When my dear wife Therese announced that she was willing to be parted from me on Super Bowl Sunday, and even encouraged me to go off and spend the day watching football with my guy friends, I felt that I needed to find a way to say “thank you” to her. I had recently bought a set of 4 5-inch ceramic pie plates, and I knew that Therese’s favorite pie is key lime pie, so I decided that I would make her key lime pie to keep her company. While I was cheering on men in pads and striped uniforms, she could at least be cheering to the sensation of her tummy being filled with scrumptious key lime pie.
I set myself the challenge to come up with a way to make the pie dairy free, of course. After doing some research, I settled on the idea of using a conventional recipe (from Bobby Flay), and simply substituting coconut milk (and sugar) where the recipe called for sweetened condensed milk. I gathered my ingredients on the day before the big game, with the idea that the pies would set in the refrigerator overnight and then be perfect on Sunday when Therese was ready to eat them.
Getting 2 teaspoons of lime zest from limes was easy enough – it took barely 2 limes, and I had it. Getting the right amount of lime juice was a different story entirely. The first lime I juiced was pretty juicy, but the next two after that were not. I started thinking that maybe 5 limes was not going to be enough to make 1 quarter cup plus 2 tablespoons of juice! But luckily the fourth one was pretty juicy, and I made it.
Then it was just a matter of beating the lime juice and zest together with the coconut milk (14 ounces) and 4 egg yolks for a couple of minutes to make it nice and thick. I used my hand mixer, but honestly it didn’t seem to thicken at all. I withheld judgment on that, thinking that baking in the oven and settling in the refrigerator for hours could do the job just fine.
I have been avoiding my food processor, I will admit it. But when I thought about grinding up all those graham crackers (8) and then mixing them with brown sugar (2 tbsp) and coconut (1/4 cup), I was happy to let the food processor do the job. A second go-round with some melted butter (6 tbsp.) and this stuff was ready to be a crust. Would this amount, designed for one large pie, be enough to fill my four small pie plates? Mmmm, not quite. It was enough to be respectable, but I think I should have increased it by around 25% to really do the job. I baked the crusts by themselves for 10 minutes at 325 degrees, and then was ready to put it all together.
To finish up, it was just a matter of dividing up the filling among the four pies, and moving them back to the oven for 20 minutes. When I took them out of the oven, the pies looked great, but still a bit runny. I crossed my fingers a second time and moved them to the refrigerator.
Later that evening, Therese asked when the pies would be ready, and I realized that she was not going to wait until the following day to taste the results! I negotiated with her to give them another half hour in the refrigerator, or a total of about 2-1/2 hours of cooling time, and then brought one out for her to eat. She pronounced it a bit thin, but nevertheless quite delicious. The second pie, which she ate the following day, she said was thicker, but still a bit on the thin side.
So the lesson I have learned is that I need to either jump-start the egg yolk’s thickening properties before putting the filling in the pie pans, or maybe add another thickening agent like gelatin or corn starch. But otherwise, this makes a good pie. And it reminds even the most forlorn Super Bowl Widows that they are well-loved.