Key Lime Pie with Brown Sugar Italian Meringue
Key Lime Pie with Brown Sugar Italian Meringue is is creamy, tangy key lime filling in a flakey, buttery crust, topped with a sky high brown sugar Italian meringue that makes this pie extra special.
This pie…there’s a story behind this pie. 🙂 The story goes like this: my family is accustomed to me making my Key Lime Pie with Meringue Whipped Cream every year for the holidays and other special occasions. People look forward to it the way you might look forward to your favorite cake on your birthday, or eating chocolate for Valentine’s Day — it’s expected. What happens when a blogger is tired of making said pie and wants to tinker with what the family deems as perfection? On the night before Thanksgiving, no less before ever trying the new pie? Could be disastrous. It almost was. Oh, the horror.
After juicing a bazillion little key limes and making the filling from scratch with NO sweetened condensed milk, I realized I’d skipped over some of the recipe specifying to beat the egg yolks with the sugar until smooth before adding the other ingredients, and then I didn’t strain my filling to get little bits of egg yolk out. Those little bits were all over the top of my pie after baking and it looked horrible. That’s what I get for trying a new pie and thinking I know the recipe! My son saw it and said, “what’s wrong with the pie?” Ugh. The next day, I realized I could scrape that top layer of egginess off and it was beautiful underneath. It just might work! I then made what I thought was a gorgeous brown sugar Italian meringue, and I heard things like, “why is the top all brown?”, and then the meringue was weeping brown sugar tears about 2 hours later. I was about to join it. 😉 The meringue had separated from the side of the pie crust, so I calmly poured out the liquid brown sugar and just thought I was going to have faith.
Family arrived and saw that my key lime pie was different. “Why is the top brown?” I dove in first, and notified everyone that it was every man and woman for themselves as dessert was going to be serve-yourself-style — I was sitting down to enjoy (hopefully) my pie. After everything that had happened, I’d started to doubt my pie. After all, I’d never tasted it! I didn’t even attempt to photograph it prior to guests arriving because I was a bit deflated with the egg yolk debacle. My first bite? Sheer heaven. Creamy, tangy, and that brown sugar meringue was nothing short of heavenly. People followed up behind me and ate some, and they were sold. It was good. I made sure there was enough of it left to photograph the next day. I realize it would have been more photogenic the day before, but I think you get the gist of what this should look like.
The moral of the story? I’m going to continue to trust my instincts. The minute I saw the recipe, I knew I wanted to make it. I mean, brown sugar meringue? It had to be good — I love brown sugar! This meringue is special, and so is this pie. Now I have two great key lime pies in my repertoire. 🙂
- 9" Pie Crust:
- 1⅔ cups all purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- pinch salt
- 9 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into ¼" cubes
- 7-9 tablespoons ice water
- 6 large eggs
- 1¼ cups granulated sugar
- ¾ cup fresh key lime juice
- 1 tablespoon key lime zest
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 6 large egg whites
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1½ cups firmly packed brown sugar
- Prepare the crust:
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, and pinch of salt. Cut the butter in with a pastry blender, two knives, or cool hands and blend just until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. You should still see chunks of butter here, and the dough should still appear quite yellow. Sprinkle 7 tablespoons of the ice water around the outer edges of the dough in the bowl and stir with a knife just until the dough comes together. If it seems dry, add the other 1-2 tablespoons of ice water.
- Turn the dough out on the counter and using the heal of your hand, push or smear the dough about 6 inches up the counter in small mounds. This helps to incorporate the butter, and is what the French call "fraisage"). At this point, you should still see bits of yellow butter, and the dough should not be white, but pale yellow. Mound the dough back together, scraping up any bits with a bench scraper or spatula, and press into a flat disk. Wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
- Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface from the center to the outer edge, and turn the dough in between each roll. Think of a clock when rolling the dough, turning and rolling at about 5-10 minute intervals. Flour the surface if the dough begins to stick, as well as the rolling pin. When the dough is rolled large enough to have about 2" overhang over the pie plate, carefully roll the dough over the rolling pin, and unroll over the pie plate. Trim off excess dough and decoratively crimp the edges. Place back in the refrigerator for 20 more minutes to chill.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place a sheet of parchment over the dough, and place pie weights, lentils or beans over the parchment to blind bake the crust. Place in the middle rack of the oven and bake for 15-17 minutes, or until the crust appears dry. Cool on a wire rack.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and granulated sugar until smooth. Whisk in the lime juice until smooth, then whisk in the cream. Strain the filling through a fine mesh sieve into a measuring cup, then stir in the lime zest. Pour the filling over the blind baked pie shell, and bake for 35-40 minutes, until the center is just set. Cool on a wire rack, and refrigerate until cold.
- Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Place the brown sugar in a small saucepan, adding just enough water to cover. Attach a candy thermometer to the saucepan, and place over high heat. When the sugar reaches about 240 degrees (softball stage), begin whipping the egg whites on high speed as they need to be thickened and foamy before the sugar is added. When the sugar is at high soft-ball stage, or 245 degrees, remove the thermometer and, with the mixer running, carefully add to the egg whites in a slow, thin stream.
- When steam starts to come off of the whites, add the sugar a bit more quickly. After all the sugar has been added, continue whipping until the whites are firm but soft peaks form. The meringue will still be quite warm. Spread the meringue over the pie to form a high, smooth dome, and create decorative waves with the back of a spoon. Work quickly, as the meringue will become stiff and difficult to shape as it cools. Preheat the broiler and place the pie on the lower rack in the oven, turning every few seconds to ensure that it browns evenly. Store in the refrigerator. Pie is best served within 3-5 hours as the meringue may start to weep. Enjoy!
Recipe adapted from Tante Marie Cooking School, San Francisco, CA..