Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Day 35: PIE! of the Key Lime Variety

Today we bring you pie.  In particular we bring you key lime pie with a berry compote on top.  From time to time I find myself with a terrible craving for key lime pie, this time I decided I was going to solve it myself instead of looking to a restaurant to fix it for me.

My pie started the same way most pies do; with a recipe.  However, I'm not huge on measurements, or recipes, so I decided to take it one step further and looked through about a half dozen different recipes to understand what the ratios and possible modifications were.  It took me about 30 minutes and a lot of googling but I finally found a bunch of recipes and concluded that a key lime pie pretty much just requires some combination of key lime juice, egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk and pie crust.  With my new found understanding in tow I set out to begin the prep on my pie.

The first step was the crust.  I made a simple graham cracker crust consisting of butter and about 8-9 graham cracker cookies that spent too much time in my food processor.  The butter got melted, mixed into the crumbs and then the mixture went into a pie pan.  With the crust fairly evenly pressed into the corners the pan went into a 375 degree oven for about twenty minutes while I got to work on the rest of the pie.

It turns out that the hardest part of this pie was the simplest step; generate 3/4 cup of freshly squeezed key lime juice.  For those of you unfamiliar with them, key limes are much smaller than normal limes, they are firmer than basic limes, and have a much stronger flavor.  Coming up with 3/4 cup of juice required juicing 25-30 of these bad boys (I lost track...) and nearly an hour of work squeezing away at the acidic little buggers.  Even after squeezing them all out I wasn't quite done, as these limes have a large number of seeds that have to be strained out before the juice is usable.  Nothing about this process was complex, but man was it draining.

Thankfully I managed to get the juice out of the limes and into my mixing bowl, along with 6 egg yolks, one can of sweetened condensed milk and a little bit of extra sugar (because why not?).  With everything together in the mixing bowl I set the paddle in motion and brought everything together.  The mixture went into the now cooled pie crust and then hit the oven on 325 for about 30 minutes.  I had to play this by eye, so just watch for when the custard starts to solidify completely and then pull it out to let it cool.

With the pie in the fridge I sliced up the berries and added what was left of my raspberry sauce (remember that?) over the top and put them back into the fridge to macerate while we ate dinner and the pie cooled completely.  A few hours later my family and I got tired of waiting and declared it pie time.

The slices came out reasonably well, although not perfectly.  It turns out that a glass pie pan is actually a royal pain when it comes time to remove and consume said pie, but in the end, we made it work.  The pie itself was almost perfect.  Nicely sweet, incredibly rich and a wonderfully tart finish.  The berries added another layer and some necessary sweetness that balanced the tart key lime flavor wonderfully.  If I were to make it again (and I almost certainly will) I think I'd use a bit less lime juice actually.  It was just what I wanted, a really tart, sweet, and intense pie, but it might have been a bit too much for some people, and almost too much even for me.

I have to admit, baking is not my thing, but thus far I've been quite pleased with my baking experiments and it has been the source for plenty of inspiration.  Hopefully my future pies and custards will work out as well as this one did.

My Recipe:
3/4 cup freshly squeezed key lime juice
1 14oz can of sweetened condensed milk
6 egg yolks
~1/2 cup of sugar
1.5 cups of graham cracker crumbs
~3/4 cups of melted butter
a bit of salt, either in the butter or added to the pie filling.

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