Monday, June 21, 2010

recipe: key lime pie

Today is the first day of summer, and I gladly welcome the beginning of pie season. I know that apple pie signifies Thanksgiving and Christmas for some, and that the Brits eat meat pies all through their long winters. But in the south, summer calls for cool, creamy pies – pies that are easy to make. It's pie season!

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to post about a pie every week. They’re easy; the most difficult is the chocolate cream, and only because it has several different components. Today, though, I’ll start with the easiest one of them all – key lime.

This is a fairly traditional key lime pie, with no sour cream or meringue or anything of that sort, although I’m sure those are wonderful. I left food coloring out of this, opting for a yellowish, natural pie, but you could add one drop (and only one drop) to the mix if you like.

This classic key lime pie is firm but creamy, tart but without the bitterness that comes with too much citrus juice. My only update to the classic recipe is to increase the volume a bit – most traditional recipes yield a very slim pie, and I like mine a little thicker.

Key Lime Pie
1 bundle of graham crackers (1/3 of a box), 9 crackers
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup powdered sugar

6 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon lime zest
3/4 cup fresh key lime juice (or, alternatively, use regular Persian limes)
1 ½ cans (2 cups) sweetened condensed milk (use the rest in your coffee, or for dulce de leche)

whipped cream:
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 9-inch pie pan.

In a food processor, pulse graham crackers until crumbs are fairly small - or put the graham crackers in a plastic bag, and use a rolling pin to crush. Add melted butter and powdered sugar and mix until all the crumbs are moist. Press mixture firmly into the bottom and sides of the pie pan. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes, or until firm and slightly darkened. Place on a rack to cool.

With the whisk attachment of an electric mixer, beat egg yolks and zest on high speed until fluffy and light yellow, about 3 minutes. Add the condensed milk and half the lime juice, and stir just until blended. Add the remaining juice and stir just until blended, scraping the bottom of the bowl. Pour into the crust. Bake in preheated oven for 19 minutes, until filling is only slightly jiggly. Place on a rack to cool.

When pie is cool, cover with plastic wrap (don't let it touch the filling), and refrigerate at least two hours before serving.

Whip the cream in a chilled bowl until soft peaks begin to form, then add sugar and vanilla. Peak until stiff peaks form. Garnish slices of pie with whipped cream to serve.


  1. MMM. Pies are the best for breakfast.

  2. Allen did eat this pie for breakfast, right after I took that picture. He also believes it was a healthy breakfast, because the pie has vitamin C.

  3. I love key lime pie! I hearted this recipe, and I will make it after we return from Ireland...

  4. This pie is the best key lime pie I have ever tasted and I order it often in restaurants. The crust was the right sweetness and slightly crisp, not gooey that sticks to your teeth. The filling was smooth and creamy, not too heavy, and just the right amount of lime-i-ness. The whipped cream on top was perfect for tempering the tartness of the filling.
    Will you win a contest – I think so!

  5. Elizabeth,

    Hope you are well! I made this pie for the 4th and have been meaning to thank you for the recipe. It was a hit, but thankfully there were some leftovers for me to bring home. Molly (from GSU)