Thanks Molly for having me as a guest pie blogger!
My first memory of key lime pie takes place in Key West, Florida. My 11- or 12-year-old self wondered about how the lime made it to Key West, Florida. In addition, I could not figure out what the difference was between a lime and a key lime. So in my journey of baking a key lime pie last week, I searched for the answers. A few googles later…the limes that we now call “key” are native to Malaysia. The limes came over with the Spanish to the now Florida Keys in 1500 and thus became known as “key limes.” The limes we typically find in the grocery store are Persian limes. In the 19th century a woman named “Aunt Sally” first made a Key Lime Pie, which is a funny coincidence cause I have an Aunt Sally. The pie was a big hit at the time because it required no milk, no refrigeration, and no ice, items not available in the Keys until the 1930s.
When looking for a good key lime pie recipe, remember it is not necessary to have key limes to make the pie. Unless you are living in the Florida Keys, in which case shame on you if you don’t use the local limes. There are several ways to make a key lime pie. I chose to go with a graham cracker crust, which is pretty simple to make. You can either crush up graham crackers or go with the pre-crushed. Whisk together 5 tablespoons of melted butter with 1½ cups of graham cracker crumbs. Press the crumbs into a pie plate and bake at 350 degrees for 5 to 10 minutes.
Let the crust cool a bit and then pour in mixture. I found that I had leftover mixture for a 9-inch pie so I ended up quickly throwing together a little more crust and making a small heart-shaped key lime pie tart.
Now, for many this could be the end of your key lime pie baking journey. You could bake the pie for 15 minutes and then let it chill for a couple of hours and eat. I chose to make a meringue to put on top. If you want to go this route, beat together 2 egg whites and ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar (found in the spice section of your grocery store) until peaks form. Then blend in ¼ cup of sugar. Finally fold in about a teaspoon of lime zest. Spread on top of pie and bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until meringue is golden brown. If you want to dig in right away, try to at least let it cool for about 45 minutes. If you have some more time let it chill in the refrigerator for several hours.
In sum, this is a great summertime desert. Refreshing. Light and tangy. For me, the best part of baking is sharing. I shared the little tart with my girlfriend. I then brought the pie over to a dinner gathering the following night. The rest of the pie then served as a thank you to Jose for painting my office last week.
One final note: if you love key lime pie and are not so into making it yourself and you are in the New York City area, I highly recommend Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies in Red Hook, Brooklyn. I like that Steve calls his place authentic…perhaps, Red Hook is the Key West of New York City. No matter what, Steve’s got good key lime pie. Enjoy and B’tei Avon (Hebrew for Bon Appetit!).