This is my 50th post!! This is an exciting milestone for me because I started out posting pretty sporadically, and even took a long hiatus early on. But, I’m glad I’ve plugged on because I’ve had so much fun with this blog. The blog has helped me keep in touch with friends and family I don’t see often. I’ve started reading new blogs and connecting with people because of these posts. So, thanks to all of you out there who read, comment, and make suggestions. Your support and interest has been really heartwarming and it keeps me motivated to keep cooking and writing.
But an extra special note of thanks goes to Ryan. He is my chief supporter, taste tester, strategic planner, and dish washer. He suggests recipes to try and ways to improve old favorites. He eats everything I make, even when I don’t think it has come out well. If I didn’t have him to help me out, this would be a lot less fun. Therefore, it’s only fair that my 50th post celebrates Ryan and his key lime birthday pie.
Strictly speaking, this pie is just a lime pie because I didn’t use key limes. There weren’t key limes in my grocery store, but if you find some in yours and decide to use, them just keep the same proportions for juice and zest as I have below.
Anyway, Ryan’s birthday was this past week and I made him a key lime pie. Before his birthday I asked what kind of cake he wanted, and he was a little ambivalent. “Well,” I said, “it doesn’t have to be a cake. It could be pie.” And he decided he wanted key lime pie. I had made key lime popsicles over the summer, and we’ve been drawn to the flavors ever since. You may remember from my birthday, that I had cake for breakfast and that’s a really important tradition to me… but, I knew that if the pie was in the house the day before his birthday, we wouldn’t be able to stop ourselves from eating it early. However, in the spirit of indulgence, we did eat our first pieces before going out to dinner.
I cut Ryan a slice, and as he sat down he got a phone call from his dad. He was on the phone when he took his first bite, and I was delighted to see his eyes get big with excitement and he nodded his head vigorously at me. “You’re missing out on some great pie,” he said to his dad. Yes, I had nailed the birthday pie! We both ate it with gusto. It was tart with a distinct lime flavor you don’t often get from store bought pies. It was the right amount of tart though, not sour at all. The filling was also sweet with a creamy custard texture. The meringue was fluffy and the crumbly graham cracker crust add a great crunch to an otherwise soft dessert. A few days later, when Ryan finished the very last bite, he promptly said, “you should make another.” So this pie is a keeper.
When I made this, I prepped the juice, zest, and other various ingredients as I went, and as other things were in the oven. The directions below will follow that pattern. If you’re more comfortable, feel free to prep all your ingredients in the beginning.
The crust is adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. The filling is adapted from the Amateur Gourmet.
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 10 full cracker strips)
3 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp unsalted butter (plus more if needed)
6 egg yolks
One 14oz can of sweetened condensed milk
2 tsp lime zest
3/4 cup lime juice (about 6)
1 cup sugar
6 egg whites
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. In a food processor, blend the graham crackers until you have fine crumbs.
3. In a medium bowl mix the graham crackers and sugar.
4. Melt the butter in the microwave, then add it to the graham cracker and sugar. Mix until the graham cracker crumbs are all moistened. You want a consistency of slightly wet sand – sand that’s been wet but is drying out. Add more butter if needed. I added another 1.5 tbsp to get this consistency, so I used a total of 5.5 tbsp on butter.
5. Press the graham cracker crust into your pie plate – bottom, sides and edges. If you want a thick crust use all the mix. I used about 3/4 of the mixture. If you’re not using all of it, set the remainder aside in case you need to do any patchwork later (When I added the meringue I knocked off some of the crust’s edge and I was mad at myself that I hadn’t saved any)
6. Put the crust in the oven and bake until it just begins to brown, about 8 minutes.
7. While the crust is baking, zest and juice your limes.
8. Remove crust from the oven, set aside to cool.
9. Now for the filling! Separate 6 eggs. Set aside the whites. In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks.
10. Stir in the condensed milk. Stir constantly until well mixed.
11. Stir in the lime juice and zest.
12. Pour the filling into the crust. Bake for 12-15 minute. The filling is ready when it’s firm but a little jiggly in the middle. (I like to think of it similar to the consistency of jello)
13. While the filling is baking, beat the eggs until foamy. Then gradually add the sugar and cream of tartar. Beat until the egg whites make soft peaks. What this means, is that when you take the whisk out of the egg whites, there will be a somewhat floppy peak at the top of the whisk. Look at the pictures on Amateur Gourmet’s website for a better idea.
14. Take the pie out of the oven. Spread the meringue over the pie. Bake for 5 minutes, or until the meringue takes on a light toasty marshmallow color.
15. Let cool a little, then refrigerate. Serve chilled. The crumbly crust doesn’t hold its shape perfectly, but who cares when it tastes good?
Messy Level: I’m giving this, the elusive 5 spoons. This is a super messy recipe because the mess continues well after you’re done cooking. It’s messy in part because zesting and juicing means using a number of tools. It’s also messy because the meringue is sticky and I got it all over me while I spread it on the pie. But the real reason it’s messy is because of the crust. It’s messy making the crumbs and putting it in the pie plate. But, it’s messy every single time you cut a slice. There was always crust crumbs on the counter after ever slice. It’s worth it, but it’s the mess that keeps on coming.