I moved to Florida almost exactly six years ago. Four years ago I was in a show, and the stage manager had a key lime tree in her back yard, and she would bequeath upon me BAGS and BAGS of fresh-from-the-tree key limes.
Obviously, I was morally obligated to turn such a treasure into pie. And discovered the best dessert ever anywhere for always and forever amen and hallelujah.
So, just over two years ago, on my vacation through the Florida Keys, I embarked upon a key lime pie pilgrimage. I sampled seven different key lime pies in four days, asked probing questions, and just outside Mallory Square in Key West bought a cook book devoted to nothing but variations on key lime pie. I became a disciple. Nay, a prophet. Seriously. Ask anyone at work or in my family. They'll tell you.
The history of this sublime dessert is, like much of food history, a fascinating blend of opportunity, necessity, and ingenuity. It was the invention of sweetened condensed milk--meant to keep sailors and fishermen fed and calcified--that presented the opportunity. After devouring the contents, there was always leftover gooey goodness stuck to the insides of the can. Sailors would stuff shreds of leftover bread into the can, snatch a fresh egg from a nearby seabird nest, crack it in, squeeze the juice of the scurvy-battling and ubiquitous key limes over top, and leave that concoction out in the sun for a couple hours to, um, BAKE. And kaboom! Tart, sweet, custardy mouthparty.
Legend has it a certain "Aunt Sally" in the late 1800's on Key West codified this sailor concoction into an actual PIE, adding the graham cracker crust and whipped cream topping. Bless you, Aunt Sally. Bless you.
There are big-time debates still raging: whipped cream vs. meringue, baked vs. no-baked, best crumbly crust component, etc. If you wade through my pie travelogue, your reward shall be my very own certified and approved basic key lime pie recipe, and perhaps I shall even reveal the secrets to my Jason Cannon-ized version... the Key Lime Colada Pie!
But first, the pilgrimage...
FLAWLESS KEY LIME PIE
This is for a 9-inch pie. Tips and tricks included.
NEXT LEVEL ALCHEMY
Theatre pro, amateur yogi, and competent home cook.