Key Lime Pie

Key Lime Pie is the perfect dessert following a rich, unctuous dish like Coq Au Vin. It is terribly simple and can be made well in advance of the meal, even the night before.
The Key Lime Pie – the official pie of Florida - first originated in, where else but the Florida Keys, where the Key Limes grow sporadically. True Key Limes have a more distinctively sour ‘limey’ taste than the ones we can buy in the supermarket.
The plantations that grew the limes were destroyed back in the 1920s so the limes (which resemble small lemons with little green patches) are only found in the back gardens of a lucky few these days. The limes that were replaced in the plantations are, in fact Persian Limes and do not have that rare flavour – more lime, than lime itself it is said.
Condensed Milk was used in the pie filling instead of regular milk because of poor refrigeration back in the late 1800s, when the pie was first produced. The discovery of Condensed Milk must have been greeted with much enthusiasm in those days before heat-treated milk (and fridges).
For this particular recipe, from Tamasin Day-Lewis Art of the Tart, I used shortcrust pastry but you could go even simpler and mix some crushed Digestive crumbs with some butter and press that into a pie tin. If do intend to do this, make sure to use a smooth edged cake tin instead, not a scalloped or crimped pie tin, because, quite simply, you won’t get it out of the tin without lots of mess and tears. Of course, if you are making a shortcrust case, you don’t need to worry.
The filling is painfully easy, just three ingredients: eggs, lime juice (use fresh, not bought) and my current favourite cupboard standby, Condensed Milk. These are whisked together, poured into your pie-crust and baked until it is tummy-wobble soft. If, like me, you happen to touch the top of the pie with over-sized oven gloves when removing it from the oven, don’t worry too much about marring it because you can either dust it generously with icing sugar or envelope it in some sweetened whipped cream for a truly luxurious finish.
If you decide just to dust it with icing sugar, then you can offer some pouring cream around for your guests: the fatty cream is a lovely foil against the wonderfully tart filling.
9” Shortcrust Pie Crust, fully baked, using 110g flour, 55g Butter, pinch salt – See My Shortcrust Recipe OR make a Digestive Biscuit Base using this Cheesecake Recipe instead.
1 400g Tin Condensed Milk (they actually come in 397g I believe but it’s the same thing)
4 Egg Yolks (freeze the egg whites if you’re feeling frugal)
150ml Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice (this constitutes about 5 limes. To get the maximum juice from them, roll them firmly against a work surface to break down the segments).
Zest of one Lime (I use a Micro Planer)
Preheat the oven to 180c.
Whisk together the egg yolks and condensed milk until smooth. Slowly pour in the lime juice, stirring all the time. The mixture will tighten up because of the acidy limes reacting with the eggs and condensed milk so do it carefully (Note: back in the olden days, the pie wouldn’t even be cooked, the cook would rely on this chemical reaction to make the filling naturally thick, obviously today people are squiffy about eggs so prefer to cook it to a Quiche-like consistency). Stir until smooth, then whisk in the zest.
Pour into the pour crust.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until it is wobblingly set.
Leave to cool on a wire rack then refrigerate for at least 2 hours (although we could only manage one!). If you like, cover with a 284ml carton of double cream, whipped together with a tablespoon caster sugar (this stabilises the cream and stops it spoiling quickly – in fact, ours was still good two days later) and decorate with some lime zest.
Or, simply dust with some icing sugar and serve with pouring cream.

6 comments: said...

Yummy! Yummy! I got limey in my tummy. It was fantastic. I liked it a lot!
Almost worth the stick I got on Mario Kart.

Kathryn said...

I've never made key lime pie, only Nigella's miniature versions from HTBADG (which are LOVELY). This sounds v nice and dead easy!

Kathryn x

Shaun said...

Freya - I love Key Lime Pie. I have only made it once because my angelheart Eric found it too limey. No such word exists in my vocab, but then I was eating lemons right off the lemon tree in my parents' backyard as a kid. Have you tried using evaporated milk before? It is like adding cream without the fat, and it is less sweet than condensed milk. Can you believe I don't have "The Art of the Tart"? Shame on me!

FreyaE said...

Hi Kathyrn, yep, the Key Lime Pie is easy beyond belief, although I do love Nigella's Key Lime Cheesecake too. The chocolate base with that sour creamy topping is so good!

Shaun, when I was little, my mum used to serve evaporated milk over apple pie and I still love it to this day, I even drink it in coffee! Not sure how it work instead of condensed milk if you're cooking it because would it be too liquidy? I'm so envious of you having a lemon tree! How cold does it actually get where you are?

Shaun said...

Freya: In degrees celsius, overnight Auckland temperatures can be as low as 0, whereas in Long Beach it doesn't usually get any colder in Winter than 7. In terms of Winter high temperatures, in Auckland it is often as low as 9 and in Long Beach 15. As for the evaporated milk, I should imagine it would still firm up - at least that is what happened with the pumpkin pie I made for Thanksgiving, even after adding it to the creamed pumpkin. I should try it and find out, but since it is getting cold, I'm not really feel like having anything too limey right now. Remind me in Summer :-)

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