Friday, March 14, 2008

Mini Key Lime Pies for Pi Day

Today is 3.14 and that means that today is Pi Day! Yes, my recognition of this makes me a nerd, but this is something I have known for a long time and I fully embrace it.

I almost forgot about Pi Day but Kate reminded me. I recently had a conversation with her about Key lime pies (particularly the ones from Steve’s Key Lime Pies in Red Hook, Brooklyn) so I decided that’s what I would make for today’s “holiday.”

Steve’s Key Lime Pies is simply that – it’s run by a guy named Steve and he makes Key lime pies, and only Key lime pies. He does so out of a converted warehouse on a pier in Red Hook, Brooklyn. I used to hate Key lime pies (probably because most of them are made with regular limes), but a few years ago, I heard about Steve’s amazing pies and, since I lived about a 30-minute walk away, I decided to try out his pies. I bought a Swingle, which is a single-serve 3” pie on a stick that is frozen and dipped in dark chocolate, and a mini-pie (4.5” diameter I think). Not being a huge chocolate fan, I chipped off most of the chocolate on the Swingle, but the pie, oh my, the pie was amazing. Later that night, I ate a small slice of the pie. It was just as amazing as the pie inside the Swingle. (FYI, the Latin name of the Key lime is Citrus aurantiifolia Swingle; it was given this name after the man who categorized these limes, Walter Tennyson Swingle.)

Steve only uses the freshest and best ingredients – he uses local eggs, fresh custom made graham crackers, condensed milk from a dairy in Wisconsin, and one thing that truly sets his pies apart: he juices his own key limes. No wonder his pies are so damn good.

In addition to the killer pies, there are a few added bonuses of going to his bakery/storefront in Red Hook:
  • You get to walk down to Red Hook and, in the process, cross the BQE by foot (ok, maybe this isn’t a bonus…) and walk down Van Brunt Street (which was supposed to be an up-and-coming area, but is still a quiet stretch of Brooklyn), which has a handful of great stores and restaurants lining its short stretch.
  • Steve has the cutest Jack Russell Terriers that sit on a big dog bed and occasionally run around the front area and the back “garden” (don’t worry, they are nowhere near the food prep areas!). His dogs have puppies every year or so, and he gives away the puppies. I am SO getting one if/when I move back to Brooklyn!
  • The back “garden” is really just a few benches, but they are right on the rocky shore and they directly overlook the Statue of Liberty.
So, in honor of today being Pi Day and the best Key lime pies (and Key lime pie store) in the world, I present to you my miniature versions of Steve’s Key Lime Pies.

Mini Key Lime Pies
(makes 10)

Crust10 graham crackers, finely crushed
5 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

Filling1 cup cold sweetened condensed milk
4 cold egg yolks
½ cup cold Key lime* juice (from about 14-16 Key limes)

2-3 Key limes*, sliced into thin rounds and seeds removed (you will need 10 slices)

*Key limes are grown in Mexico and are much smaller, taste different from, have lighter juice (it's yellow-green), and have a lighter and thinner skin than the common Persian lime. They have a floral fragrance and a slightly lemony taste. If you cannot find Key limes (don’t use bottled juice – it has been pasteurized and a lot of the great Key lime flavor has been zapped), use a mixture of ½ lemon juice and ½ regular lime juice (freshly squeezed, of course) to approximate the flavor of a Key lime.


Heat an oven to 325º F.

In a small bowl, mix together the graham cracker crumbs and butter and mix well with your fingertips until the butter is evenly distributed and all the crumbs are incorporated. Put 2 heaping tablespoons of the mixture into each of 10 muffin tins. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of each cup and up the sides to create a crust that is between ¼ and 1/8 inch thick and goes about 1 inch up the sides of the cup. Bake the crusts for 7 minutes, then let them cool completely.

When the crusts are cool, make the filling. Whisk together the cold condensed milk and the egg yolks in a measuring cup until well combined. Slowly stream in the lime juice while gently whisking the mixture; mix just until all the lime juice is incorporated. Pour the mixture into each of the baked crusts and refrigerate until set; this takes quite a few hours – best to leave them in overnight. You can also freeze the pies – either version tastes great (see my above comments on both of the pies I bought from Steve). I froze half of the ones I made and refrigerated the other half. Note: If you are wary of eating these because of the uncooked egg yolks, you can bake the pie for 15 minutes at 325 º F; Steve doesn’t bake his pies and therefore I did not, either.

To get the pies out of the muffin tin (this is the fun part where you get to let out aggression): Wrap a flat cutting board (that is larger than the muffin tin) with plastic wrap. Place the plastic-lined side face-down onto the muffin tin and invert them (aka turn them upside down). Now, take a towel (or a few paper towels) that have been wet with hot water and slightly wrung out. Place the hot towel over each muffin cup to warm it up, rewetting as necessary to reheat the towel. Now lift up both the inverted muffin pan and cutting board underneath it and give it a good whack straight down on the counter. Lift up the muffin pan; all of the mini pies should be out. If not, move the pies that came out onto a plate and repeat the above process. Gently lift each pie off the cutting board, turn them right side up, put them on a plate, and top each one with a Key lime slice. Now you are free to devour as many pies as you wish (but one generally suffices).


Krysta said...

Mini pies! How fun! would you like me to put yours up as well?

lcsa99 said...

Awww those are so cute! Looks like they would be a ton of fun to make :)

Horray for Pie Day!

asthmagirl said...

They're beautiful! I love key lime and these have made me crave your little pies!

JPENG said...

wow..those look sooo good and the recipe sounds so simple..but I'll make a big one because if i make little ones the bf will swipe them without me knowing immediately. You're not a fan of chocolate?! pass any extra over here then =D

TheCooker said...

Lovely! Bookmarked!
Happy 22/7.

White On Rice Couple said...

Mini Me pies are the best! And your's are so cute and perfectly sized for one portion.
Thanks for the info on Steve's place in Brooklyn. He's on our list of "to eats" when we finally get to visit the East coast!

Nat said...


Wow, great idea! I just watched a little video about Pi Day and then immediately opened your blog and found you celebrating it!

Any ideas on if it's possible to make a vegan version of Key Lime Pie, because I sure do love limes in all their forms. It's like my MSG.

I wonder what a Calmondin/Kalamansi Lime Pie would taste like? Hmmm..... [runs off to the kitchen]

Anonymous said...

great recipe and tips for getting the pies out of the pan! i like your version too, cuz for us gelatin-sensitive vegetarians, steve's pies are not an option :(

roopa said...

Anonymous - As far as I know, Steve's pies do not contain gelatin. I asked him about it the last time I got a pie there, but that was a few years ago. I doubt he would start adding gelatin to his pies because they're perfect the way they are, so I think you can eat them! (But you should probably ask him again just to make sure.)

Meghan said...

i love this! and key lime are my absolute FAVE pie ever.

i love the slice of key lime on top....

kudos to another cute idea!

elf conqueror said...

i didn't know you went to steve's. i've always wanted to go but keep forgetting every time we go up. maybe i'll make dad bring one down in a couple of weeks.

Nat said...

I wanted to post Roopa's response to my vegan key lime pie request, as it's an excellent suggestion:
"Vegan key lime pie...hmmm...I think you might be able to do something with silken tofu (maybe 2 of those mori-nu packages), sugar or agave nectar to taste, and key lime juice. Maybe some agar agar to get it to set up but that might not be necessary, not sure, because I've never made desserts with silken tofu. Actually, I usually end up eating half of it out of the carton while I'm waiting to add it to my food...I love that stuff. And you could do the crust easily with graham cracker crumbs and some soy spread instead of the butter."

I think this would work really well, and I'll definitely give it a try!

And thought you all might be interested in the Cook's Illustrated video about making the ultimate crumb cake, including pan choices.

Karyn said...

Between these and your Irish Car Bomb Floats, I think I've entered food blog heaven.

K8teebug said...

Your pies are much cuter than my pie.

Shannon said...

Thanks so much for the great recipe! I've never done something like this before, and was sure I would mess it up, but they turned out perfectly!

Anonymous said...

Those mini pies are adorable! I love the concept of a mini pie because it doesn't fill you up and you can sample other desserts if desired.

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