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In this heat, there are few things as satisfying as a super cold, citrusy, bright, custardy, and balanced Key lime pie. This Key lime pie is as refreshing as it is nostalgic — finished with fresh whipped cream, and fresh berries if you have them on hand.
I’ve probably had more Key Lime Pie than all other desserts combined in my life. Growing up in Charleston it seemed like it was on nearly every menu at every restaurant we’d dine in. It’s the pie for me forever, and still one of my absolute favorite desserts.
But here in NYC, It’s sometimes difficult to find. Most of my Northern friends and colleagues strangely don’t have much experience with making it. Since I can’t just buy it everywhere anymore, I have to make it (which of course is perfectly fine by me.) When the chef at my last restaurant here in New York said he wanted to put the city’s best Key lime pie on the menu, making it happen felt as natural as the sunshine. It ended up being the best selling dessert while on the menu.
The recipe took a little bit of tweaking, but I pulled my inspiration from the back of the classic Carnation sweetened condensed milk can as well as from Baking Illustrated, written and tested by the geniuses at America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Illustrated. This recipe is a marriage of both of them, with some additions of my own to make New York City’s BEST Key Lime Pie.
Unlike the majority of the citrus family that peaks in winter, Key Limes are hitting their stride right about now, summer into fall. That is — if you want key limes from the Florida Keys. But chances are your key limes are coming from California, Mexico, and Central America anyway because there’s only so much space to grow limes in the Keys. Luckily, imported Key Limes are available year-round.
With all of that said, chances are good that your juice is coming out of a bottle of unknown origin. And that’s perfectly fine too. I prefer the Nellie & Joe’s Famous Key West Lime Juice because it's easy to find— although it's true that it's not lime juice from key limes, but simply lime juice from Key West. If you want authentic Key Lime juice, I'd recommend Manhattan Key Lime Juice, which is what I've used to make pies in the restaurants.
Key limes are tiny, hard to juice, notoriously stingy with their output, and difficult to find fresh outside of their growing area unless you’ve got an expensive specialty food purveyor on hand. So thank that bottle of key lime juice for all of the struggles it’s saving you, and let’s make a pie.
I’m not going to judge you if you decide to buy a graham cracker crust. It’s blazing f*cking hot outside and if you want to take that shortcut and just get to the pie filling, do what makes you happy.
On the other hand, if you’d like to make your graham cracker crust it’ll come together with very little effort, certainly less than a classic pie crust. To make it even easier, I don’t bake this crust ahead of time! The pie does bake for 10 minutes, but you won’t be spending hours heating up your kitchen with this recipe.
9” pie dish (glass, metal, or ceramic)
Stand or hand mixer with a whip attachment
Small food processor
My personal preference is fresh whipped cream on top of a Key lime pie, while others prefer meringue. The meringue topping was classically used (similar to a lemon meringue pie), but I find that to be too sweet of a topping paired with the condensed milk filling. For this pie, I whipped 200 grams of heavy cream with 20 grams of confectioner’s sugar. You may have a little leftover, depending on how much suits you.
As you can see I’ve also garnished my pie with slices of lemon and lime, and a handful of blackberries and blueberries. There’s an endless amount of variation here. Strawberries and/or sweet raspberries, and even grapes are also nice. Some fresh mint, thyme, or basil is tasty and attractive on top, as well as organic edible flower petals from the market.
A traditional key lime pie with a few small upgrades makes this the Queen of Summer Desserts. The graham cracker crust comes together quickly followed by the creamy key lime filling before being topped with whipped cream.
I’m so happy you stopped by! Have a look around at some of my favorite recipes and stay a while.
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