It was Gary’s birthday on Saturday, so I had to bake. Normally, Gary is our family Birthday Cake Baker but clearly he can’t be expected to bake his own cake. I feel as though there must be a sad song about that by someone, somewhere. Anyone with me?
As you may know, Gary is a master baker. He has been known to make his own fondant, colored in beautiful pastels. He rolls it out and cuts it into all sorts of fancy designs to decorate his delectable creations. He takes requests and always goes above and beyond.
So each year around May 1, I start to get nervous. I comb through my recipes and weigh my options. The last couple of years I’ve hit home runs, if I do say so myself. There has been vanilla bean creme brûlée and chocolate chip cookie dough baked to gooey perfection in a cast iron skillet and eaten with a spoon.
This year I set my sights on Key Lime Pie and knew without question that it was Mark Bittman’s recipe that I would follow. For my friend Melanie, this is an old standby. She whips it up on a whim and it never fails to impress. For me, this Key Lime Pie marks a special occasion.
I made my graham cracker crust and pie filling on Friday afternoon and topped it with the meringue on the birthday. The pie needs to chill in the refrigerator before serving but best not overnight so that the meringue will hold its shape.
Unfortunately, in all of the birthday excitement I didn’t get a picture of that perfect slice but maybe these happy faces will convince you that this recipe is worth making?
If yesterday wasn’t Mother’s Day I would have remade the pie for the photo-op but instead I have included a stock photo to give you the gist. My meringue layer wasn’t quite so thick and my photo would never have been lit so well. Enjoy!
- 6 Tbls unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 c (6 oz) graham cracker crumbs
- 3 Tbls sugar
- 1 graham cracker pie crust (see recipe below)
- 4 eggs, separated
- 1 (14-oz) can sweetened condensed milk
- 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
- pinch of salt
- pinch of cream of tartar
- 1/4 c confectioners sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Gently melt the butter in the microwave or on the stove.
- Combine sugar with graham cracker crumbs. Slowly add butter until well blended.
- Press crumbs into a 9 inch pie pan.
- Bake the crust for 8 - 10 minutes, just until it begins to brown. When crust is done, leave the oven at 350F and allow the crust to cool on a rack before filling. The crust will harden as it cools.
- Beat the egg yolks just until combined. Beat in the condensed milk, then the lime juice a little at a time. The mixture will thicken.
- Place the filling into the crust and bake until the filling is just firm, about 10 - 15 minutes. Remove and cool on a rack for about 10 minutes. Leave oven on.
- Beat the egg whites with salt and cream of tartar, until foamy. Add confectioners sugar a little bit at a time until the mixture is shiny and holds fairly stiff peaks. Be careful not to overbeat.
- Cover pie with meringue, making sure the meringue covers the entire filling and makes contact with the crust edges.
- The stiff meringue will hold its shape, so you can decorate it how you like. To make lots of little peaks all over the pie, take a whisk and poke it lightly into the meringue and lift up.
- Bake until the meringue is lightly browned; 10 - 15 minutes. Cool on a rack and then refrigerate.
- Serve cool.
- This pie is best eaten the same day. If it sits too long, the sugar will start sweating out of the meringue and form beads on the top. It will still taste great, but it's messier and looks funny.