Key Lime Pie

August 30, 2009


Dinner, Local Eating, Recipes, Seasons, Spring, Summer

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Another advancement in scurvy prevention took place in my home this week, with the creation of not one, but two key lime pies. The first was made and served as a welcome gift to my friends Billy and Katherine, who have joined the Lonestar crew from Manhattan–and just at the right time! Welcome to triple digits, friends!

And so, to cool them off, and to shield them from deadly Vitamin C deprivation, I initially squeezed some twenty-five key limes (AKA Mexican limes) mixed, baked and proudly presented them as a Tex-Mex welcome. Who says you have to go to Florida for great key limes?


Just when I thought everything had gone smoothly I committed the faux pas of faux pas, by clearing Billy’s plate before he was able to finish the last bite of golden, crumbling crust. In my defense, I had watched him linger over it a while, and didn’t want him to feel any pressure… perhaps not everyone loves the butter crunch of graham cracker crust as much as I do?

Yes, it was a silly thought, but politeness will make a girl do curious things sometimes. A few minutes later, as I stood rinsing plates in the kitchen, my bold messenger, Christopher, came bounding through the door to inform me that I *deep breath* had taken Billy’s crust! Apparently Billy had sat dumbfounded a while, until finally admitting his disappointment.

I ran out to apologize, but what could I do? It had been wasted, the beautiful, gilded thing…that glorious, sweet, crunchy bite so necessary for offsetting the tart creaminess of the key lime custard. So exactly one week later, I was at it again, eager to make amends for a disappointed Billy.

Aside from its being delicious, I love this recipe because you do a lot, but not everything. If you’d rather spend your summer outdoors than inside baking pie crust, fear not. This one is fast and easy, but still involves some real baking. Plus, you’ll be at it a while with these delightfully demure little limes–they’ll really make you feel like you’ve earned your baker’s keep. (But, if you’re in the mood to work outdoors, these can be easily squeezed on a breezy porch or backyard–though if that’s the case, you’re obviously far from H-town.)


So small are these limes, in fact, that the first time I made this recipe I carried my basked through the aisles at the local Latin market and glanced haughtily at my list–I needed a mere ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons of lime juice–”Child’s play!” I silently jeered. How may limes would I need? Five? Six?

Twenty-five limes later, I had enough juice. But my oh my, it was worth every squeeze. The tiny, tough little suckers I bought–thirty for $1–were pinched dry, each and every one. If I hadn’t known how diminutive these little fruits were, I probably would have envisioned using a mere handful. But even when I saw their size, I still believed that a 30-lime bag would be enough for some five pies and maybe some lime-aid, too.

Not so. I ended up with a mere 5 little limes, perfectly apt for garnishing. I zested two into the batter, and sliced the rest to mark the center of each piece. I could not believe that each slice would contain the life of approximately 5 Mexican limes. Good thing there are lots across of them growing across the border.

As I served the pie for the second time, I watched Billy’s lips pucker with the first bite—this pie is a serious Lolita. As tart as any homemade sweet I’ve ever enjoyed and crowned with a golden, buttery arc to temper her zing. Make it with super fresh eggs, and the custard is truly stupendous.

Key Lime Pie with Graham Cracker Crust

Generously Serves 6

Adapted from Gourmet

9 standard graham crackers, smashed into crumbs (1 1/4 cups)

2 tablespoons sugar

5 tablespoons salted butter, melted (you can go unsalted, if you prefer)

14 oz can sweetened, condensed milk

4 egg yolks (I reserved whites for an Angel food cake)

1/2 cup plus 3 tbsp fresh-squeezed key lime juice

zest of 2 key limes


Preheat oven to 350

Mix crumbs, sugar and melted butter in a bowl until incorporated.

Press the crust evenly along the bottom and up the sides of a 9’’ pie plate.

Bake for 10 minutes.

As the crust cools, mix 1 can of sweetened condensed milk with 4 egg yolks until blended

Add key lime juice and zext and mix again

Carefully pour into crust and bake for 15 minutes

Cool for at least 4 hours in the fridge. When ready to serve, garnish with a lime and / or homemade whipped cream.

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