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Any Dexter fans out there?

Season Three has turned out to be even more intense than the previous two — something I didn’t think the writers could do. But after the episode where … WARNING, possible spoilers and a little bit of profanity ahead for anyone not keeping up with this season … Camilla asks Dexter to find her the perfect piece of key lime pie, I found myself wanting a taste of that myself.

Camilla: You know, Dexter, my whole life I’ve been searching for…

Dexter: The meaning of life.

Camilla: The perfect key lime pie. And what do I get when I’m about to croak? Fucking pie crust, Reddywhip and green Jell-o

End spoilers and profanity.

So, the research began. And, after flipping through pages of recipes, it became clear there were two things that made a key lime pie authentic: key limes and no dairy. (My understanding is that this pie was born at a time when there was no real refrigeration in the Florida Keys, which is why canned condensed milk is used.)

As usual, this adventure was not without its disasters, er, learning experiences.

One valuable lesson: just because a can doesn’t have an expiry date doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a shelf life.

I was all excited that I already owned a couple of cans of sweetened condensed milk. (Side rant: Why are the cans in Canada 300-milliletres and the U.S. ones come in 14 ounces? That means I need to use one full can and most of another, but am left with some, which really bugs me. We share a border, why can’t we share can sizes? Also, on that note, a lot of recipes that come from the States simply say “one can of sweetened condensed milk” so I had to find out exactly how much that was. Yes, yes, I could have mathematically figured out how to use up both cans, but that was going to be a lot of fractions. Not that I don’t love math, I just don’t want to do it all the time. Okay, moving on.) And I was excited that they had no expiry dates.

And then I opened them.

They had gone golden coloured, looking a bit like they were turning themselves into dulce de leche. A little googling indicated they were safe still to eat, but one person posted in a forum that they probably shouldn’t be used for something like Key Lime Pie, which should come out a very pale, creamy yellow colour. So, it was off to the grocery store for two more cans. Thinking about it later, it occurred to me that I actually had no idea when I bought those first two cans. Yikes.

Key limes. Teeny, tiny limes. Full of teeny, tiny amounts of juice. They weren’t hard to find — most grocery stores around here have mesh bags of them amongst the Persian limes and lemons — nor were they hard to squeeze. But it took about 16 of them to get all the juice the recipe called for.

Key Limes

So, I could have made one big pie (in my still relatively new pie dish), but then I was out shopping and spied baby tart tins. Oh yeah, have to have those. First, who doesn’t love individual desserts? Second, they were just so darn cute. And they were on sale. There, three very fine reasons to purchase more bakeware.

The tarts ended up a bit shallow for all that filling, so I threw the rest of the mixture into a ramekin and just baked it off. That was a pretty tasty dessert too.

I cut it close, but had them ready to go for Sunday when I and my Dexter-watching friends dined on them while watching the next episode.

And I get what Camilla was searching for.

Zesty limes

Key Lime massacre

The filling

Pie shells

Little pies pre-oven

Key Lime Pie

I kind of combined a couple of recipes here, and this is what I ended up with.

Key Lime Pie

  • 15 graham crackers, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 4 large eggs, yolks only
  • 1 3/4 cups sweetened condensed milk (14-ounce can)
  • 12 key limes, juiced (1/2 cup fresh lime juice; it took 16 limes for me)
  • 2 teaspoons lime zest

Preheat oven to 350

Beat egg yolks with a mixer until they lighten in colour and thicken. Add the zest and beat again. Add the juice and condensed milk, then thoroughly mix and let sit for 30 minutes as the mixture thickens.

Mix the crackers in a food processor until they are crumbs. Add sugar, then turn on processor and slowly pour in melted butter. Press into a nine-inch pie dish or tart pan and push up the sides slightly. Bake for 12 minutes until the pie shell is golden.

Pour mixture into the pie shell, and bake for 15 minutes. (Less if you are doing smaller, individual servings.) The centre should jiggle slightly when the pan is shaken.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature before putting in the fridge. Let cool for another three hours before serving. Serve with whipped cream if desired. (I liked it with the whipped cream, even if it isn’t traditional, because it cuts the richness of the pie.)