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Key Lime Pie from scratch

A south Florida staple, key lime pie is tart and sweet. It’s bright flavor (and color) come from fresh lime juice baked into a custard. The sweet graham cracker crust gives the pie it’s recognizable flavor, and it is crowned with freshly whipped cream.

You might also enjoy my lemon tart with torched meringue. For ease of browsing, you can find all of my tarts and pies recipes in one place.

Perhaps that is why I have developed a serious love for this barely green, barely sweet little tart.
We weren’t introduced until I was able to have a proper appreciation for something so perfect in its simplicity.
My insatiable sweet tooth has been discussed on several occasions right here on this very blog and although I won’t deny that I love dessert, what I do not love is desserts that are cloying.

That makes this pie the perfect sweet for me.  It is creamy and smooth,  just barely sweet with a nice tart bite that gets you right on the sides of your tongue making you immediately go back for more (or maybe that’s only me).
The graham cracker crust harkens back to pre-school with it’s sweet smell that makes one long for mandatory nap time.

Key Lime Tart
recipe barely adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

I wouldn’t dare suggest that you only make this pie with actual key limes, as most of you probably don’t have access to them.  I made this filling with regular (Persian) limes and their zest.  I also tried bottled key lime juice, but preferred the juice of fresh limes for their bright, citrusy flavor.

Normally, the filling for this pie is not cooked and it sets up in the refrigerator.  I’m sure those of you that have ordered (or even made) key lime pie have found yourselves a bit disappointed on occasion.  Although the filling is set enough to slice, it can be a bit too loose.  After reading dozens of recipes, I found a solution: 
a short stint in the oven to set the filling resulted in a creamy, custard-like filling that set beautifully and sliced perfectly clean. 

-This recipe will make a 9″ pie or 4 tarts (4 1/2″ size)

For the filling:
4 large egg yolks
1 heaping tbsp. grated lime zest
1/2 cup fresh lime juice (about 5 – 6 limes)
1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 oz)
tiny pinch salt

Whisk egg yolks and lime zest together in a medium bowl.

After 1 1/2 – 2 minutes, your mixture should look like this.  Bright yellow – green from the lime zest.  No need for green food coloring!

Whisk in condensed milk until mixture is smooth, then whisk in lime juice.  Cover and set aside.

Now make the crust…

For the Crust
8 graham crackers, broken into pieces
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 tbsp. sugar
pinch salt

Preheat oven to 325.   Put graham crackers in food processor and run for about 45 seconds until you have fine crumbs.   Pour melted butter over crumbs, add sugar & salt and pulse (5 -7 times should do) until you have what resembles wet sand.

Pour crumbs into pie plate, (or if using tart molds: 1/4 – 1/3 cup in each) pressing crumbs into an even layer on bottom and sides. 
Using the bottom of measuring cup makes this task much easier!
Bake crust for 13 – 16 minutes (tarts: approx. 12 minutes); remove from oven and set on wire rack. 
Do not turn off oven.

Pour filling into warm pie crust and bake 15 – 18 minutes (tarts: 10 – 12 minutes).  Remove from oven and let them cool for about an hour before refrigerating. 
Once cooled, place in refrigerator for 2 – 3 hours until chilled and set.

Top with whipped cream.

key lime pie

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