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For awhile now I have wanted to take on the task of mastering a specific dessert. I wanted people to think of me and say,”Oh Marissa? She makes the best…” Macrons, which I view as the Kilimanjaro of pastries have been an option. As well as profiteroles. And representing South America and Spain I once thought that I would master the flan (that was a complete disaster). But I got to thinking, why would I, coming from Florida, make the best macrons when I haven’t even attempted the king of all Florida desserts… the Key Lime Pie.

So now I have. My new goal is to become a master of the elusive and diverse Key Lime Pie.

According to Key Lime pie aficionado David L. Sloan, “Around here everyone has a story. They tell it in Key lime pie.” This has led to amazing variations on the original recipe, from bacon to jalapenos. According to historians, the pie was probably created by sponge divers who added the abundant local key limes to the condensed milk that they had on the boats. However the official story is that the Key Lime Pie recipe was first invented by a cook named Aunt Sally who worked in the house of millionaire and ship salvager William Curry. The first recipe, however, wasn’t recorded until the 1930s. Ever since, the Key Lime Pie has held a popular role in the Keys food culture and has spread throughout the state as well.

Personally, I prefer my key lime pies to be lighter and more airy than it’s cheesecakey counterparts. This recipe came from Pepe’s Cafe in Key West and was recorded by Sloan for Epicurious. It is definitely one of the best that I have tasted but I plan on continuing the my search for the perfect pie.

The Ingredients

For the graham cracker crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs from about 12 (2 1/4-inch by 4 3/4-inch) crackers
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup fresh (or bottled, if you must)  Key lime juice

To serve:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

The Process

Making the graham cracker crust:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Begin by stirring together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and cinnamon. Combine with the melted butter and press into the bottom and sides of a 9 inch pie plate. Bake for about 10 minutes until brown. Take out and allow to cool but leave the oven on.

making the filling:

In the bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachments, beat the egg whites until they are frothy. Then add 1/4 tsp cream of tartar and continue to beat until they hold stiff peaks.

At this point I squeezed about half a bag of key limes to get the half a cup of fresh juice. You can use store-bought juice if key limes are unavailable or you don’t feel like making the extra effort but I think that it takes away the charm of the dish.

In a separate large bowl whisk together the egg yolks and can of condensed milk. Add the lime juice. Gently fold the egg whites into the mixture until just combined. Spread the mixture in the pre-baked crust and bake until the center is set, about 20 minutes. I went ahead and left mine in until there was a little browning on the top.

Allow to cool completely and then cool for at least 2 hours before serving.

Whip the heavy cream and sugar together until whipped cream forms and use as garnish.