Photos and Words by Natalie Goldberg
Think about taking the first, satisfying bite of your favorite dessert. Maybe it’s cool and refreshing, warm and rich, or crunchy and chewy; regardless it’s jam-packed with all the flavors you crave. Even as a kid, I’ve always been the one to order a fruity dessert as opposed to a chocolate lava cake or hot fudge sundae. Something about a tangy, sweet, and tart dessert makes me feel refreshed and cleanses my palate. Therefore, it was at an early age that my love of key lime pie first came to fruition.
When I found out that there would be a 9-foot diameter Key Lime Pie at South Station this past February, I knew I had to be there. Travelers gathered around the giant table where the chefs dumped buckets-full of graham cracker crust and key lime filling. They smoothed out the surface with a large spatula and started serving close to 2,000 cups full of their creation. The pie was complete without baking or chilling, though the station itself was the temperature of a refrigerator. According to Bostnno, the entire “pie” consisted of 200 lb of graham crackers, topped with the juice of 5,760 key limes mixed with 55 gallons of sweetened condensed milk. It tasted a bit like limes, a bit like preservatives, and mostly like a cup full of mediocre pudding with some crumbled graham crackers. My reactions are harsh, but the flavors just were not there, especially for someone who was really looking forward to digging into a giant version of a favorite dessert. In their defense, they said it would be the largest, but they did not say it would be the best-tasting. In reality, this giant key lime pie served as a publicity stunt to convince people to escape from the below freezing weather in Boston and venture to the Florida Keys. Never having tried key lime pie before in her life, my friend wondered if this green pudding in a cup really resembled a slice of key lime pie. I realized how much she had been missing out on, and simply had to show her how a real key lime pie should be made and should taste. I had to justify and defend my favorite dessert from this display in the middle of the train station.
My favorite restaurant growing up by the beach served a tangy key lime pie with a fluffy, whipped, meringue top, paired with raspberry sauce and fresh berries. Having a slice of good quality key lime pie nowadays creates a feeling of nostalgia, bringing me back to summers filled with sunny days and a light, refreshing slice of that pie for dessert.
Since these times, I have tried a variety of key lime pies; ones with coconut crust, super sweet filling, loads of whipped cream, and accompanying fruity sauce combinations. My all time favorite key lime pie has a sweet, chewy crust with a tart filling that contains plenty of lime zest and minimal toppings. I enjoy key lime pies where I have to take a break after a few bites because of the intense sweet, tart, taste and creamy, crumbly texture.
My hands-down favorite recipe comes from the Trump Mar-a-Lago restaurant in Palm Beach, Florida. This pie is definitely on the tart side, but provides me with a taste of tanginess complemented by a buttery, not-too-sweet crust that crumbles and crunches just the right amount. On campus we may not all have access to fancy kitchen tools such as a stand mixer, but this recipe can be simply adapted to make in an apartment or dorm kitchen. I hope you enjoy your slice of paradise as you close your eyes and pretend like there aren’t 3-foot piles of snow outside your window.
3/4 pound graham crackers
4 Tbsp. granulated sugar
2 sticks melted butter
1/4 tsp. sea salt
4 egg yolks
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup fresh Key lime juice*
1 lime, grated zest
Whipped Cream Topping (optional)
1 cup heavy or whipping cream, chilled
2 Tbsp. confectioners' sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
To make graham cracker crust: Preheat the oven to 325°.
Break up the graham crackers, place in a food processor and process to crumbs. Add the melted butter, sugar and salt and pulse until combined. Press the mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan, forming an even layer on the bottom, sides and edge. Bake the crust for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow the crust to cool.
*If you do not have access to a food processor, buying a 9-inch pre-made pie crust is totally fine (and still delicious!)
To make filling: While the crust is resting, in an electric mixer with the wire whisk attachment, whip the egg yolks and lime zest at high speed until fluffy, or 5 to 6 minutes. Gradually add the condensed milk and continue to whip until thick, 3 to 4 minutes longer. Lower the mixer speed and slowly add the lime juice until incorporated.
*Since I didn’t have a mixer, I whipped up the mixture with a whisk- and got a good arm workout for the day! Make sure to whisk it really well until it is fluffy- this really makes the light, airy texture of the filling, rather than having it be too dense and pudding-like.
Pour the mixture into the crust and bake for 15 minutes, or until the filling has just set. Cool on a wire rack, and then refrigerate for 20 minutes (may need longer depending on how cold your refrigerator is. Just wait until it is firm.)
*If you can’t get fresh key limes, regular limes will do just fine, as well as buying pre-packaged lime juice. Try to get at least one fresh lime, though, since the zest itself is incredibly important to enhancing the flavor.
To make topping (optional): Whip the cream, confectioners' sugar and vanilla until nearly stiff. Evenly spread the whipped cream on top of the pie, and place in the freezer for 20 minutes prior to serving.