I got two awesome compliments from a friend at dinner the other night. During a random conversation about hair color, he said he was was shocked (shocked!) that I am not a natural blonde. (Not since I was three years old, but thanks!) And later, when I presented a platter of the mini Key lime pies pictured above, he asked, in semi-disbelief, whether I had made them. As if they were so perfectly cute, I must have bought them at the mini Key lime pie store.
As a native Floridian, I'm snobby about Key lime pie. I turn up my nose at pies made with regular limes or artificial whipped cream, dyed green filling, and menus that don't capitalize the "Key" in Key lime. Like I said, very snobby. I thought my go-to recipe was the gold standard, but then I saw a post on Oh Joy!, one of my favorite design blogs, about mini frozen Key lime pies. And, whoa.
I had eaten a slice of chocolate-dipped frozen Key lime pie on a stick once. I liked the cold, ice cream-like texture, but as a purist, I didn't need the chocolate. But Joy's recipe was essentially a regular Key lime pie, minatureized. People love tiny things, especially in dessert-form, so I had a feeling this would be a hit.
I tinkered with the recipe a bit, replacing regular lime juice with Key lime juice, cutting back on the sugar and adding a bit more butter to make sure the crust came together. I like a tart Key lime filling, but if you like yours on the sweeter side, feel free to add the extra sugar. I won't judge you.
Joy wrote that she used mini cupcake liners to make her pies, but I didn't have any on hand so I used a nonstick muffin tin instead. As I pressed the graham cracker crumbs into the tin, I was a bit nervous that I wouldn't be able to get the pies out after they froze, but it wasn't an issue at all. Each one popped right out, creating a perfect little hand-held dessert.
After a meal of spicy enchiladas, they were a welcome finale--creamy, tart, and with a thick graham cracker crust. While they're not exactly traditional, I have to say this might be my new go-to recipe. When people assume your dessert came from a bakery, I say that's a good thing.
Mini frozen Key lime pies
Heavily adapted from Ina Garten and Oh, Joy! If you want to make one large pie, this recipe should work for a normal pie pan. And if you can't find fresh Key limes (which are a pain to squeeze, frankly) I highly recommend Manhattan Key Lime juice. It comes in a bottle.
(Makes about 8 mini pies)
For the crust:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs, finely ground
1/4 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
For the filling and topping:
4 egg yolks, at room temperature
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup sugar (I omitted this for a more tart pie)
3/4 cup Key lime juice
1 cup cold heavy cream
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
Lime zest, optional
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. To make the crust, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter in a bowl. Press into a 13- by 9-inch nonstick muffin pan (or two smaller pans), making sure the sides and the bottom are an even thickness. Bake for 10 minutes. Allow to cool completely.
In a medium sized bowl, beat the egg yolks then add the condensed milk, lime juice, and sugar (if using). Stir until combined. Using a spoon, pour the mixture into each mini pie shell, being careful not to overfill. (I had a bit of filling leftover)
Use a whisk or hand-held mixture to beat the cream and confectioner's sugar until semi-firm. Top each mini pie with a dollop of whipped cream and a pinch of lime zest, if desired. Freeze for at least eight hours or overnight. Using a butter knife, carefully pop each pie out of the muffin tin before serving.