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A key lime pie is a type of custard pie which is made with key limes, limes with a very distinctive flavor. Many people associate this pie with the American South, where it is a very popular dish, and it can also be found in other regions of the world. A classic version is made with a crumbly graham cracker crust, a rich creamy filling, and a few dollops of whipped cream. The idea is to use simple ingredients, showcasing the astounding flavor of key limes. You can also make key lime tartlets for individual servings.
Unlike lemon meringue pie, a similar pie which is filled with a tangy lemon curd, key lime pie is often made with condensed milk, creating a more creamy flavor. However, the pie can also be made exactly like lemon meringue pie, with or without the meringue. In either case, the dessert is rich and flavorful, and it is typically served chilled.
While other crusts can be used to make a key lime pie, many people think that graham cracker crust is superior. A graham cracker crust is extremely easy to make, which is certainly an advantage, and it also has a flavor which sets off the key limes well, as the crust will be rich, nutty, and slightly sweet without being overwhelming. To make a graham cracker crust, one and one quarter cups of graham cracker crumbs are worked with around six tablespoons of melted butter and one to two tablespoons of sugar to create a rough mass which is simply pressed into the pie pan and allowed to chill to set while the other ingredients of the pie are mixed.
To make a key lime pie with condensed milk, three egg yolks are mixed with one and three quarter cups of condensed milk, half a cup of key lime juice, and two teaspoons of key lime zest. The condensed milk sweetens the mixture, making the addition of sugar unnecessary. Once mixed, the filling can be poured into the crust and baked for 10 minutes. The resulting pie will keep for several days in the fridge.
If you want a key lime pie with a more custardy flavor, whisk three eggs, one third cup key lime juice, and three quarters of a cup of sugar together over a double boiler. The mixture will start to thicken and turn pale, at which point it should be removed from the heat so that four tablespoons of unsalted butter can be stirred in, along with a tablespoon of key lime zest. This key lime pie should also be baked for around 10 minutes to complete the cooking process and set the custard.
Southerners talk about key lime pie and it's one of those things that is served in many restaurants, but only a few places have really good pie. This is probably because they use regular Persian limes and add green food coloring to make it look more lime flavored. The end result is that the pie just tastes tart and sort of "green."
Good key lime pie, real key lime pie doesn't have food coloring and indeed, will probably have a yellowish filling reminiscent of lemon pie. This is because limes may be green, but the juice isn't.
One of the best key lime pies I ever had featured a graham cracker/crushed pecan crust. The pie was sweet and rich and the nutty crust just knocked it out of the park.