One of my all-time favorite desserts is key lime pie. Nothing beats a refreshing treat that is crisp and tart but also smooth and cool. But if I’m having a party and want to make portable food so my guests aren’t encumbered by plates and forks, a full size pie is not the best choice. So I came up with this delicious redesign of my favorite key lime pie recipe. And I’m not ashamed to brag – it was a home run. We’re talking, grand slam, out of the park, home run.
First – a little lesson on the difference between regular limes and key limes. Regular limes (also known as Persian Limes) are easier to find than key limes (although key limes are becoming more readily available). Regular limes are often more tart, where key limes are milder and sweeter. But, interestingly, key limes are reported to have a more intense lime flavor than regular limes. I’ve used both types of limes in this recipe, and I notice very little difference in taste in the finished product. But the biggest difference is probably the size. As you can see above, a key lime is only slightly larger than a quarter. (I didn’t have a quarter, so I had to use a nickel for comparison.) It takes 3-4 regular limes to get the half cup of lime juice required for this recipe, whereas you could be squeezing 20 key limes (or more depending on their juiciness!). If you have the dedication to squeezing those little jewels of citrus perfection, go right ahead. As for me – I’m going to stick with the regular limes.
Oh – and don’t use the lime juice in those little green plastic sqeezey lime-shaped bottles. See below for more info on that.
Add the egg yolks and 1 tablespoon of lime zest into a bowl.
Beat until the egg yolks have lightened in color and increased in volume.
Add the sweetened condensed milk and mix until combined.
Add the lime juice and mix until combined. Don’t be tempted to use the so-called lime juice from those little green plastic sqeezey lime-shaped bottles. That stuff is bitter and will make your pie flavor off. And if I catch you using it, I will go to your house and forcibly remove it from your clenched fist.
OK – that was a bit more dramatic than intended. But I feel strongly about this. Use real limes. Real. Limes.
Cover the mixture with plastic wrap so a skin doesn’t form and set aside to thicken while you make the crusts.
Use your favorite graham cracker crust recipe. I’m not going to show you that here, ‘cuz I’m sure you have your own.
Spoon 1 tablespoon of graham cracker crust mix into paper-lined mini muffin tins. Be sure you use the mini muffin tins. These are one-bit key lime pies, after all.
Press the graham cracker crumbs up the side of the paper liners, making sure they are very compacted. You want them to stay together when your guests remove the liners. Otherwise you’ll have graham cracker crumbs all over your floor.
Bake in a pre-heated 325 degree oven for 10 minutes
Remove the crusts from the oven and while they’re still hot fill each crust with one tablespoon of filling.
Bake the mini pies of deliciousness for 12 minutes. Remove and cool on counter 15 minutes, then place in the fridge for at least one hour to chill thoroughly.
The pies will collapse a little in the center, which is perfect. Where else would you put the whipped cream if they didn’t?
When you’re ready to serve, remove each morsel of limey goodness from the tin, top with some whipped cream and a sprinkling of lime zest.
Anecdote: I was testing this recipe and photographing the final product while having some work done on my house. I told the workmen to help themselves to the finished product after I was all done shooting. It started with one guy taking a bite, then calling to his buddies. Almost instantly my kitchen looked like the Serengeti with a bunch of hungry predators devouring a fresh kill. Even the guy who said he didn’t like lime had three. By the time they were finished, not a crumb was left, not a dollop of whipped cream could be seen.
I promise you’ll have the same result when you serve these at your next party.
Here’s the complete recipe. Enjoy!
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons lime zest (about 5-6 limes regular limes)
½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice (not the juice in a bottle or those little plastic squeezy limes)
4 egg yolks
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
Graham cracker crust recipe of your choice
1) Separate the eggs and zest the limes. Reserved 2 teaspoons of lime zest for decoration.
2) Beat the egg yolks and 1 tablespoon lime zest until the yolks have lightened in color and increased in volume.
3) Add the sweetened condensed milk and lime juice and stir until combined.
4) Cover with plastic wrap and set aside while you make the crust.
5) Preheat oven to 325 and prepare your favorite graham cracker crust recipe.
6) Line 24-space mini-muffin tin with paper liners.
7) Spoon 1 tablespoon crumb mixture into each paper liner.
8) Press the graham cracker crumbs up the side of the paper liners, making sure it’s very compacted.
9) Bake mini crusts for 10 minutes.
10) Remove crusts from oven and immediately fill each crust with one tablespoon filling.
11) Bake mini pies for 12 minutes. Remove and cool on counter 15 minutes, then place in fridge for at least one hour to chill thoroughly.
12) When ready to serve, remove each mini pie from the tin, top with whipped cream and a sprinkling of lime zest.