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
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.
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.
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.