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With its common appearance on mid-winter vacations, visits to our elders down south, and cruise ship buffets, key lime pie tugs a chord in the hearts of its fans. And while quality needn't matter so much when it comes to making food memories of fun in the sun, tasting a pie that's just mediocre when you're out of vacation mode can make you see it for what it really is: (too frequently) sub-par. Now that it's January and we're freezing our butts off up here in the North, that's just not going to cut it. We need a really good key Llime pie to remind us of those warm lazy days of vacation.
The goal of this recipe is simple: a pie that takes folks back to the kitschy nostalgia of an early bird special, that gets treated with all of the finesse and attention it deserves. No neon green fillings, jell-o jiggles, or metallic-tasting pre-squeezed juice allowed. The whole point of the dessert is to celebrate the bright, tangy taste of real key limes.
A proper key lime pie's filling is made with just a few ingredients: sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks, and the zest and juice of key limes. The combination of the condensed milk and yolks give the pie an unparalleled richness that's a perfect foil for the acidic tang and electric wattage of fresh key limes, which are known for being even more bright and sour than their larger counterparts. While nobody enjoys the chore of juicing the 20 (or so) tiny limes necessary for making the filling, all that work will be forgotten with that first creamy bite.
Who needs sandy beaches, cabanas, or grandma? I've got my little slice of Florida right here.
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About the author: Lauren Weisenthal has logged many hours working in restaurant kitchens and bakeries of Brooklyn and Manhattan. She is a graduate of the Artisan Bread Baking and Pastry Arts programs at the French Culinary Institute. You can follow her on Twitter at @evillagekitchen.