Key Lime Pie


During my last trip back home, I was talking about something with my mom (I don’t recall exactly what), when she said to me “I remember that during your first year in America, you kept telling me that America isn’t that great and that you’d definitely prefer to return back home.”

I do remember saying something to that extent when I returned back home for my first Christmas break in college. I had been in the U.S. for four months. They were great months, full of experiences and discoveries, new and tenuous friendships, and an unfamiliar sense of freedom. But everything was still an “other” to me. Or, more likely, I was an “other” to them. I didn’t quite belong the way I still belonged back home.


I probably said the same thing to her during my next visit back home, over my first summer break. But I was being, by then, only partly honest with her. I had been bitten by the bug, the American bug, the one of opportunity and might, of huge malls and amusement parks, of college parties and courses on post-modernism, of baby back ribs and key lime pie. But I didn’t have the heart to tell her. So, I probably repeated those same words, not wanting to hurt her feelings.

It wasn’t until the following summer, when “they” became “we,” that she knew she had lost me. I no longer referred to Americans in the third person. It wasn’t they who liked to hang out in malls all day, it was weThey didn’t debate the limits of free speech, we did. It took until my third summer break for my mom to directly confront me with it. “You’re never coming back, are you?” she asked me one day. “No,” I said guiltily “I’m not.” I had crossed over. The key lime pie had won.DSC03690Key Lime Pie – Adapted from Epicurious

Note: I know everyone says that no dessert is more American than apple pie, but I’m here to tell you that they are wrong. Key lime pie is the national dessert of this country. Or at least it should be. You’ll find a lot of recipes for it online, with all kinds of complex steps and weird variations. Ignore them. Key lime pie should be simple. It must use sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks. It must be made with freshly squeezed key lime or regular lime juice, never from a bottle. The crust must be made with graham crackers. And your should never, ever serve it with whipped cream on top.


For crust:
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs from 9 (2 1/4-inch by 4 3/4-inch) crackers
2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For filling:
2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
8 large egg yolks
1¼ cup key lime juice (or regular lime juice)


Make crust: Preheat oven to 350°F.

Stir together graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter in a bowl with a fork until combined well, then press mixture evenly onto bottom and up side of a 9.5-inch glass pie plate.

Bake crust in middle of oven 10 minutes and cool in pie plate on a rack. Leave oven on.

Make filling and bake pie: Whisk together condensed milk and yolks in a bowl until combined well. Add juice and whisk until combined well (mixture will thicken slightly).

Pour filling into crust and bake in middle of oven 20 minutes. Cool pie completely on rack (filling will set as it cools), then chill, covered, at least 8 hours.

Key Lime Pie Ice Cream

I am very loyal to chocolate. My love for it is endless and my devotion to it is deep. When going over a dessert menu, I will always gravitate first to the choices that include chocolate. I love dark chocolate, mysterious and a little dangerous, but I also love milk chocolate, sharply sweet and creamy. On occasion, I’ll even enjoy white chocolate, the chocolate impostor.


There was only one time when my feelings for chocolate almost changed. I signed up for a 5-day, 30-hour course of chocolate making at the Institute of Culinary Education. It meant that every day for five consecutive days, from 9am to 4pm (with a 1-hour lunch break), I was in a kitchen making different kinds of chocolates. The first couple of days it was pure heaven. The third day it started to change. We all noticed that we avoided licking our fingers. By the fourth and fifth day, I started to feel an actual aversion to the smell and taste of chocolate. It was a little disturbing. Fortunately, after a couple of weeks of no chocolate in sight, my feelings for it returned.


But despite my undying loyalty to chocolate, there is one dessert for which I am always ready to change teams: key lime pie. If it’s on the menu, I don’t care what decadent chocolate concoctions are available, I will choose the pie. The sweet and tangy custard paired with the buttery graham cracker crust are a combination that is so perfect, so enticing, that I simply find it irresistible.


So the other day I saw some key limes at the grocery store and I had an idea: how about a key lime pie ice cream? I figured it shouldn’t be too hard to create the recipe, since the pie is already a custard. I just had to adjust the quantities and make it a little runnier than it is for the pie. So, I created a first draft of the recipe and I figured that it would need adjustments before I could post it.


But 24 hours after I churned the ice cream, I took the container out of the freezer and dug in with the ice cream scoop. I couldn’t believe it when the scoop just effortlessly slid through the ice cream. It was a perfect consistency, immediately scoopable (even days later, it was still the consistency of gelato). And the taste? Exactly what I was going for: key lime pie, pure and simple.

Let’s just say that the chocolate ice cream I’ve had in the freezer has been feeling a little ignored for a while.


Key Lime Pie Ice Cream

For crust:
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon graham cracker crumbs (from 5 crackers; you can put them in a ziploc bag and use a rolling pin to crush them into crackers)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For ice cream:
1 can (14oz sweetened condensed milk)
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
3/4 cup freshly squeezed key lime juice (or regular lime juice)
4 large egg yolks

First make the crust:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, mix, using a fork, graham cracker crumbs and sugar. Add melted butter and mix with fork until well combined. Press mixture evenly on bottom only (not up to the sides) of 8 inch square glass pan or 9 inch glass pie plate. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely. Break into small bite size pieces. Can be made the day before. Just store in airtight container until ready to use.

Make the ice cream:
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the key lime juice. Place a mesh strainer on top of a medium bowl and set aside.

In a saucepan, add sweetened condensed milk, cream, sugar, and pinch of salt. Heat, stirring frequently, over medium heat until combined and bubbles start to form.

Temper the egg yolks by slowly pouring about 1/3 cup of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks, while whisking constantly. Scrape the tempered egg yolk mixture into the saucepan, again whisking constantly. You’ll notice that the mixture will immediately become thicker. Continue to cook over medium heat for another 4 minutes, stirring constantly with a spatula and scraping the bottom and sides of the pan.

Pour the mixture through the mesh strainer into the medium bowl. Let cool completely and chill thoroughly in the refrigerator.

Churn the ice cream in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When it’s finished churning, layer it in a container with the graham cracker crust bits. Start with about one fifth of the ice cream at the bottom of the container. Sprinkle about one fifth of the crust bits. Layer another fifth of the ice cream, followed by another fifth of the crust bits. Continue this way until you finish with the last crust bits on top.