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Florida Key Lime Pie: The Search for the Perfect Slice and How to Make Your Own

Kerensa's key lime pie

Oops, I forgot to beat the whipped cream again on the second day. Fortunately, it still tasted delicious.

One of our first destinations in the RV was the Florida Keys and as the main devourer of this journey, I felt it was my duty to try all the key lime pies I could in our brief time on the islands. I started in Key Largo at Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen and their Keys’ introduction to this Conch dessert did not disappoint. It was cold and creamy with the unmistakable tang of lime throughout the filling. The graham cracker crust was homemade and the pie was topped with whipped cream, my preference. I lived many years down in Texas where they like to top pie with the abomination that is meringue and I was happy to see this pie blissfully free of its presence.

Hobo's Cafe version with bare feet

Hobo’s Cafe version with bare feet

Up the street is Hobo’s Cafe with their version of the famed pie. The pie itself is a simple, velvety concoction, but the plating elevates it from other samples I had. Drizzles of raspberry syrup surrounded the slice while a couple of chocolate bare feet stamp it as Hobo’s. Did the plating make it better? No, but it’s still worth ordering if you’re there.

As we made our way down to Key West, I sampled other slices avoiding meringue whenever possible. Each had their quirks and charms, but I tried two in Key West that were distinctive from the classic dense and creamy version I had in Key Largo.

At Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe, the pie is lighter and fluffier than other variations. This does not mean that it is any less delicious. In fact, after eating so many other slices, this was a nice change of pace. Dare I say you might be able to eat a second piece? It’s still rich and tangy, but you do feel lighter. They also freeze slices of pie and dip them in chocolate for a chilly treat. I couldn’t handle any more pie on this trip, but I will be trying it on our return.

These two are actually connected similar to the pie I had

These two are actually connected,  similar to the pie I had

Finally, I went for something a little different at Key Lime Pie Factory/Coconut Factory and devoured a slice that was coconut cream on the bottom and key lime on top. I love coconut cream pie, but I was on a mission for key lime. This was the best of both worlds and combined the creamy sweetness of the coconut with the tang of the key limes. Just what I needed to switch it up and get a little taste of both!

Key Lime Pie Factory's combo pie

Key Lime Pie Factory’s combo pie, I couldn’t resist a bite before taking the photo

I decided to make a classic rich and creamy, denser version of key lime pie for my recipe. When I saw the coconut in the pantry, though,  I threw it into the crust at the last-minute to bring some of tropical taste into the pie and add another dimension. Brandon is not a fan of the texture of coconut, but it didn’t bother him too much in the crust. He would never eat the half and half pie, so that will probably stay out of my recipe books unless you want to come over and eat it with me. I’ll pull out all the stops then!

All of the ingredients needed for key lime pie

All of the ingredients needed for key lime pie

Key Lime Pie

This is a classic version of Key Lime Pie from our time in the Florida Keys. It’s rich, creamy, and tangy all at the same time. At the last minute, I decided to add coconut into the crust which gave the pie an even more tropical feel.

Author:

Recipe type: Dessert

Cuisine: American

Ingredients

Crust

  • 8 graham crackers
  • ¼ c granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 5 Tbsp melted butter
  • ¼ c shredded coconut (optional)

Filling

  • 1½ tsp lime zest
  • 1 14-oz can sweetened, condensed milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • ½ c freshly squeezed key lime juice (about a pound of key limes)*

Topping

  • 1 c chilled heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tsp powdered or granulated sugar

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Make the Crust

  1. Crush the graham crackers into crumbs. I put them into a sealed plastic bag and used a rolling pin, but you can also use a food processor to make the entire crust.
  2. Mix the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, salt, and coconut in a medium bowl. Add the butter and stir to coat evenly.
  3. Press into a 9-inch pie pan and bake until lightly browned about 10 minutes. Set on a wire rack to cool completely while making the filling. Leave the oven on.

Make the Filling

  1. Finely grate enough limes to produce 1½ teaspoons of zest; it took me about 6 limes. Juice the zested limes until you have ½ cup of liquid and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, beat the zest and egg yolks until thick and pale, about 5 minutes. Add the sweetened, condensed milk and continue to beat for another 3-4 minutes until thickened again. Add the lime juice and slowly whisk in until just combined.
  3. Pour the filling in the pie shell and bake for 10 minutes until just set. Cool completely on a wire rack. Keep the cooled pie in the fridge.

Make the Topping

  1. It’s best to chill a medium metal bowl ahead of time to make the whipped cream if possible. Add the whipping cream and sugar to the bowl and whip until it forms soft peaks. I’m a fan of topping each piece, so everyone can decide how much whipped cream they would like, but you can also top the whole pie and chill a bit longer.

Slice and enjoy!

Notes

*You can find key limes at a lot of grocery stores nowadays or bottles of key lime juice. In a pinch, use the more common Persian limes, but you know it won’t be the same, right?

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