Monday, February 23, 2015

Florida Key Lime Pie From Boulder Colorado

Foothills at Sunset
So, as you all know, or know now,  I come from Florida, home of the Key Lime Pie. No matter that we no longer grow key limes, and that we import them from Mexico, just like the rest of the country. The point is, we did at one time and so we call first dibs on the right to claim Key Lime Pie. In fact, we're so serious about this matter, that in 2006, the Florida house and senate passed a bill making Key Lime Pie, "The Official Pie  of the State of Florida". This, "take no prisoners" attitude of my home state caused me considerable consternation when I was asked by my Colorado significant other last summer to make him a key lime pie in Boulder. What Florida laws might I be breaking? Could this be a key lime pie felony? Would I have to go on the lam, pie in hand? But deciding to throw caution to the wind, I went about collecting my ingredients which are as follows:

For the base pie:
3 egg yolks
1 can of condensed milk
About 14-16 key limes from which you will pull 1/2 a cup of key lime juice and 2 tsps key lime grate (and if you use Persian limes instead, both the State of Florida and I will come to get you, because that is a downright crime!)
1 pre-made graham cracker crust shell. 

For the meringue:
3 egg whites
A pinch of cream of tartar
A pinch of salt
1/4 cup powdered sugar

Plenty of folks skip the meringue or add whip cream to the pie once baked. But the authentic Key West key lime pie is topped with meringue, which is how I like it and so does Winslow Dog. 

Bring on the Pie!

And Winslow is particular about his Key Lime Pie, and a resident of Florida, and would not like a bastardized version of his favorite pie any more than I would. 

So with ingredient list in hand, off we went to the Boulder's Farmer's Market to get some farm fresh eggs. 

Boulder Farmer's Market - Pet Free Zone 

Now, pie aside, imagine my horror when I came across the sign "Pet Free Zone" at the Boulder Farmer's Market. My immediate questions were: Is Boulder not the seat of liberal and forward thinking people? Did Boulder County not pass a law making pet "owners" pet "guardians"? Do they not pride themselves in equal rights for all? Then what was this doggy, and for that matter, cat, parrot and potential prairie dog prejudice that I was encountering??  I was only too relieved that Winslow had stayed at the house and was not there to read that awful sign. And yes, Winslow can read.. Okay maybe not, but he would have read the expression on my face and been horrified. Talk about taking all the fun out of shopping at the market! Bad policy!!! And I am sure that more than a few Boulderites are with me on that one. Moving on...

The Boulde Farmer's Market has a great variety of fruit, vegetables, and dairy most of which are locally grown or harvested along with a huge food court section and non-food booths for items such as pottery and jewelry. But I was on a mission: to find my locally hatched organic eggs, which I did find from a wonderful farm woman who let me pick my favorite brown ones. So with eggs in bag, off we went to get the rest of our ingredients at the local grocery stores. 

The first store we hit was a local Whole Foods, a chain which I happen to be quite find of. But alas, they had run out of key limes. Next, was King Soopers where a very helpful fellow had to do digging around the stock area to find me a bag since they had run out on the floor. I pondered this apparent run on key limes in this area and had to ask myself: What do these Boulderites do with all these key limes?? Are pies being made by the dozens? Are they planning Fantasy Fest West Side? Does the State of Florida really need to take action with its Key Lime Pie declaration? Have that many Floridians moved here and overtaken the area? There are a lot of us around. It was puzzling. But, with little trouble, I garnered the rest of the ingredients, and off I went to bake a key lime pie in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. 

Foothills Front Range

Winslow's Key Lime Pie

It's not that Winslow knows how to bake this pie, but he sure knows how to eat it. And it's because he loves this pie so much, that I've named it after him. 

This pie could not be easier to make. 

First, seperate the eggs while cold and let the egg whites get to room temperature. 

Separate Eggs - Divorce in the Making

Next, wash your key limes really well - I have yet to find organic key limes anywhere. 

Key Limes - NOT Persian Limes

Next, put the prebaked pie shell into a 375 degree oven and bake for five minutes. When done, take out of the oven and set it aside. 

Before you start squeezing the little limes - and trust me, this is the worst part of this process - grate the skin of enough limes to get two teaspoons of grate. I suggest using a Microplane as it makes short work of an otherwise "grating" task.  

Set the grated lime rind aside and begin squeezing....and squeezing...and squeezing...until you get 1/2 cup of juice. I recommend you squeeze more than 1/2 cup because you will be straining the pulp and seeds. I usually squeeze the whole bag of about 14-16 limes. 

Now, a couple of notes: Don't use bottled key lime juice! One thing is using the stuff for flavor on chicken. Another is making it the main ingredient in key lime pie! 'Nuf said. Second, moderate how much key lime juice and grate to use according to how tart you want the flavor. I like it tart, as do most of my friends, including Winslow and Kip, my other beautiful boy. But, I have friends who like it a bit sweeter, so for them, I reduce the amount of lime grate. 

Once you have the lemon juice and the grate ready, put the egg yolks in a blender and begin to beat them until they have a light yellow color. Then add the condensed milk and beat to blend. 

Whip it Up

Then, add parts of the key lime juice and incorporate into the mixture. It will get thick. 

Add the key lime grate and continue to blend.  

Add the Lime Grate

Finish blending and pour the mixture into the pie shell. 

Ready to Go in the Oven

Place in the center of the oven and bake for twelve minutes in a 350 degree oven. In the old days in Key West, according to Wikipedia, the sponge fishermen, who were perhaps the inventors of this delicious dish, did not cook the egg yolk mixture. However, these days, for safety reasons, we do. Not so great to drop dead eating key lime pie. 

Remove from the oven once cooked and set aside. 

Now, for the meringue! 

Combine the egg whites with the salt and cream of tartar and blend until the eggs are frothy. Then, slowly add the powdered sugar slowly and keep beating until soft peaks are formed. Once that is done, you pile it on mile high so that it looks like a fourteener - a fourteen thousand plus feet tall mountain for you flat landers - and stick it in the oven. Many recipes say that in about ten to twelve minutes it will be done when you set the oven at 350 degrees. I have found that it can take a little longer - 20 or 25 minutes. You need to keep an eye on it. If it gets too toasted on the top, you may want to cover it with aluminum foil. You do want the meringue to be cooked through and not runny.

Then sit down, under a palm tree, or an aspen, with your best dog, significant other, or yourself and enjoy!

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