I first tasted Key lime pie in Key Biscayne, Florida when I was 19 years old. Upon first bite of this velvety, sweet dessert, I knew I was in love. I would forever be on a quest for the perfect Key lime pie. It was not easily found outside of Florida back then, so many years went by before I met up with this delicious stranger once again. But whenever I went to Florida, you knew what I was getting for dessert, even before a menu came out. Now that I am spending more time in Florida (oops, is my age showing?), I always order Key lime pie every time we are out to dinner. After our stay is over, I pick the “winner” as they all claim to be the “authentic recipe.” I do admit to being a bit obsessed.
But the real “winner” is from this recipe that I tore out of the New York Times Magazine in 1981 by Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey. These two chefs were culinary icons at this time, and their recipe intimidated me. Was I up to their standards? I didn’t think so at the time, but I simply had to give it a try. Even though I keep comparing it to many others, I always come back and say “this one is simply the best.” I think the meringue could have something to do with it. You be the judge, and please let me know what you think. And if you have a better recipe, or a restaurant to recommend, please do. I just can’t get enough of this Floridian sweet.
The graham-cracker crust:
1 1/2 cups graham-cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup finely chopped almonds
1/4 cup melted butter
The pie filling:
6 egg yolks
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk, about 1 1/4 cups
3/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons grated lime rind
The meringue (see note):
6 egg whites ** See note
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Combine the crumbs, sugar, almonds and butter in a bowl. Blend well.
3. Use the mixture to line the bottom and sides of a 10-inch pie plate. Bake eight to ten minutes. Remove the crust to a rack and cool completely.
4. Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees.
5. Beat the yolks in a mixing bowl. Pour in the condensed milk, stirring constantly. Add the lime juice and rind.
6. Pour the mixture into the crumb crust. Place the pie in the oven and bake 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool completely.
7. In a mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until frothy.
8. Gradually add the sugar and cream of tartar, beating constantly until peaks form. Continue beating until stiff.
9. Spread the meringue over the pie, being sure to cover all the way to the edge of the crust. Bake five to six minutes or until meringue is nicely browned. Remove to a rack to cool. Serve chilled. ***See note.
NOTE: from Craig and Pierre (but definitely not me). “If you prefer, you may ignore the meringue (not), and spread the pie, once baked and cooled, with a layer of sweetened whipped cream.”
**NOTE: I use 7 egg whites to make sure that the meringue is plentiful!
***NOTE: Make sure you cool the finished pie completely before you chill it in the fridge.