Key Lime Pie For Dad
Is there anything more summery than citrus desserts? I don’t think so.
Last weekend my family held a belated Father’s Day celebration for my dad, which involved a backyard barbecue with lots of summery foods – grilled steak, fruit salad, BLT macaroni salad, etc. My mom did most of the cooking and made way too much good food. I sort of insisted on making dessert and they politely let me.
My dad and I have a lot in common, not least our love of desserts. For as long as I can remember, my dad has always had some sort of sweet treat after dinner. He’s always loved chocolate cake, but another one of his favorites is Key lime pie. My mom and I felt like Key lime pie would be the perfect ending to our family feast, and that’s how I ended up making my first pie ever last week.
You read that right. No, I’m not kidding. I really have never made a pie before, unless you count the frozen pre-made ones that you just pop in the oven. What can I say? I’m more of a cake and brownies kind of girl!
I agreed to make the pie before I had any idea how Key lime pie was made, but fortunately for me it’s about as easy as pie. (Ha! See what I did there?) The directions are straight forward and the pie itself only requires six ingredients.
On Friday I stopped at the store on my way home to pick up the ingredients, and after a quick dinner I got to work. Eggs separated, limes zested, mixer running, I turned to measure out my Key lime juice. That’s when I realized it wasn’t Key lime juice at all. It was Key LEMON juice. First the pan mishap, and now this! Maybe I should take reading lessons. It was late and I was out of options, but lucky for me the limes I had bought for zesting had just enough juice for the recipe. I went to bed that night feeling cranky because I was sure the pie was going to suck.
The following day we had our barbecue. After the smokey meats and cool salads were all devoured, I served up the pie with trepidation, bracing myself for certain disaster. To my surprise, it tasted great! Everyone agreed it was a really god Key lime pie. My dad even suggested I leave the leftovers at his house, so I’m pretty sure that meant he approved.
Happy Father’s Day Dad!
(Sorry, only one photo for this recipe. For some reason once the pie was cut, my family was more interested in eating it than letting me photograph it. Weird, I know.)
Key Lime Pie
Adapted from Simmer Till Done and Cook’s Illustrated
Makes one 9-inch pie
For pie filling:
4 teaspoons grated lime zest
½ cup lime juice, strained (3-4 Persian limes, up to 12 Key limes, or bottled Key lime juice)
4 large egg yolks
1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
For cracker crust:
7-9 whole cinnamon graham crackers
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and kept warm
¾ cup chilled heavy cream
¼ cup (1 ounce) confectioner’s sugar
½ lime, sliced paper-thin and dipped in granulated sugar
Be sure to make the filling first so it has time to set up before baking! If you can’t find Key limes (or if you accidentally buy Key lemon juice *ahem*), regular Persian limes work just fine. You can also use plain graham crackers to make the crust, adding 2 Tbs. of sugar and 1 tsp. of cinnamon, but the cinnamon graham crackers are a great shortcut.
Also, you’ll note in the photo that this recipe leaves a bit of room at the top, not completely filling the crust. You can either make another half batch of the filling, or add whipped cream to fill the crust. The filling is pretty rich, so personally I’d go for the whipped cream.
To make the filling, beat the zest and yolks for a few minutes using the whisk attachment for your stand mixer (or whisk in a medium nonreactive bowl) until tinted light green. Add the condensed milk, beat until combined, then add the juice. Set the filling aside at room temperature to thicken while you prepare the crust.
To make the crust, preheat the oven to 325°F. Place oven rack in the middle position. Break the graham crackers into large chunks and pulse them in the food processor until you have 1 cup of evenly ground crumbs. (If you’re using plain graham crackers, add 2 Tbs. of sugar and 1 tsp. of cinnamon now.) Continue to pulse the food processor while pouring in the melted butter, until the crumbs resemble wet sand. Press the crumbs into a 9-inch pie plate. Bake at 325°F for 15-18 minutes. Cool completely at room temperature.
To assemble the pie, pour the slightly thickened lime filling into the pie crust and bake until the center is set but still wiggles, 15-17 minutes. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, 3-4 hours, or up to one day.
To make the whipped cream topping, pour the cream in the chilled bowl of a mixer and whip to very soft peaks. Add the confectioner’s sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, continuing to whip until stiff peaks form. Pipe, spread or dollop the whipped cream on the finished pie – whatever looks prettiest to you! Garnish with lime slices dipped in sugar and devour immediately.