on high until stiff peaks form. (Do not over beat as the meringue will be dry.)
4. Either pipe or spoon the meringue on the pie.
5. Bake until meringue just begins to brown, about 10 minutes.

* If, when making a Key lime pie, you find that you have extra filling don’t discard it. Place it in an oven safe baking dish or in ramekins and bake until set.


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42 comments

  • August 11, 2011 at 4:38 pm //

    LOVE key lime pie, and I think yours is one of the most gorgeous I’ve ever seen. Your meringue is spectacular!

    • August 12, 2011 at 10:18 am //

      Hi Lisa, me too, it is a favorite of mine. It is so kind of you to say how gorgeous it is “blush”!

    • August 12, 2011 at 10:18 am //

      Hi Chinmayie, thank you for the kind compliment!

    • August 12, 2011 at 10:17 am //

      Hello Rosemary, thank you, and thank you for commenting.

  • August 11, 2011 at 10:22 pm //

    This key lime pie is STUNNING!! A sweet treat I wish I had right now.

    • August 12, 2011 at 10:17 am //

      Hello Marla, Thank you, very kind of you to say! Thank you for commenting.

    • August 12, 2011 at 10:17 am //

      Hello Shumaila, what a lovely name by the way. Thank you for commenting, I’m looking forward to your next post and looking forward to getting to know you.

  • August 12, 2011 at 3:44 pm //

    Hello and thanks for taking the time to comment on my latest blog post. Key Lime Pie is one dessert I have still not got around to making. Yours looks wonderful though and definitely inspires me to try it :-)

    • August 13, 2011 at 10:44 am //

      Hi Paula, and thank you for stopping by and saying hello, I hope you’ll be back again = )

  • August 12, 2011 at 11:49 pm //

    Thank you for the history behind such a lovely sweet treat. I live near the border so mexican limes are bountiful here. Your pics are amazing..it’s 9am and i’m craving a huge piece, yummy!!

    • August 15, 2011 at 2:13 pm //

      Hi Bonnie: That is so kind of you to say, how lucky you have limes in full bounty, 9am slice of pie, no problem = )

  • August 13, 2011 at 1:58 am //

    Never try a key lime pie before. Glad to learn so many things about it here. Your pie looks absolutely gorgeous!

    • August 15, 2011 at 2:12 pm //

      Hi there food 4 tots: I hope you’ll get the chance to try Key Lime pie soon, it’s really refreshing in the hot summer months.

  • August 13, 2011 at 9:24 pm //

    This has to be the most gorgeous LMP ever! I remember making one for a Daring Baker challenge 3 years ago. It was my first one and it made me weep. Yours is breathtakingly beautiful…and with so much background information? The post just got even better!

  • August 13, 2011 at 9:58 pm //

    I have never made a key lime pie but I know my family would love to eat this…especially in hot Texas right now. I really enjoyed reading about the history of this cute little fruit.

    • August 15, 2011 at 2:12 pm //

      Hello Snippets of Thyme: You haven’t made key lime pie before? Have you tried it? If you like citrus you might just fall in love with it = )

    • August 15, 2011 at 2:11 pm //

      Hi Rachel, and thank you.

  • August 14, 2011 at 5:27 am //

    Looks glorious! I’m a citrus-a-holic, so anything that says lime, lemon or orange, I’m in! Very lovely photos as well. I like that your filling appear a little thicker than some…I prefer that to the more runny versions. Nice post!

    • August 15, 2011 at 2:11 pm //

      Hi Luv’n Spoonfuls!

      Thank you for commenting, I like that new phrase “citrus-a-holic” can I use it? I don’t think I’ve had a funny key lime pie, but I don’t think I’d enjoy it. = )

  • August 14, 2011 at 9:39 am //

    Fell for key lime pie hard when I lived in Florida for four years. Perfect dessert to refresh when it’s sweltering outside.

    • August 15, 2011 at 2:10 pm //

      Hi Carolyn:

      It is sweltering, we are deep in the middle of summer, I’m so happy you like Key Lime pie, it is one of my favorites.

  • August 14, 2011 at 10:29 am //

    I’m actually not a huge fan of key lime pie, but you have that merengue blushing so perfectly, and your photos are so beautiful, that I am salivating anyway.

    • August 15, 2011 at 2:09 pm //

      Hi Julie, I’m so happy the merengue saved it “giggles”, you are so kind to comment on the photos, thank you.

  • August 14, 2011 at 11:30 am //

    Wow, this is just gorgeous. I’ve never made key lime pie and I think I should give it a try soon. Just beautiful.

    • August 15, 2011 at 2:08 pm //

      Hi Jo, thank you for coming by to say hello! When you do make the key lime pie, let me know your thoughts. = )

  • August 15, 2011 at 2:28 pm //

    Your key lime pie is truly gorgeous! I’ve never made one before and I couldn’t wait to give it a try! Sounds so refreshing and delicious! Gotta love those toasty meringue on top! :P

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving your sweet comments. I always appreciate it and hope you’ll visit again soon.

    Take care,
    Amy

    • August 16, 2011 at 9:08 am //

      Hi Amy! Thank you, and thank you for commenting! I hope you can give it a try someday, I think you’d love it! Key Lime pie is one of my favorites = )

  • August 16, 2011 at 4:24 am //

    This looks beautiful. I really want to give this a try. And thanks for the history about the key limes. I loved it!

    • August 16, 2011 at 9:09 am //

      Hi Baltic Maid, thank you for the compliment, that’s so kind of you to say, I love the history of food = )

  • August 16, 2011 at 11:47 am //

    I’m usually not a super crazy pie fan but key lime is an exception. I especially like frozen miniature key lime pies on a stick covered with chocolate….called swingles!

    • August 29, 2011 at 1:08 pm //

      Hi Steve, thank you so much for commenting, I’ve never tried the miniature version but it sounds so enticing.

  • August 17, 2011 at 8:56 pm //

    Yum, I’ve never eaten or made Key lime pie before. Looks tasty :-)

    • August 29, 2011 at 1:09 pm //

      Hi Emma, let me know if you ever give it a try = )

  • August 19, 2011 at 1:22 am //

    I have a slight citrus fruit obsession and your key lime pie with that delicious looking meringue on top makes me want to indulge in that citrus obsession even more. I think I might have to steal this recipe, too. It looks very tasty! Oh and reading about some key lime pie background was quite entertaining too! Thanks!

    • August 19, 2011 at 6:58 am //

      Hi Maxi, me too, fruit and dessert go so well together. So wonderful to have a new reader! Be sure to let me know if you make the pie!

  • August 31, 2011 at 3:35 am //

    Yum! I love key lime pie but haven’t made it in forever. I am definitely going to have to change that asap. This recipe looks delicious!

    • August 31, 2011 at 2:09 pm //

      Hi Russell, thank you so much for commenting, let me know if you give the recipe a try = )

  • September 11, 2011 at 6:00 am //

    Gorgeous! A friend gave me her recipe for a key lime pie, and I’m yet to try it. I love the slightly toasted peaks on yours.