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Key lime pie has to be the quintessential American dessert that most people are fond of. Bursting with citrusy freshness and a buttery pie crust, this dessert is perfect on a warm, balmy night after a barbecue dinner. Best of all, it can be made ahead of time, so you can enjoy the barbecue and company of your family and friends. It also looks impressive. Just don’t tell anyone how easy it is to make!
How to get that perfect biscuit base
Depending on whether you choose store-bought or homemade biscuits for your base, the amount of butter added will vary to achieve a compact base. I notice that when I use home-baked biscuits, I need less butter. Whereas store-bought biscuits are drier and require more butter.
My tip is to add the butter slowly and test the consistency by rubbing the crumbs in your fingers. The crumbs should stick to your fingers easily. If they crumble and fall back into the bowl too quickly, add more butter. Another tip is to press the biscuit base down well with the back of a spoon or flat-bottomed glass.
The story behind Key Lime Pie’s creation
Key lime pie made its debut in the Florida Keys in the mid-1800s. William Curry, who was a Florida millionaire, had an amazing cook called Aunt Sally. It is claimed that she invented the pie for her boss – although there is no evidence of this, I think this is likely the case. As fresh milk was unavailable on these islands, they resorted to using tinned sweetened milk (aka condensed milk). The limes used were called Key limes, which gives the tart its signature taste and name. Thank you, Aunt Sally!!
Which topping should I use on the Key Lime Pie?
Aunt Sally’s version of Key lime pie was without the meringue topping with the lime custard dyed a vivid green to mimic the colour of limes.
The meringue topping evolved over the years and adds an extra layer of fluffy sweetness and crisp texture.
Gluten-Free Key Lime Pie
Gluten-Free Biscuit Base
Lime Custard Filling
- 8 egg yolks (save 4 eggs whites for the meringue topping* & freeze the remaining)
- 2 tins (397g) condensed milk
- 6 limes, juiced & sieved
- 3 tsp lime rind, finely grated
- 4 egg whites*
- ¼ tsp cream of tartar
- 100 g white sugar
- 1 drop green food colouring, to dye the filling green
- 50-100 ml fresh whipped cream, to decorate
- 1 lime sliced, to decorate
- fresh strawberries
Gluten-Free Biscuit Base
- Crush the biscuits with a blender or rolling pin. Add the melted butter and mix well.
- Spread the biscuit mixture evenly on the base of a 25-cm diameter pie dish that has a depth of at least 2 ½ cm. Press firmly with the back of a spoon.
- Refrigerate until firm for at least 30 minutes.
Lime Custard Filling
- Preheat the oven to 170°C/335°F.
- Separate the eggs. Place the egg yolks in a large bowl and the 4 egg whites in a deep glass or ceramic bowl. Set aside the egg white bowl. Freeze the remaining egg whites for future use in other recipes.
- Using either a hand or stand mixer, beat the egg yolks, condensed milk, lime juice and rind for 1 minute.
- Pour the lime custard filling into prepared biscuit crust and smooth the surface.
- Bake for 20 minutes. Tap the side of the pan with a wooden spoon to test if it is done. It is done if the filling doesn’t wobble or ripple.
- Whisk the 4 reserved egg whites until soft peaks form.
- Add the sugar gradually until firm peaks form and they appear glossy.
- Sprinkle the cream of tartar over the meringue and whisk for 10 seconds.
- Gently top the baked pie with the meringue mixture forming decorative peaks.
- Return the pie to the oven and bake for 5 minutes.
- Lower the temperature to 150°C/300°F and bake for a further 10 minutes.
- Turn off the oven and leave the oven door slightly ajar to allow the pie to cool down gradually for 30 minutes.
- Remove the pie from the oven and leave to cool down for a further 30 minutes before chilling it for one hour or more.
- If you like your Key lime pie to appear green – simply add a drop of green food colouring to the egg yolk mixture.
- If you prefer to leave out the meringue, serve the pie on its own or with whipped cream on top or on the side.
- Decorate with lime slices and fresh strawberries
- Keeps for 2 days chilled
- Suitable to freeze without the meringue or cream topping. Wrap the pie in foil and freeze in an airtight container.