Monday, January 12, 2009

Key Lime Pie.

Over at Mouthfuls of Heaven, Bells has made a Nigella Lawson recipe for Key Lime pie. Now. Don't get me wrong. What she made looks heavenly and I'd happily dig in for five or six slices of it. But it looks nothing like the key lime pies I've had in the Keys. (It looks more like a kind of citrus souffle, with a crust at the bottom. Yum, but not what I'm used to.)

So, just for fun, and refrence, here's my recipe for key lime pie, that I got in the keys and use fairly regularly.


-4 extra large egg yolks
-14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
-1/2 cup key lime juice
Beat the egg yolks and condensed milk until creamy. Then mix in key lime juice, and put in fridge until the filling sets like custard. (That's right, no baking.) Top with whipped cream, and dig in.


Traditionally this was made with a short bread crust and merengue topping (to efficiently use up the whites of the eggs used to make the filling, I assume). These days they use whipped cream instead. Up to you. I use whipped cream and make macaroons with the egg whites.

Obviously this stuff is really dense, and super-sweet. Key lime juice is more acidic than regular lime juice, and helps cut the sweetness. If I were making this with regular limes, I'd consider spiking the lime juice with some lemon, to take the edge off the sweetened conensed milk. It helps the filling congeal faster, too.

What happens is, the acid in the juice breaks down the proteins in the condensed milk, a chemical version of what happens when you heat proteins. And so the filling thickens, just like if you were to cook a custard. However, because there're eggs in it, and their raw-ness is up for debate, I (and everyone else, from Keys cooks to the CDC) suggest keeping it in the fridge if you haven't scarfed it up on the spot.

I make this most years for Thanksgiving or Christmas. The hub's family likes citrus flavor in their sweets, and shoving a key lime pie or lemon merengue pie at them gives me time to eat the pumpkin pies before they notice.


Barbara said...

Now I have to make a Key Lime pie in addition to the chocolate chip cookies. Thanks a heap, Samurai Knitter. Just kidding. Key Lime pie tastes like hot weather; just what I need in this deep freeze.

Bells said...

Oh so Nigella didn't go completely off track by adding the egg whites - but they were traditionally done as a merengue.

I'm going to try the no baking idea, even if the idea of no-baking a heavily egged recipe sits a little weirdly with me.

Virginia said...

I love your knitting and especially Goober pictures but the recipes are a real treat. I made the toffee shortbread cookies to give away and kept them all. Seriously good - and I love key lime pie.

Amy Lane said...

Sounds wonderful! My brother makes a lemon meringue in which he neglects to add a lot of sugar--I LOVE it because too sweet takes away the yumminess... it sounds like this has the same philosophy...

GrillTech said...

No food anthropology on this one?

Anonymous said...

delurking to day to say Hi. I enjoy reading your blog!

RobynR said...

Not really worried about the raw eggs myself . . . but I would tend to use a pasteurized egg instead of the ordinary run of the mill ones.

Word verification: Predica - the amount of time it takes to get in trouble when my MIL finds out that I've been using and consuming "raw" eggs.

Lethe said...

Regarding Key Lime Pie history:

There is a wonderful book of recipes + recipe history that I have thought of recommending to you in the past, because of your interest in food history (though it goes back only to 1900): American Century Cookbook: The Most Popular Recipes of the 20th Century, by Jean Anderson. It is a large book with "over 500 recipes" from the decades of the 1900s. Every recipe includes information about where it came from (so rare in the world of cookbooks today, but what ultimately makes the recipe more interesting). Also it includes are many copies of original photos, ads, brochures, food events (e.g. 1901 - hot dog served on bun, 1902 - Fannie Farmer starts her cooking school) etc. In it you will see recipes that you had forgotten about but which were popular at one time, as well as old favorites. Some topics get their own sidebar mini-articles, including Key Lime Pie, and Crumb Crusts.

In the entry about Key Lime Pie, she quotes from the book Southern Food, by John Egerton (1987) that Key Lime Pie was known in the Keys "as far back as the 1890s", using Gail Borden's sweetened condensed milk that was available shortly before the Civil War.

In the article about Crumb Crusts, she quotes the Egerton book saying that graham cracker crusts were used then as well. However, then she spends much of the rest of the entry refuting that claim, saying that other sources indicate a flaky pastry crust was used originally, and then tracing the history of crumb crusts in other cookbooks. She speculates that their origins may be zwieback crusts for cheesecake from Eastern Europe, and notes the cheesecakes with crumbs at Junior's Deli in Brooklyn which opened in 1929. (Earliest Graham Cracker Crust sighting, 1923, the Los Angeles Times Prize Cookbook).

Finally, the recipe she includes has the same ingredients as yours, but to deal with the issue of raw eggs it includes baking the filling at 350 for 15 minutes, topping with the meringue, baking for 15 minutes more. Not sure what I think about that. [please pardon if this is a double comment, I goofed while posting.]