I thought I'd send summer off in style so I decided to make a sunshine-y dessert before the season officially changed. I always loved key-lime pie–my first memory of tasting it is in Florida and since it's one of the state's most famous desserts, I'd like to think it's accurate. It's unique and tasty in a completely uncomplicated way. In fact the acid in the juice "cooks" the egg yolks in the filling, making the custard practically fool-proof. There's a lot of debate as to how to topping the finished product: it's pictured here with a meringue but would be equally tasty with whipped cream. When it comes to desserts, I don't believe in compromise: just choose to try somthing else the next time you make the recipe!
1-1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs, crushed from about 9 crackers
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
2-3 tablespoons oil
2 large egg whites
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh or bottled lime juice (if using bottled, Manhattan brand reccommended)
a pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla
zest of 2 limes
3/4 cup chilled whipping cream
4 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
6 teaspoons sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Stir together graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and oil until combined well, then press mixture evenly into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch (4-cup) glass pie plate. Bake crust in the of middle of the oven 10 minutes and cool in pie plate on a rack. Leave oven on.
2. In a mixing bowl, beat the two egg whites until they hold stiff peaks. In a larger mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sweetened condensed milk. Add the lime juice, vanilla, salt, and zest and whisk until combined. Fold in about 1/3 of the egg whites to lighten the mixture then add the remaining egg whites and fold until just evenly combined.
3. Gently spread the mixture in the pre-baked crust and bake until just set in the center, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
4. For whipped cream topping: just before serving, beat cream in a bowl with an electric mixer until it just holds stiff peaks. Serve pie topped with cream. Or, make a meringue: In another bowl with an electric mixer beat egg whites with cream of tartar and a pinch of salt until they hold soft peaks. Beat in sugar in a slow stream, beating until meringue just holds stiff peaks. Spread meringue on top, covering filling completely, sealing it to the edges of the crust. Draw meringue up into peaks of your choosing and bake in middle of oven until just golden, about 15 minutes. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. The pie can be baked and stored, covered, in the refrigerator, up to 3 days, without the topping.