Sunday, January 17, 2016

Another K and L, Too!

Key Lime Pie.

Oh.  Whoa.  Just had a thought.  If I did a Key Lime-Mango-Nectarine-Orange Pie...I would get KLMNOP all in one go.  Not that there's Guinness World Record for that, but still, impressive enough to put on a résumé, yeah?

Anyway, pie.  Yeah, pie!  My relationship with pie has evolved through the years.  Out of the three desserts I grew up the most familiar with, pie was my least favorite.  Cake was first, followed by cookies, and pie brought up the rear.  (I would not experience such delights as créme brulee, panna cotta, Bavarian cream, cheesecake, etc under years later.)

Since culinary school and, in particular, my baking classes, I've developed a new appreciation for pie.  Cakes can be fussy, and can require add-ons like...frosting.  If we could just eat it, as is, out of the cake pan, it would be great, but generally society frowns upon that kind of savagery.  And then cookies.  Yes, there's a fair amount of creativity one can have with cookies...but cookies are very scientific.  Too much sugar, too little baking soda, one minute too long in the oven, and the batch is ruined; not even fit for the dogs to eat (except for my dog, that mutt will eat anything). But pie?  Ahhhhh, pie.  It's the best of both worlds.  Yes, pies involve a little bit of science, usually in the crust, but the filling is so wide open to whatever taste combinations your little brain can dream up.

Pie is the person you want to hang out at the mall with, see?  Cake is elitist and picky and will only want to visit the shops too expensive for you to afford.  Cookies are the overanalytical of the group, wanting to know where the nearest bathroom is and can we please just go now?  Pie, though, doesn't matter what store you want to go into, they'll go, cheerfully, with you.  They'll people-watch right along side of you and they'll share their Sbarro pizza with you, too.

I happened to see key limes at the grocery store recently, and I've never worked with them before.  So, why not today?  When it's cold as January out, and we could all use a little taste of the tropics?

Key limes are funny little things.  I needed a 1/2 cup of fresh lime juice, and I think squeezed about 20 of them to get there.  I also never realized how simple a key lime pie filling really is.  Sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks, juice, and zest.  Bake for a few minutes and let chill for awhile.

Although, I found out that once upon a time, people made this pie without baking it.  They didn't need to, the egg yolk-condensed milk combo set up nicely without any help.  However, it's typically viewed as unsafe to consume raw egg, so...high heat applied for a few minutes, and fear alleviated!  The recipe also called for a tablespoon of zest, but I don't think it's critical.  Some folk prefer that flawless, smooth-looking, silk-like texture to a pie, and they'd want to leave it out.  By all means, do so.  It's your prerogative, as Bobby Brown would say (although, doubtful he was talking about pies).

The picture above is singularly hilarious, as it demonstrates how ridiculously small key limes are.  You'll feel a bit like you're working with miniatures or something.

And here, illustrated in the photo below, is my one problem with this whole recipe.  This is a standard graham cracker crust, and it's too big for the filling.  I mean, a good half-inch of crust there!  I suppose in future, either make my own crust and pack it into a smaller pie pan or double the filling.

Fifteen minutes later, the pie came out nicely, largely jiggle-free.  Into the fridge it went to chill and continue setting up.

And then, yeah, afternoon snack.  We did do a bit of whipped cream on the top, and while I like tart things, I did appreciate the bite of sweetness the topping brings to the dessert.  In some quarters, the pie is not complete without a thick layer of whipped goodness on top, covering the whole pie.  Again, that's your prerogative.  Nobody can tell you what you want to do.

The bright flavor is fun, and most welcome at this time of year.  Also, I got to kill two letters with one pie.  Nice.

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