Do you ever try to find a song or a movie or a TV show that you know will force a mood change? Maybe it’s a bop to get you in the mood to dance, or a joke in a movie that always makes you laugh. Food can be like that too.
My boyfriend’s birthday was last week, and he requested key lime pie, but not just any key lime pie. We’re both personally obsessed with Kim Sunée’s “just in case key lime pie” recipe from her book “A Mouthful of Stars.” You might recognize Sunée from her occasional food columns in Anchorage Daily News or from one of her other books. Her key lime pie recipe calls for a decadent crème fraîche topping and fresh lime juice squeezed from a number of little key limes.
My favorite aspect of her recipe, and what really separates it from all other key lime pies, is the graham cracker and macadamia nut crust. Most key lime pies have a graham cracker crust, crushed up with sugar and butter, and pressed into place. Sunée’s recipe is so much more extra, throwing macadamia nuts into the mix. It’s the perfect addition. The sweet and fatty nut cuts so well with the tartness of the key lime flavors. Carr’s sells little bags of macadamia nuts in the baking aisle, and that’s all you need, about a third of a cup.
This dessert is summery by nature, but I think I crave it more often in the dead of winter, where it brings a light freshness to cold and dark January days. So if you’re looking for a yummy dessert, an easy baking project or to force a mood change for the positive, look no further. Because we live in Alaska, ingredients like crème fraîche or key limes can be difficult to find. I opted out of topping my pie. I just didn’t get around to it, and didn’t miss it. However, if you’re looking to go all out, whipped cream, homemade or otherwise, would do just fine here. I squeezed juice from normal limes for this pie, and really appreciated the fresh juice flavor. It’s something that’s hard to imitate in the juice that’s bottled. Even if you use half squeezed juice, half bottled juice, it should help bring out the freshness of the lime in your pie.
Key Lime Pie
inspired by Kim Sunée
12 graham crackers
3 tablespoons of sugar
1/3 cup of macadamia nuts
7 tablespoons of butter
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/4 cup of lime juice
2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons of lime zest
Lime wedges for garnish, optional
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the graham crackers, sugar and nuts in a food processor, or into a large plastic bag. Blitz the ingredients in the food processor together until crumbly, but not quite sandy, or, crush the ingredients inside the bag using your hands or a rolling pin. Pour the crumbs into the pie pan you’re going to use.
2. Melt the butter and pour over the crumbs, making sure to spread the butter around evenly, coating the crumbs. Using your fingers, press the crumbs against the pan, shaping the crust along the bottom and sides of the pan until you have your desired crust thickness.
3. Place the crust into the oven, and let it bake for 15 minutes, or until the crust is a golden brown color. Leave the oven on the same temperature.
4. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and lime juice until combined, and stir in the sweetened condensed milk until all the ingredients are fully incorporated.
5. Pour the mixture into the cooled crust, and bake for 18 to 20 minutes. The pie should be set, but a little bit jiggly in the center. Let the pie cool, setting it in the fridge for at least four hours, or overnight. Top with lime zest, whipped cream or lime wedges.