It has been a HOT summer in upstate NY. We are officially in a drought state, and the fierce rainstorms that sometimes touch down are rare and brief. Working at the farmers market every weekend, I see all the beautiful produce that’s still lovingly picked, washed, and brought to sell by local farms. One of my favorite stands (other than the burrito mecca of Solaz) is Littletree Orchards from Newfield, NY, whose owner Dennis is quite a character. I’d been bringing baked goods almost every weekend to market and hadn’t decided what to make yet for the next day, so I quizzed Dennis on his favorite – key lime pie. Market is extremely busy and as vendors we move fast and have short breaks – so I needed something that could be handheld for simplicity’s sake. Enter: key lime cup pies.
I got the idea for cup pies from that ultimate quirky gem of a show, Pushing Daisies. With its pliable graham cracker crust, key lime seemed like an ideal pie to try. Plus, the zing and creamy coolness of the filling was irresistible in the heat of the summer. Oh yes – and at the last minute I remembered I had no handheld mixer to make the whipped cream, so I whipped it – with complaining arms – on my porch at 7am, so I wouldn’t wake my sleeping boyfriend with the clanging of the whisk. Then I bought a handheld mixer.
The recipe is adapted very slightly from Smitten Kitchen’s Key Lime Pie. The only tweak I’d make next time is to pulse my crackers more finely, so the shape holds better. I was a little too optimistic that a coarse grind would be ok, but it should’ve been more drip coffee and less French press. Raggedy cup pies are still delicious, thankfully.
Key Lime Cup Pies
Preheat oven to 350°F (176°C). Have a 12-cup cupcake/muffin tin at the ready.
1 1/2 cups finely ground graham cracker crumbs (from about 10 crackers pulsed in a food processor. You can do this by hand with the crackers in a bag and a rolling pin as well.)
3 Tbs granulated sugar
2 pinches sea salt
7 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
To make: Combine ground graham crackers, sugar and salt in a medium bowl and stir until mixed. Add the melted butter and stir until crumbs are evenly coated. Add a small amount of the mixture to each muffin cup, then use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to press the mixture down and up the sides. Smooth/pat with your fingertips and add more filling until it seems like a nice sturdy shell.
Bake the shells until lightly browned, about 10 minutes or less. Set aside to cool while you make the filling, but leave the oven on.
1 1/2 Tbs finely grated lime zest (I used a microplane)
3 large egg yolks
One 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup fresh lime juice (I used 4 1/2 regular limes) ** be sure to zest at least the limes before you juice them, then set aside some extra zest to sprinkle on the whipped cream.
To make: Take 1 1/2 Tbsp of your lime zest and whisk/beat with the egg yolks until pale and thick, about 5 minutes. A mixer is preferable but it is possible by hand! Pour the condensed milk in a steady stream while continually whisking, until the mixture thickens further, about 3 minutes with a mixer, or quite a bit longer without.
Squeeze zested limes until you have 2/3 cups juice. Whisk into yolk mixture until combined and glossy. Try to be quick to avoid curdling! Pour into pie shells and bake for another 10 minutes, until set (not jiggly) but not browning on top. Let the cup pies cool completely before removing from tin and garnishing – Deb suggests using your freezer to speed the process and it was very helpful. I used a knife to gently loosen the edges of the cup pies, then an offset spatula to ease them out.
As much heavy cream as your little arms can whip, plus sugar + vanilla to taste. Dollop a spoonful on each cup pie, and finish with a dusting of lime zest. Share with some happy farmers.
Till next time,
Pies & Pinups