Normally, I love to share my recipes because I know what it's like to taste something so divine and then never be able to have it again because the creator/chef/baker has shuffled off to the great kitchen in the sky. There are so many things my late husband used to make that I wish I had learned to do, or at least made him write or type out while he was still here.
However, there is a part of me that knows when I do something really good. And I don't really want to share because I want to be the special person who makes that one special thing. I know that is childish and selfish, but hey, if my eightysomething aunts can be like that, as was my late grandmother, then I can't help it if my genetics creep in every once in a while.
This is one of those recipes. Everyone has a go-to recipe for a tough crowd. Mine is Key Lime Pie. I actually don't like pie. I know, I know...but I don't. I know I make a damn good pie. But as I've said here, time and time again, I love to cook for others. That gives me more pleasure than eating what I've made. Hell, if I've made it, I can make it for myself any time I like.
Whenever I'm feeling like crap, instead of posting a Selfie to get compliments, I just make a Key Lime Pie.
So here is my not-so secret recipe. Because I can't take it with me. And, in spite of all the compliments and ego-boosts I receive when I make it, I'm still single.
KEY LIME PIE
Makes 1 – 9” pieHeat oven to 350F.
Crust:1 prepared graham crust
OR1 cup graham cracker crumbs
¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbsp. granulated sugar (optional)
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and blend together with a pastry blender or fork until all crumbs are moist. Pour into a 9” Pyrex or tin foil pie plate and press the crumbs to the pan, making sure that your crust is at least 1/8” thick all over. When the crumbs have been pressed and formed, bake the empty shell (no weights required) for at least 7 min in the oven until the crumbs are golden brown but not too dark. Take the shell out to cool while you make the filling.Filling:
12 key limes OR 4-5 regular limes to give you 2 tsp. of lime zest and ½ cup freshly-squeezed lime juice.4 egg yolks
1 – 300 mL tin of condensed milk
If you are using actual key limes, this will be more labour-intensive since it’s harder to zest them, but the flavour is so worth it. To bring more juice out of larger limes, microwave each lime for no more than 10 seconds before cutting and juicing them. Beware of seeds!Keep your lime zest separate from your juice. Once you have your mise-en-place (zest in one thing, juice in another, opened your tin, and separated the eggs (keep the whites out for the end)), take a large bowl (not gigantic but bigger than medium) and beat your egg yolks to the ribbon stage, when they are light and creamy in colour, and have thickened to the point when you lift the whisk, the egg yolks cascade from the tip like a beautiful yellow ribbon.
(If you are using a machine, use hand beaters. Don’t use a food processor or a stand mixer. You will overbeat the eggs and you’ll curse how difficult it is to clean up this thing. I mix everything by hand because I get a workout.)Once your egg yolks have reached the ribbon stage, add the entire tin of condensed milk and half of the lime juice (so ¼ cup). Beat ingredients until well-combined. This is not as easy as it looks, but the lime juice helps to cut the condensed milk into the yolks. Once this mixture is well-blended, add the lime zest and the rest of the juice and mix until just combined. Do NOT overbeat!
Scrape and pour and pour and scrape the mix into the pie shell. Don’t worry if it’s lopsided or has a funny top. The top will smooth out in the baking.Bake for about 8 minutes and check by wobbling the pan. If the pie wobbles, leave it for no more than four (4) minutes. Do not overbake – it should not take longer than 12 min at 350F to set. Once the centre is no longer wobbling, the pie is done. A teeny bit of wetness is okay but not full on jello-style wobbling like it was when you put it in. Allow to cool.
There are several ways you can eat your key lime pie.One is plain, i.e. the way it looks right now.
One is topped with whipped cream (Chantilly icing). If you’re going to do that, then whip the cream in the stand mixer or by hand. Freshly-whipped cream is easier to spread on top of a pie than the stuff you squirt.The third is meringue. Those egg whites you had from above – make sure they are room temperature, which they should be by the time you finish making and baking your pie. First, throw your oven on at 400, or take out a blow torch. Throw the whites in the stand mixer with 1 Tbsp warm water and ¼ tsp of cream of tartar. Throw the switch to high and let it go until the whites are at the soft peak stage (take the mixer out and the peaks fall into themselves) Then add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of sugar, sprinkling it over the egg whites. Continue to whip until egg whites are stiff – when you take the beaters out, the mix should stand like Mt. Everest. Spread or pipe the egg whites on top of the key lime pie. You can totally torch the pie if you want to freak people out, but first, you may want to bake it in the oven for about 10 minutes or so. Then, when the whites have sort of set, pull it out and blowtorch it, or turn your broiler on and leave the pie under it until the edges of the whites start to turn golden brown.