Now that there’s snow on the ground here (understatement of the year) I’m finally feeling like winter has truly arrived. Besides for wishing I was back in warm and sunny Costa Rica, I’ve been drinking hot cocoa, warming myself in front of the fire and procrastinating, because that’s what winter makes me want to do. #sloth
Also, I’ve been making pie. What else is new, hey? I love key lime pie in the winter because not only is it so simple to whip up- it is, literally, a matter of whipping a few things together- but it also uses bright and lively limes, which make me think of better days to come.
I made this pie the classic way, with a graham cracker crust and condensed milk, but added a few little touches that go a long way. A little extra butter in the crust, in addition to a bit of cinnamon and salt, makes it nutty and brown-sugary in the best way possible, and the addition of salt and lime zest to the filling amps up the flavor and tames the acidity. It’s sweet, it’s tangy, and it’s luscious and creamy- in short, everything I want in a pie.
It’s winter. It’s cold out. Go forth and make pie!
PS: last year’s citrus pie: lemon meringue.
Yields: one 9″ pie, serving 8
Barely adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
Why I love this recipe: sweetened condensed milk means a luscious, curd-like filling is possible without any effort and ensures the filling comes together in minutes. Cinnamon in the pie crust adds a special, almost nutty touch and a little bit of salt in both the crust and the filling tames the acidity, yielding a sweet, tart and creamy treat.
Notes: key limes are traditionally used for this pie (hence the name) but they’re actually more acidic and can sometimes leave an undesirable trace of bitterness behind. Not to mention, they’re tiny, so getting the yield of 4-5 limes would take about 20 tiny ones. Hence, I use regular limes in my recipe. They’re just as good!
Another thing: this pie freezes really well. Just freeze the pie and once it’s frozen, cover the top with plastic wrap, making sure there are no air bubbles on the surface. Thaw it in the fridge overnight before using.
For the crust:
- 11 graham crackers
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
For the filling:
- 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
- 1/2 cup lime juice , from 4-5 limes
- zest of 2 limes
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup heavy cream, for topping
- Preheat oven to 350º F.
- Thoroughly whisk all of the filling ingredients together (reserving the zest of one of the limes), and set aside to thicken while you prepare the crust.
- Process the graham crackers in a food processor to fine crumbs. Add the sugar, cinnamon and salt, and pulse to combine. Last, add in the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles wet sand.
- Press the mixture into a 9-inch pie dish evenly on the bottom and up the sides. Bake the crust until it is light golden brown and fragrant, 10 to 12 minutes.
- Cool the crust slightly, then give the prepared filling a final mix, and pour it into the pie pan. Turn the oven down to 325º F, and bake the pie until just set, but slightly wiggly in the center, 15 to 20 minutes.
- Cool the pie to room temperature, then set it in the fridge to chill completely, at least 3 hours or overnight.
- Just before serving, whip the cream to soft peaks, and spread it on top of the pie. Top with half of the lime zest. Serve.