May 01, 2013

Key Lime Pie

Key Lime Pie.   These three little words make me sit on the edge of my seat in anticipation.  In my book, it is one of the most perfect desserts.  The fact that it is ridiculously easy gives it major bonus points. 
Growing up, I don't think I'd even heard of key lime pie.  We had apple, peach, strawberry-rhubarb, blueberry, pecan, pumpkin, lemon meringue, chocolate cream, but never key lime. 

Perhaps that is why I have developed a serious love for this barely green, barely sweet little tart.
We weren't introduced until I was able to have a proper appreciation for something so perfect in its simplicity.
My insatiable sweet tooth has been discussed on several occasions right here on this very blog and although I won't deny that I love dessert, what I do not love is desserts that are cloying.

That makes this pie the perfect sweet for me.  It is creamy and smooth,  just barely sweet with a nice tart bite that gets you right on the sides of your tongue making you immediately go back for more (or maybe that's only me).
The graham cracker crust harkens back to pre-school with it's sweet smell that makes one long for mandatory nap time.

Key Lime Tart
recipe barely adapted from America's Test Kitchen

I wouldn't dare suggest that you only make this pie with actual key limes, as most of you probably don't have access to them.  I made this filling with regular (Persian) limes and their zest.  I also tried bottled key lime juice, but preferred the juice of fresh limes for their bright, citrusy flavor.

Normally, the filling for this pie is not cooked and it sets up in the refrigerator.  I'm sure those of you that have ordered (or even made) key lime pie have found yourselves a bit disappointed on occasion.  Although the filling is set enough to slice, it can be a bit too loose.  After reading dozens of recipes, I found a solution: 
a short stint in the oven to set the filling resulted in a creamy, custard-like filling that set beautifully and sliced perfectly clean. 

-This recipe will make a 9" pie or 4 tarts (4 1/2" size)

For the filling:
4 large egg yolks
1 heaping tbsp. grated lime zest
1/2 cup fresh lime juice (about 5 - 6 limes)
1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 oz)
tiny pinch salt

Whisk egg yolks and lime zest together in a medium bowl.

After 1 1/2 - 2 minutes, your mixture should look like this.  Bright yellow - green from the lime zest.  No need for green food coloring!

Whisk in condensed milk until mixture is smooth, then whisk in lime juice.  Cover and set aside.

Now make the crust...

For the Crust
8 graham crackers, broken into pieces
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 tbsp. sugar
pinch salt

Preheat oven to 325.   Put graham crackers in food processor and run for about 45 seconds until you have fine crumbs.   Pour melted butter over crumbs, add sugar & salt and pulse (5 -7 times should do) until you have what resembles wet sand.

Pour crumbs into pie plate, (or if using tart molds: 1/4 - 1/3 cup in each) pressing crumbs into an even layer on bottom and sides. 
Using the bottom of measuring cup makes this task much easier!
Bake crust for 13 - 16 minutes (tarts: approx. 12 minutes); remove from oven and set on wire rack. 
Do not turn off oven.

Pour filling into warm pie crust and bake 15 - 18 minutes (tarts: 10 - 12 minutes).  Remove from oven and let them cool for about an hour before refrigerating. 
Once cooled, place in refrigerator for 2 - 3 hours until chilled and set.

Top with whipped cream.


  1. I got a request to make a friend a key lime pie for Mother's Day - I think yours is the winner :)

  2. Your pie looks terrific, Cheryl! I may have to freeze my Key lime juice and make this for the 4th of July!

  3. Thanks Liz! Coming from you that is a big compliment! :)