Frozen Lime Pie
Imagine for a minute you’re a bee… not one of those little tiny bees but a big, hairy bumblebee. Imagine you’re flying along looking for some flowers or something, basically minding your own business. You look down and notice that in fact you’re flying over a long wide piece of pavement that seems to stretch out before you for miles and miles. Well it’s a warm day, so you just keep buzzing along (just keep buzzing, just keep buzzing). Then you look up and see in the distance a car coming at you. With your super keen eyes you can see that the windows are down, the sunroof is open, and there are two people in the front seats yammering away about something, clearly not concerned that the two of you are on a collision course. It’s only a matter of seconds before the car is just a few feet away. Suddenly the air is moving in different directions. The wind is forcing you up and over the hood of the car, past the windshield, onto the roof and you’re sucked into the car through the sunroof. In just a blink of an eye (or eyes in this case) you are propelled head over stinger all the way to the back of the car and hit with a thud onto the back windshield. This would make you angry right? And you would want to punish those responsible for this clearly blatant attempt on your life.
This actually reminds me of a funny story. David and I were traveling down the road one warm day going from somewhere to somewhere else. We had the windows down and the sunroof open because as I said it was a nice day. All of a sudden we see this giant bee coming right at us and in the blink of an eye (or eyes) we heard a thud on the back window… on the inside. I don’t think anybody has ever stopped a car faster. I don’t remember unhooking the seatbelt, reaching for the door handle, or even opening the door. All I know is that we stopped and I was out of the car so fast the door was still swinging on its hinges as I ran off the side of the road. It was like one of those scenes in a cartoon where the character disappears off screen and all you see is a puff of smoke or maybe just an outline of where they were a second ago. So there we are standing on the side of the road, the car idling quietly, the doors wide open and an angry (slightly dazed) bee trying to find its way out. I was sure that when it finally escaped it was going to head right for us. Instead, it just flew away; shaking its little fist at us I’m sure. I’ve read that bugs cause many unexplained single occupant car accidents as drivers attempt to get them out of the car and lose control of the vehicle in their panic. I wouldn’t call them accidents though, more like assassinations attempts!
Let me explain: as a young boy, I used to walk with my older brother and sister when they would go to purchase candy or soda at the convenience store located near our home. The walk to the store was easy as it was all downhill but I can clearly recall the trip back being not so much fun. There was ivy planted in the strip between the sidewalk and the street from our house all the way down to the first corner. One day on a trip back from the little market I walked into the ivy and when I emerged back onto the sidewalk I noticed three or four very large daddy longlegs spiders that had crawled up onto my pants. This caused me to panic and scream in fear. I ran in circles kicking my legs trying to get them off. On a separate occasion, on the way to the little market, a moth landed on my knee and for a moment I just stared at it. When it didn't fly away I told my sister and brother to get it off. They waved their hands at it for a bit, but it would not budge. Again, panic set in, and I can remember screaming and crying until somehow, in what seemed like hours if not days later, it loosened its grip and flew off. What I clearly remember on both of these occasions were my brother and sister howling with laughter and their seeming disinterest in my distress.
One time while David and I were eating lunch, an ugly, nasty spider crawled onto me and I was completely frozen in fear. That is except for my mouth which just kept screaming “get it off, get it off”. Another time while living in Brooklyn a giant bug of unknown origin (probably not even from this planet) had crawled into the apartment and was making his/her/its way across the wall. Now I would like to pause here and ask, why is it that bugs have to walk on the walls and ceilings? Why can’t they just stay on the ground? My theory is it’s so they can sneak up on you overhead, then drop down into your hair or down your shirt while you’re not looking. Anyway, there was this giant bug with like forty thousand (at least) legs and this big ugly body crawling up the wall. Then it just stopped, right at eye level. I know I might have a tendency to exaggerate just a little, but this bug was staring at me, I’m sure of it. What was I to do? I called David at work at told him to come home and get it. David is in charge of all the bugs in our house. It’s his job to scoop them up and put them outside when possible and it’s his job to make sure the ones that are deadly to me are “taken care of”. I have no tolerance for bugs, of any kind, and in my opinion, all bugs are deadly to me. I don’t remember what happened with that particular bug. David couldn’t come home from work just to get rid of a bug so I’ve blocked out exactly what happened. Probably I simply left the apartment until he got home!
David really isn't that afraid of bugs, at least that's what he tells me. However there is one specific bug that gets to him... mosquitoes. Mosquitoes will search him out to bite him. Apparently he has very tasty blood and they will fly in from miles around. I imagine there are mosquito billboards around wherever they live with his picture on them, or maybe his picture is on their milk cartons with the caption "Have you bit this person?". No kidding, they just love biting him. Sometimes at night when it's warm and we are sitting outside David has to bundle up in a blanket, plus have a citronella candle, or some other bug deterrent device operating and even then, usually he gets bit. We even put up a mosquito net but somehow they still got him. There was this one time we were driving to Fairbanks, Alaska. We wanted to go see the Alaska pipeline and to do some touristy things. It takes more than a day to get from Anchorage to Fairbanks so we bought a tent and some sleeping bags and decided to spend the night somewhere along the way. As we drove we finally saw a nice spot to camp, beside a river and there was a beautiful sunset in progress. We stopped the car and walked along the river looking for a good place to set up camp when David was suddenly swarmed with mosquitoes. They were all over him and were so bad he had to run back to the car to save himself, waving his arms around trying to get them away. And let me tell you Alaska mosquitoes are big. So big you could hear them as they hit the windows trying to get in. We ended up driving on until we found a patch of land that was mosquito free. Even without the mosquitoes sleep that night wasn't all that restful because every sound we heard brought fears that we were going to be eaten by a bear or mauled by a pack of wolves.
Needless to say, I hate, hate, hate, and yes I said HATE, bugs. All kinds. Good bugs, bad bugs, all BUGS! Just hate them. As a kid I wouldn't eat black raisins. Especially out of those little individual serving sized boxes because I was afraid that one of the raisins might have been a bug in disguise and that was a risk I was not willing to take. As an adult I won't eat raisins just because I don't like them... and maybe because they still remind me of bugs a bit. Oddly enough I can eat golden raisins and other dried fruit like cranberries, or cherries. Go figure.
Anyway, it's summer here above the equator and that means that there are more than the usual amount of creepy crawlies walking about, skittering on the sidewalk, and spinning their sticky traps between the street signs and the trees so that you get a face full of web as you walk down the sidewalk. So since we have a little bit of hot weather and all this talk of bugs has me sweating just a little, I thought it might be nice to have something that could cool things down a bit And that, my friends, is why I am making Ina Garten's Frozen Key Lime Pie. Okay even I admit that was a bit of a leap. But hey... let's just go with it.
The first thing I need to say about this pie is that I don't think it should be called key lime pie at all. And that's because I don't use key limes. And I am pretty sure Ina Garten didn't either, but she is welcome to dispute that fact if she likes. I say this here so we can all be clear that I know that key lime pie can only technically be called key lime pie if one uses key limes. Here's the deal though... at my market this week, Persian limes (the good old standard lime sold in almost every market) were thirty-nine cents each. Key limes were three times as much and in order to get the same amount of juice I would get from 5 or 6 Persian limes I would have to buy at least two bags of key limes. Another thing: I don't really like the taste of key limes so.... Persian limes it is! Of course I won't stop you from purchasing key limes for this pie if you like, but I think for this simple dessert you can forgo them this time and save them for when it will really count. I would only add that if you do use key limes be aware that the zest of key limes has a bitter taste and can change the flavor of the pie quite a bit.
As I mentioned this recipe comes from the Barefoot Contessa herself, Ina Garten. You can view it here if you want. But take note that her video and the written instructions are not the same and that can be confusing. Stick with me and you'll get to the end without any issues. As for the recipe itself, I have changed it only slightly by increasing the amount of whipped cream you add to the top of the pie (hey, I love whipped cream, what can I say?). This pie is super simple to make and I would say it actually lives up to her "how easy is that?" catch phrase. As I have said before, and I am sure I'll say again... the best thing about food is that it can be simple and still be very, very good. I learned that from Ina and I will be forever grateful. This is one of those rare recipes I made the first time with absolutely no issues. I followed the written instructions (not the video) and it came out just as it should have. I didn't mess it up, I didn't leave anything out, and I didn't even make a mess in the kitchen (at least there is no photographic evidence of that last one). So if I can do this on the first try, so can you.
The next thing I feel like I need to talk about is that this recipe uses raw egg yolks. That’s right I said raw! I know there are a few of you out there that will find this a bit unnerving. Me? I live life on the edge. (I will pause here a moment while the laughter dies down a bit). As I was saying... there is a concern anytime you're using raw eggs in your food. According to incredibleegg.org "Although the overall risk of egg contamination is very small, the risk of foodborne illness from eggs is highest in raw and lightly cooked dishes". Given this fact I have included alternate instructions if you would rather not use raw egg yolks.
And finally the last thing I feel like I need to mention is the amount of limes you'll need varies on how big they are and how juicy they are. In Ina's recipe she calls for 4 to 5 limes to get 3/4 cup of juice. It must be that in the Hamptons, (where Ina lives) the quality of limes are much better than the limes I have access to in my considerably lower income neighborhood. Thus I usually need about 6 limes to get that much juice. If you buy 6 limes and it only takes four to get the amount of juice you need, well, I bet this pie would taste great with a side of margaritas.
Here is how I make this frozen delight!
You'll need a nine-inch pie pan and a mixer, nothing too out of the ordinary there, right?
For the crust:
1½ cups graham cracker crumbs *
¼ cup sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
For the filling:
6 extra large egg yolks, at room temperature
¼ cup sugar
1 (14 ounce) can unsweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons lime zest
¾ cup fresh lime juice (about 6 limes)
For the topping:
1½ cups heavy whipping cream
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
The first thing to make is the crust. It's a standard graham cracker crust so there is nothing to hard about it at all.
Start by preheating the oven to 350ºF with the rack in the center position.
Put all three crust ingredients in a bowl and mix with a fork until well blended. Firmly press the mix onto the bottom and up the sides of the pie pan making sure it is as even as you can manage. I use the bottom of a drinking glass or my measuring cups to help press them into the pan.
Bake the crust for 10 minutes and then allow it to cool completely.
*If you can't find graham cracker crumbs in your market you can make them by processing 10 or 11 graham crackers in a food processor until they are the texture of corn meal. You don't want them to be a super fine powder or the crust will be very hard. Alternately you can smash them in a heavy zip top bag with a rolling pin, again until they are uniformly crushed.
When the crust has cooled you can make the filling, choose from either the uncooked or cooked version below.
Start by putting the egg yolks and the sugar in your stand mixer with the paddle attachment and beat on high speed until they are thick. That takes about 5 minutes.
Turn the mixer down to medium speed and add in the condensed milk, lime zest and lime juice.
When everything is well incorporated pour the mix into the baked crust and stick the whole thing in the freezer. Let the pie freeze for a couple of hours or so and when it's solid it will be time to add the topping.
Lightly whisk together the egg yolks and lime juice in a small heavy saucepan. Cook over very low heat, stirring constantly, until the yolk mixture coats a metal spoon with a thin film, bubbles at the edges or reaches 160°F. Immediately place the saucepan in a shallow bowl of ice water and stir until the yolk mixture is cool. You may want to pass the cooked yolks through a mesh strainer to remove any cooked bits.
When cooled, place the yolk mixture and the sugar into a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on high speed for 5 minutes.
Reduce the speed to medium and add in the condensed milk and lime zest, mixing until it's well combined.
Pour the mixture into the baked crust and place the whole thing in the freezer. Let the pie freeze for a couple of hours or so and when it's solid it will be time to add the topping.
Finally, for the whipped cream topping:
Put the cream into the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on high speed until its gets fluffy but is still soft. While the mixer runs gradually add in the sugar then the vanilla and continue beating on high speed until firm. Decorate the top as you like using a piping bag if you're good at that, or by mounding the whipped cream in the center of the pie leaving an inch or more of the pie showing around the edge. Decorate with sliced wedges of lime or as I did with candied lime peel.
Place the pie back in the freezer for several hours but preferably overnight before serving.
Let me know your thoughts by commenting below, I would love to hear from you. And if anyone makes this as a Frozen Lemon Pie let me know how that comes out!