- Feast on the Cheap - https://feastonthecheap.net -

Key Lime Pie

Mary Anne here. This really should be entitled, “How I Spent My Summer Vacation.” August 26th heralded my first week off since last December, and I was eager to spend nine beach-filled days at our family homestead on eastern Long Island. I had invited my little sister, Heather, (a professional photographer), to spend the first weekend with me, sans husbands and kiddies. The plan was to cook and eat and then cook some more while hopefully snagging some photo tips from a pro! Unfortunately, we were threatened by the impending arrival of Hurricane Irene and so my wise sib begged off, leaving me alone with this nasty nemesis of nature.

Although I ended up spending Saturday night at a Red Cross shelter (I was willing to go to any lengths to avoid Old Ireney), I have to disclose that my vacation and its furious, wind-blowing, tree-uprooting visitor was actually a blessing in a very wolfish disguise. Mariel’s in-laws live on the east end year-round, and they had wisely installed a mother-of-a-generator in preparation for any and all apocalyptal events.

In the wake of Irene and her massive coast-wide power-outage, these two generous souls opened their home, their hearts, and their generator to me. We spent many hours with each other during a difficult time, which only served to strengthen our bond and energize our beautiful and enduring friendship (we were friends well before our children fell in love and married.) D & T live a stone’s throw from the ocean, and fearing water lapping at their doorstep, they too stayed in the shelter that first night, making me feel warm, safe, and fully protected. We even had some fun as we cordoned off our own private sleeping area beneath the gymnasium’s basketball hoops, surrounded by the boxes of cots and blankets. There was a lot of laughter as we snuggled in for the stormy night.

Michael joined me for the tail-end of Irene and the man, like most of us, enjoys his creature comforts. Food is probably second only to watching baseball. He was not going to allow a silly thing like electricity impact his menu and he took us all to a verrry fancy dinner at The Palm, (definitely not a Feast on the Cheap!) followed by dessert at the newly established East Hampton Grill, where D. swore they had the very best Key Lime Pie.

Yes, the pie was spectacular – but at eleven dollars a slice I knew I had to replicate this alarmingly expensive slice of heaven at home. The one thing that they do, which I think really puts their pie over-the-top, is garnish it with sprinkles of graham cracker cookie crumbles atop the whipped cream. YUM!  The sweet crunch of cookies juxtaposed with the velvety tart filling and the silky whipped cream is ridiculously good and will make you forget all of your woes, whether it’s the forceful howl of a hurricane or kissing the lazy days of summer goodbye!

Key Lime Pie
Serves 8

Note: I’m not a big fan of whipped cream, but that doesn’t mean my loved ones don’t like to indulge. When I’m feeling benevolent, I’ll dish up dessert with a side of the frothy fat, but I hate making it at the last minute. If you want to prepare the whipped cream ahead of time (as I always do), it separates a bit. Keep it covered in the fridge and just before serving, simply give it a good whisking and it will stand at attention.

Squeezing tiny Key limes is a royal pain, so I buy a 16 ounce bottle of “Nellie and Joe’s” Florida Key Lime Juice. You can get 4 pies out of the bottle, which makes it very reasonable, cost-wise. My local market stocks it in the beverage section next to Rose’s Lime juice (NOT a substitute) and other cocktail additives. 

One last thing – do NOT add the zest of Key limes for a pretty garnish. The zest is very bitter and will spoil the pie. If you really want a sprinkle of green, use the zest of a regular lime.

For the crust:
1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs – $2.89
¼ cup sugar – stock
½ Teaspoon cinnamon – stock
pinch of nutmeg – stock
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
4 egg yolks – stock (I freeze the egg whites in a sealed baggie)
1 4-oz. can sweetened, condensed milk – $2.39
½ cup  Key lime juice – $3.49

For the topping (optional):
1 cup whipping/heavy cream – $2.09
2 heaping Tablespoons Confectioner’s sugar – stock
½ Teaspoon vanilla – stock

Cookie Crumbs:
2/3 cup graham cracker crumbs – included above
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted – stock
2 Tablespoons sugar – stock
Grand Total Assuming Well-Stocked Pantry: $10.89
Total Per Serving: $1.36

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Prepare the crust. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and spices until blended. Stir in the melted butter, combining well.

3. Transfer the mixture to the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate. Using your fingers or the round bottom of a small gratin bowl, lightly spread the crumbs evenly along the bottom and up the sides of the pie plate. Once evenly distributed, use gentle pressure to press the mixture into the bottom and sides, forming a rim slightly raised at the top edge of the dish.

4. If opting for the cookie crumble topping, prepare in the same manner, through step 2. Transfer the crumbs to a piece of heavy foil, folding up the sides to prevent spilling in the oven. (It looks like a flat-bottomed, square boat.)

5. Bake the pie shell and “boated” cookie crumbs for about 10 minutes until lightly browned. Transfer to a wire cooling rack.

6. Turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees.

7. Meanwhile, prepare the filling. In a medium mixing bowl, using a whisk or electric mixer, lightly beat the eggs. Add the condensed milk, incorporating fully.

8. Gradually add the Key lime juice. Be careful not to over beat, if using an electric mixer, as the final product will form air bubbles on the surface.

9. Transfer the filling to the prepared piecrust. Using a rubber spatula, spread evenly to the edges of the crust.

10. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. The pie will jiggle – don’t worry as the final setting occurs in the fridge.

11. Transfer to the wire cooling rack. Allow to cool for 15 minutes and then refrigerate the pie for 8 hours.

12. If opting for topping with whipped cream, place a medium mixing bowl and the mixer beaters in the freezer for about ½ hour before you plan to serve the pie. Whip the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla until the cream forms firm peaks. (Always be careful not to over beat, as the cream will separate and turn into “butter”. I over beat the cream  my very first time at the helm of the mixer. I was about 12 years old and helping my dad’s wife prepare a Pineapple Upside Down Cake. Needless to say, I was shocked by the result and poor Eileen had to run to the store and fetch another pint. As I recall, I was relieved of my whipping duties!)

13. Either spread the whipped cream over the top of the pie, or top each slice with a dollop. Sprinkle with the cookie crumbs.