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key lime pie

It is quite possible that you are reading this from the beach. Maybe there’s a cool breeze blowing through your hair this very second, while you’re stretched out on a soft towel, listening to the calming sounds of seagulls and crashing waves in the distance. You might be at an airport, returning from a family vacation, or maybe you have just arrived home from a peaceful evening stroll around the neighborhood. Wherever you may be, we are all approaching the final weeks of summer, soaking up the sun, enjoying every last bit of it, and willfully denying that Fall is right around the corner. Well, we have the perfect solution for this, a classic dessert that will not only help ease this sensitive seasonal transition for everyone, but will also be a delicious exclamation point to the end of your summer!

This elegant key lime pie has a smooth, creamy, and tart filling made with freshly-squeezed limes, baked in a sweet and buttery graham cracker crust and topped with an airy, silky meringue. This light and refreshing dessert is so simple to make, and since it is chilled, you can make it ahead of time and serve it whenever you’d like. Plus, with only six ingredients and a prep time of under 30 minutes, it’s easy to whip this up anytime you feel the need for a cool slice of pie—and let’s be honest, during these hot days of August, that need is very, very real.

If you Google key lime pie, ten billion recipes will come up, and most of them use the traditional filling of condensed milk, lime juice, and egg yolks, in varying proportions. Some have more or less lime juice, or an extra egg yolk here and there, but for the most part they are quite similar. What sets this recipe apart is the meringue topping: while many versions use heavy whipped cream, here we use the egg whites to create a soft, fluffy layer over the rich custard filling. It makes a wonderful contrast, and keeps the pie light and delicate.

If you can get real key limes—which are small, yellow, and difficult to find—then definitely use them. If not, regular limes from the produce section will work perfectly, as will this bottled key lime juice which is also available in many grocery stores. We have used all three methods, and the pie has been delicious every time. Use whatever is available to you, and you just can’t go wrong!

Key Lime Pie
adapted from a recipe that Adam’s mom found online in 2009 (thanks Julie!)

1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs (5 ounces, from about 9 whole crackers)
6 tablespoons sugar, divided
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
zest from one lime
1/2 cup lime juice (see note below)
14 ounces condensed milk
2 eggs, separated

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl, mix together the graham cracker crumbs, 4 tablespoons of the sugar, and melted butter until blended. Transfer mixture to a 9-inch pie plate, and use a spoon to press it firmly into the bottom and sides of the pan, making an even crust. Bake crust for 5 to 7 minutes, then allow to cool to room temperature.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the lime zest, juice, and condensed milk until smooth and creamy. Then add two egg yolks, and whisk until blended. Pour mixture into the cooled crust. In a clean, dry bowl using an electric mixer, whip the 2 egg whites until soft peaks form. Then add the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar, and whip until stiff peaks form. Spread egg whites gently and evenly over the filling. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the top browns slightly. Chill completely before serving.

— For the lime juice, you can use fresh limes or you can buy bottled key lime juice. We have made the pie both ways, and it is always delicious no matter what kind we use. Also, feel free to use more or less juice, depending on how tart you want your pie.