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Ask a Foodie: Buy or Make Key Lime Pie?

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Key Lime Pie

Q. My fiance wants a key lime pie. Should I buy him one or make it myself?


A. We can’t answer that for you, but we can certainly give you recommendations in both areas.

If you decide to buy, then look no further than the Sandbar at the Pearl Brewery, 200 E. Grayson St., where chef Chris Carlson serves up a key lime tart that is bright with flavor yet silky on the palate. It is second to none in the city’s restaurants. For more information, call (210) 222-2426.

If you want to make your own key lime pie, then you can follow a recipe my family has used for years. It comes from southern Florida, where people take their key lime pie seriously. To be more specific, it comes from the cookbook produced by the famous Miami restaurant, Joe’s Stone Crab. The owners of the restaurant refused to part with their recipe, but Richard Sax, who co-wrote the restaurant’s cookbook with owner Jo Ann Bass, could not envision the cookbook without it, so he came up with a version of the dessert, based on his attempts to copy the original as closely as possible.

A few suggestions when making the pie:

Whip the egg yolks on the highest speed your mixer will allow and keep whipping them for at least 5 minutes. And keep the mixer on high even while drizzling in the sweetened evaporated milk.

Take seriously the suggestion to get the pie as cold as possible by popping it into the freezer for at least 15 minutes before serving. The addition of ice crystals to the texture and the way it awakens the lime flavors make this even more irresistible.

Of course, you can used a store-bought graham cracker crust. Just don’t skimp on the fresh squeezed lime juice in favor of something from the store. There is a huge difference.

By the way, key lime pie is not green; it is yellow. It only has flecks of green from the lime zest. Some people add food color to make it green, which we don’t recommend except on St. Patrick’s Day.

Key Lime Pie

Graham cracker crust:
1 wax paper-wrapped package graham crackers (1/3 of a 1-pound box) or 1 cup plus 2 1/2 tablespoons graham cracker crumbs
5 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar

3 egg yolks
Grated zest of 2 limes (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk, such as Eagle Brand
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (use key limes if you can)

1 cup heavy or whipping cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar

You can use a store-bought crust or make your own.

For the crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch pie pan. Break up the graham crackers; place in a food processor and process to crumbs. (If you don’t have a food processor,, place the crackers in a large plastic bag; seal and then crush the crackers with a rolling pin.) Add the melted butter and sugar and pulse or stir until combined. Press the mixture into the bottom and sides of the pie pan forming a neat border around the edge. Bake the crust until set and golden, 8 minutes. Set aside on a wire rack; leave the oven on.

For the filling: Meanwhile, in an electric mixer with the wire whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks and lime zest at high speed until very fluffy, about 5 minutes. Gradually add the condensed milk and continue to beat until thick, 3 or 4 minutes longer. Lower the mixer speed and slowly add the lime juice, mixing just until combined, no longer. Pour the mixture into the crust. Bake for 10 minutes or until the filling has just set. Cool on a wire rack, then refrigerate. Freeze for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

For the topping: Whip the cream and the powdered sugar until nearly stiff. Cut the pie in wedges and serve very cold, topping each wedge with whipped cream.

Makes 1 pie.

From “Eat at Joe’s: The Joe’s Stone Crab Restaurant Cookbook” by Jo Ann Bass and Richard Sax

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2 Responses to “Ask a Foodie: Buy or Make Key Lime Pie?”

  1. This recipe was amazing! 😀 Brought it to a party this weekend and the birthday girl raved! Definitely noticed the difference freezing it for 15 minutes made! Thanks John! Best “ask a foodie” service out there! 😀