Key lime pie is my very favorite dessert, of all time, in the world. That is–when it is done properly. Because, to sound like a snob, it is almost never done properly. The next time you are in the supermarket, take a gander to the bakery department. You might find a key lime pie there, but more likely it is only something masquerading as a key lime pie. Have a look at the ingredients. Are there more than five? Take a look at the color. Does it look like an experiment in florescents gone bad?
Real key lime pie, the kind you find in restaurants in southern Florida, only has four ingredients: sweetened condensed milk, key lime juice, key lime zest and egg yolks. It is pale yellow, almost white, and has the consistency of thick custard.
The crust is important too. For a while, I tried to stick to graham crackers, but no matter how much butter I added, it seemed I could never replicate the euphorically-buttery crusts I’d sampled in restaurants. (Plus, do you know how long it takes to turn a box of graham crackers into dust if you don’t have a food processor? I’ll tell you, a hell of a long time.) I now make my crusts using English digestive crackers, because they only take short time to crush, and they provide a great balance of butter, sugar and salt.
To make this recipe a little more interesting, I experimented with the filling this time. (Yes, yes, for all my talk of key lime pie purity, I wanted to see if a little infusing would improve the taste.) I separated the sweetened condensed milk into ramekins. Into one, I added a vanilla bean. The second got some muddled mint, and the third grapefruit zest. I let them sit, covered but unrefrigerated for a few hours. The unexciting, but honest results are: the taste did not change very much. At least for the vanilla and mint. I think I would have to try a better method of infusing for the taste to change more than a wee bit. However, the grapefruit zest did add an extra and refreshing zing of citrus. You can taste both the lime and the grapefruit distinctly. If you are a citrus fan, this one’s for you.
Makes 6 individual tarts
- 1 package Mcvities digestive crackers
- ¾ stick salted butter, softened
- ¼ cup white sugar
1. Empty the digestives into a large bowl. Using the heel of a glass, crush the digestives until you achieve the consistency of sand. (I promise, it doesn’t take more than 5 minutes.)
2. Cut the butter into slices, and then use your fingers to incorporate into the crumbled digestives. Add the sugar, and mix with your fingers until you achieve the texture of wet sand. Spoon the mixture into tart shells, and press into a crust.
- Two 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup key lime juice
- zest of 1 lime, or 2 key limes
- 1 tablespoon grapefruit zest
- 4 large egg yolks
1. Empty a sweetened condensed milk into a medium bowl. Add the key lime juice, a bit at a time. (If you can’t find fresh key limes, use Nellie and Joe’s Key West Juice from the supermarket). Mix in lime and grapefruit zest, then mix in the egg yolks; stir until just incorporated.
2. Pour the filling into the tart shells and cook at 350F for 12 minutes. When they come out of the oven, allow them to cool, and then chill before serving.
3. Optional: Serve with freshly whipped cream.