Ok, quick! Here are my Key Lime Pie word associations: tropical, summer, florida, beach, lime (lime? really? Way to think outside the box, there Scott), fresh, green, bright!
Basically, Key Lime Pie makes me think of warm, fun places. It always has. The first time I can recall trying it was in a shanty restaurant in Miami on vacation as a kid. It was awesome.
Now, the strictest of purists will say my Key Lime Pie recipe isn’t technically a Key Lime Pie at all. They’d be both right and wrong. The original pie recipe calls for just three ingredients: key lime juice, egg yolk, and sweetened condensed milk, and mine definitely strays from this. If you’re looking for your Floridian grandma’s Key Lime Pie, this ain’t it. But! I am most definitely making a pie, and it most definitely features key lime vis a vis we’re making Key Lime Pie today.
Where exactly that original recipe came from falls in the “food origin mystery” category. What seems to be the original concept for the dish was discovered in New York in the early 1930’s. A recipe using sweetened condensed milk and yolks – but with lemon juice – was most likely adapted in the Florida Keys by using key lime juice. Boom, a star is born. Now who exactly made the first adaptation will likely never be known.
Wherever it came from, original Key Lime Pie undergoes some cool food science. Protein chains in the egg yolks react with enzymes and sugar in the condensed milk and the acid of the lime juice to essentially coagulate or thicken without the application of heat! Simply agitating (mixing) the ingredients will homogenize the various elements and denature (stretch out) the protein in the egg yolk, allowing the chemical reaction to begin. Side note: these days, for saftey’s sake and fear of liability, the pie is baked briefly.
All of this is well and good, but it doesn’t actually describe the recipe we’re making today! As many of you already know, I was trained in classical French pastry, and while all of my work has a distinctly American lean on it, I almost always use French techniques. And if we’re speaking of classical French pastry, in my opinion there aren’t many recipes as fundamental, as elegantly simple and delicious as lemon cream. It’s bright and tart and sweet and creamy all at the same time and in perfect harmony. Well, it turns out that if you happen to swap out the lemon juice for key lime juice….well, you get a damn good Key Lime Pie (and the same flavor evolution of the original Key Lime Pie!).
By using the lemon cream recipe as a foundation, our filling is cooked on the stove top – which is much more precise and subtle than an oven – and sets up into a firm but creamy texture that I personally prefer.
How about we go ahead and make it?
Cheers – Chef Scott
- 290 g graham cracker crumbs
- 175 g butter unsalted
- 30 g sugar
- Melt the butter and combine with the graham cracker crumbs and sugar until thoroughly mixed.
- Press the mixture into a pie/cake pan to the desired thickness. For this recipe I'm making a 1/4"/6mm crust using a 8" x 2" / 20.5cm x 5cm ring.
- Bake at 350F/176C for 7-10min. Gently press the crust down after removing from the oven and let cool completely.
- Roughly cube the butter and reserve in the refrigerator to use later.
- Combine the sugar and key lime juice and heat in a sauce pot over medium heat.
- While the key lime juice is heating, combine the whole egg, egg yolks, and salt.
- Once the key lime juice just begins to simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low and add the egg mixture, whisking rapidly to avoid curdled egg.
- Cook the mixture, whisking constantly, over medium to medium-low heat until it thickens and reaches 180F/82C.
- Remove the sauce pot from the stove and continue to whisk 1-2min.
- Transfer the mixture to a heat safe container and add the cold butter while whisking.
- Whisk or hand blend the filling until fully emulsified.
- Pour the filling into the pre-baked graham shell.
- Cover the surface of the filling with plastic wrap to touch.
- Refrigerate and let set for 12-24hr.
- Combine the water and sugar in a sauce pot over medium-high heat. Whisk occasionally while the syrup heats up, but remove the whisk and stop whisking once the syrup begins to boil.
- Once the syrup begins to boil, begin whisking the egg whites in a stand mixer with a whip attachment on medium speed.
- Cook the sugar syrup to 244F/118C. Monitor the whisking egg whites so that they develop a full foam (no clear albumen), but aren't too stiff, by the time the syrup reaches temperature.
- Once the syrup reaches temperature, begin whipping the egg whites on high speed. Remove the syrup from the stove and carefully pour it in a steady stream down the inside side of the mixing bowl. Be careful not to pour the syrup over the moving whip attachment.
- After all of the syrup has been added, continue whisking on high speed for 30sec-1min., then reduce speed to medium-high.
- Continue to whisk the meringue until it thickens, cools, increases in volume, and begins to develop a glossy sheen on its surface. Whisking times vary but usually take between 10-15min.
- Zest the lime directly into the finish meringue. Gently fold the lime zest into the meringue until evenly incorporated, careful not to over mix.
- Using a disposable piping bag and a large star piping tip, pipe dollops over the entire filling of the pie.
- Lightly brown the piped meringue with a blow torch, or by placing the pie in a 450F/232C oven for a few minutes, until evenly browned.
Karin Vollert says
E erything looks sooooooo delicious…!