Freshly-Squeezed Key Lime Pie with Coconut

A Facebook friend of mine recently made key lime pie. I know this because in a post he asked where to get key limes. Then he wrote about the pie and posted a picture of it.

Why hasn’t Apple invented scratch and sniff or tap and taste for the iPad and iPhone? Random question. I know. Back to the pie.

That post infiltrated by thoughts like an army of ants at a playground potluck. I had to have one. One 30 minute round trip later, I had a bag of key limes. I was set on finding a coconut cookie for my crust.

After scanning the sweet treat aisles in two stores, I settled on a bag of ginger cookies. The insanity didn’t stop there.

As you know, dear reader, I do nothing the easy way.  Did you know that zesting a key lime is about as easy as peeling a grape covered in honey and hornets? And did you know that squeezing the eyeball-sized limes is as simple as trying to extract juice from a ping pong ball slathered in baby oil and dipped in Crisco?  By the end of the juicing progress my fingers looked like the roots of a plant that had been trapped in a Dixie cup for 3 years.

I had also sent key lime halves across the kitchen in a momentum that could only be reproduced by Babe Ruth.

After the first juicing I didn’t quite have enough juice, so I went back to the squished shells of fruit and put my gnarled fingers back to work. I squeezed every last drop out of each half like a job candidate begging for a higher salary. Agony? Absolutely. But it’s the key to this lime dessert. Fresh is best.

I also made my own ginger-coconut crust. You could buy one of those fragile premade crusts in the grocery store, but why go the easy route when you’ve already destroyed your ability to ever firmly grasp a cup again? Here’s what you need: Crust:

  • 1 stick of butter, melted
  • 1 1/4 cups ginger snap crumbs (about 1/3 of a bag of cookies, crushed in a food processor)
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • Pinch of salt

Filling:

  • 19 key limes (about 1 bag)
  • 1 can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 large egg yolks

Topping:

  • 1 cup of heavy whipping cream
  • 2 Tbsp. Powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. coconut extract
  • 2 Tbsp. good vanilla
  • 1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut

Here’s how you do it: Preheat the oven to 350. Combine the melted butter, cookie crumbs, coconut, sugar, and salt in a bowl and combine. Dump into a pie dish and form a crust with your fingers, making sure to go up the sides of the dish. Bake 10 minutes.

Let the pie crust cool while you make the filling.

Leave the oven on in the meantime. Into a mixing bowl, combine the sweetened condensed milk and the yolks. Use a whisk to beat them together.

Zest 8 of the key limes into the bowl.  You can skip this step, but your pie won’t be as tart and it won’t have the pretty specks of green in it. Do you like boring pie? Didn’t think so. Start zesting.

Use a stainer to help juice all 19 key limes (if there are 20 or 22 in the bag, juice them all. It’s OK to have a little more juice) into the bowl. The key limes contain seeds and the strainer will catch them. If you don’t have a strainer, juice the limes into a measuring cup and then use a fork to pick out the seeds.

You want about a 1/2 cup of juice. Squeeze the limes until you need 4 Advil to make up for it. Whisk the juice into the milk/yolks mixture. It should thicken up. Pour into the cooled shell and bake for 15 minutes. Let the pie cool on a rack or the counter. Then refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Go for four hours. It’ll be worth it.

Just before you’re ready to serve, make the topping.

Combine the heavy cream, coconut extract, and powdered sugar in a bowl and beat with a mixer until stiff peaks form. Put the sweetened shredded coconut in a pan set over medium-high heat.  Toast the coconut, tossing frequently, until golden brown. Dump onto a paper towel to cool. Spread the whipped cream onto the pie. Sprinkle the toasted coconut all over the whipped cream on the pie. Serve! The key lime filling is tart and refreshing. The crust is crunchy and slightly salty, which helps mellow out the bite from the lime.

The coconut whipped cream and toasted topping sweeten the slice.  You can certainly use bottled key lime juice and that premade crust. It’s really OK. But I really don’t think you’ll regret juicing your own limes and making your own crust. And if you do regret it, who cares? You won’t have the strength to hit me! Ha! Tip: Try making the crust with chocolate wafer cookies instead of ginger snaps. If you want to leave out the unsweetened coconut, cut the butter back to 5 Tbsp.

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