I am a pudding person. No meal is really complete for me without a little sweet something-or-other at the end. It can be as simple as a square of good chocolate or as elaborate as the finest of French gateaux but I simply must finish with sugar.
This is a terrible habit which, no doubt, explains my somewhat well-cushioned girth but it is not one that I feel able to do without. I try to keep my weeknight indulgences in check: a simple yoghurt or a small slice of plain-ish cake. But at the weekend, I do like to create something a little more indulgent.
Ask me to pick a favourite pud and I'm stumped. It is hard to narrow it down but, overall, I'd say I lean fairly heavily towards the traditional British genre. Treacle tart, apple crumble, sticky toffee pudding, bakewell tart, bread and butter pudding - all are my idea of pudding heaven. I'm pretty happy in France too with a tarte tatin, fondant au chocolat or clafoutis.
I think though, if really pushed, that my absolute favourite hails from across the pond. I have an aunt who lives in Florida and, over the years, have fallen for the Floridian classic that is Key Lime Pie. The number of Key Lime Pies I have sampled is frankly embarrassing. I am on a never-ending quest to discover the 'perfect' Key Lime Pie and take my search pretty seriously when holidaying Stateside. Key Lime Pie graces menus throughout the USA but the 'real deal' has to be made with Key Limes which are quite different to regular limes. They are smaller and taste different and, some would argue, that there is simply no point in making a pie without these fruits. I've tried many a pie in my quest for perfection. So far, my favourite can be found here. But this is a little far to go (unless you happen to live in South-West Florida). So, why not make your own instead?
Ok. We can't get Key limes in the UK. I know it is controversial, but you can make a pretty good pie with regular limes and I'd rather use those than the bottled Key Lime Juice that you can buy if you search high enough.
This hurdle overcome, the rest of the ingredients are pretty simple. Unctuous condensed milk and egg yolks for the filling and biscuits with butter and sugar for the crisp tart base. A traditional KLP would have a Graham Cracker Crust and I do have to admit that no British biscuit is the perfect substitute. Digestives will do. Hobnobs might be better. Delia suggests adding some Grape Nuts for added crunch, though I have tried this and am not convinced. I was lucky enough to receive some Graham's Crackers from a friend who was working in the US after I complained that my KLP wasn't quite up to scratch due to my use of digestives. I have been eeking them out and was down to my last mini-packet so for this pie I used a combination of these along with digestives. It worked pretty well. As did the addition of a little sugar in the pie crust. Not something I would usually typically do but I noticed that this seemed to be the norm stateside.
I usually make this in a fluted tart tin with removable base but the base on mine has mysteriously vanished. As such, I opted for a loose bottom cake tin and made a deeper pie. Different, but rather pleasing as it happens!
Last weekend saw a lovely lunch with friends and I took along my latest incarnation of this tangy, creamy dessert.
After years of tinkering, I can finally say that I am happy with my (Key) Lime Pie recipe. Here it is...
Key Lime Pie
250g Graham's Crackers, Digestives or Hob Nobs (you can get Graham's Crackers in the UK here.)
75g melted butter
50g caster sugar
Zest of 4 and juice of approx 6 limes (150ml or thereabouts)
1 tin (397g) condensed milk
3 egg yolks
1. Pre-heat oven to 160 C. Blitz the crackers or biscuits until you have fine crumbs - you can do this in a food processor or in a zip-lock bag with a rolling pin. Pour into a bowl with the sugar and melted butter and stir to combine. Press into a 20 cm cake tin or 22cm tart tin with removable base.
2. Bake the base in the oven for 10-15 minutes until slightly golden and firm. Set aside to cool.
3. Meanwhile, get squeezing those limes. Rolling stubbornly solid limes on a work surface can help loosen them up prior to squeezing! It took six rather hard limes for me to get enough juice but you may only need four.
4. With an electric whisk, beat the egg yolks for a minute before adding the condensed milk and whisking for a couple of minutes until well combined. Add lime zest and juice and whisk together until thick, creamy and nicely combined.
5. Pour into the prepared base and bake for 15 minutes until just set but still ever-so-slightly wobbly in the middle.
6. Chill for at least four hours or, preferably, overnight.
Serve with whipped cream on the side. Never on top. Resist all temptation to top with meringue.