Controversial as this will sound, I have to admit that over the years I’ve rather despaired of citrus-based desserts. I’ve been a chocolate girl through and through – whilst also making room for anything of the caramel, nutty, creamy variety – and the sharp tang of lemon or lime just never did it for me in the same way a decadent, rich, totally over-the-top chocolaty pudding would.
This gorgeously green dessert is so-called because it is traditionally made with key limes from the Florida Keys. Key limes are slightly smaller than regular limes and are supposedly more tart and aromatic, making them ideal partners to the sweet and creamy ingredients that make up this pie.
This dessert, whilst it isn’t something I’ve eaten often, evokes great memories of a childhood trip to Florida’s Key West. I remember we visited an establishment of sorts famed for its Key lime pie and were told we’d receive a free tea-towel with their famous recipe printed on it. (Free tea-towels! It doesn’t get more exciting than that on holiday does it!)
Well much to my Mum and Aunt Lesley’s dismay this ‘tea-towel’ turned out to be a thin piece of cotton about the size your hand. Upon wondering what to do with it we were assured its best use was to be sown into a patchwork quilt…! Now i’m a Brit, and this isn’t the kind of thing we do (is it?!), but Americans seem to absolutely love their patchwork quilts. (But hey – live and let live – maybe they think we’re obsessed with tea-towels…) The non-tea-towel recipe now sits in my Mum’s recipe scrapbook and it still makes me smile whenever I see it.
Apologies for the slightly odd digression. Back to the pie. I scoured the internet for variations on the Key lime pie but it seems it’s a classic people don’t like to mess with. Most follow the time-honoured combination of a crunchy biscuit base, creamy pie filling of condensed milk and a generous topping of whipped cream.
I adapted my version from BBC’s Good Food and we enjoyed this after a Sunday roast. Sublime.
150g digestive biscuits
150g unsalted butter
397g tin condensed milk
3 egg yolks
400ml double or whipping cream
1 tablespoon icing sugar
Preheat the oven to 160C and grease a 22cm springform tin, lining the base with grease-proof paper.
Pulse the biscuits to crumbs in a food processor (or alternatively pop in a food-bag and bash with a rolling pin).
Gently melt the butter and then mix together with the biscuit crumbs and press into the base and up the sides of of the tin. Use a glass to really press it all down, which keeps it together when you slice it and keeps it crunchy. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes and then leave to cool.
Put the egg yolks and condensed milk in a bowl and whisk until thick and creamy. Add the juice and zest of 4 limes, saving one for the end. Whisk again for another minute and then pour the filling into the cooled base. Carefully put it back in the oven for another 15 minutes before leaving to cool for at least three hours or overnight.
When you are ready to serve, carefully remove the pie from the tin and put on a serving plate. Softly whip the cream and icing sugar (taking care not to overbeat) and then dollop this onto the pie however you like (you can pipe it or just swirl it on, as I did).
Finally grate over the zest of the saved lime.
- Serves around 8-12, depending on portion sizes
- To make gluten free, use wheat-free biscuits