Key lime pie: a dessert with real zest

This delicious treat is incredibly easy and can be whipped up in no time

Key lime pie. Photograph: Harry Weir

Key lime pie. Photograph: Harry Weir

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If you like a creamy velvet finish in a dessert you will adore a slice of Key lime pie. It is the official dessert of the Florida Keys where it is made with Key limes (a smaller fruit with a different, more intense flavour than standard limes). So when you make this, expect to be adding lots of zing.

The combination of textures means it is not dissimilar to a cheesecake, and the biscuit base is made in much the same way. A classic American Key lime pie has a baked creamy filling, typically consisting of egg yolks, Key limes and condensed milk, which are whisked together, baked in an oven and chilled before serving.

Since we can’t buy Key limes in Ireland, the recipe is wide open to interpretation. This recipe is therefore a no-bake, chill and set dessert, which is quite acceptable (unless you actually live in Key West).

In order to fulfil my “bake” brief of this column, I might suggest baking the biscuit base in the oven before filling the shell, but switching on the oven for such a purpose seems like a waste of electricity.

Be forewarned: the filling is quite rich, as a whole tin of sweetened condensed milk is added. This sweetness is balanced by the deliciously refreshing tang of the limes. In addition to whisking the condensed milk quite well, the cream cheese contributes to give a miraculously reliable “set” consistency without the necessity of adding gelatine. If you want to add more lime flavour to the filling, add more zest rather than juice to ensure you don’t loosen the mixture and prevent it setting.

Limes and chocolate make a perfect marriage and this dessert demonstrates this beautifully.

Serve as chilled as possible, straight from the refrigerator. It is perfect for summer entertaining with a delicate motif of melted chocolate over the top (and also hidden beneath the filling). The best part is that is incredibly easy and you can whip it up in no time. Rose, a tutor in our cookery school, noticed that it tastes quite similar to Loop the Loop ice lollies – a nostalgic twist with this delicious dessert.

KEY LIME PIE

Serves 6

200g sweetened digestive biscuits

100g butter (plus extra for greasing)

75g dark chocolate (55 per cent cocoa solids)

180g full-fat cream cheese

397g tin sweetened condensed milk

5 limes, zest and juice of

Method

1 Crush the biscuits in a food processor or by placing them inside a plastic bag and bashing them with a rolling pin to fine breadcrumbs. Melt the butter and stir through the biscuits until the mixture has a sand-like consistency. Press the biscuit mix into the base of a greased pie dish or loose-bottomed tart tin. Gently press it up the side walls of the dish. Refrigerate for 10 minutes to harden the biscuit shell before adding the filling. 

2 Break the chocolate into pieces and melt in a bowl over a bain marie or gently in the microwave at 10-second intervals. Reserve a little for the final garnish and gently spread over the chilled biscuit base with the back of a teaspoon. Refrigerate. 

3 To make the filling, whisk the cream cheese to smooth out any lumps, then add in the condensed milk and about three teaspoons of lime zest. Continue to whisk until the mixture starts to thicken slightly, then add in six tablespoons of lime juice. Taste and adjust the flavour with more lime zest or extra juice if required (be cautious about adding in too much extra lime juice, which may affect the firmness of the set pie).

4 Gently pour the filling over the chilled biscuit base and level with the back of a spoon. Refrigerate for four hours. 

5 Melt remaining dark chocolate once again (as it will have hardened up by now) and decorate with any pattern you like. Served chilled.

Variation

Variations on the pie base include a pastry shell in place of the biscuits, but this will require more time and skill. Other biscuits can be substituted for digestives, such as chocolatey bourbon creams or ginger nuts, or build on the tropical theme with coconut-flavoured Nice biscuits. Adding two tablespoons of cocoa powder to the digestive biscuits gives both a chocolate flavour and a nice colour contrast to the pie.

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