I have successfully been making a version of this pie since I was ten years old, it has been a favorite in my family for as long as I can remember. When I first started making it I used a pre-made graham cracker crust, but then later discovered how simple graham crusts were to make so I made my own. The pie can be made in a pie or tart pan which makes for a nice presentation when serving it whole. For the restaurant, presentation can be a little trickier since I serve individual pieces so I double the recipe and make it in a springform pan, this makes nice tall pieces which are then individually garnished with lime slices and berries.
The pie is best made a day ahead so it can properly chill and set in the refrigerator. If you are pressed for time though, (which I always seem to be) place it in the freezer to speed up the cooling process. For the crust I use either gingersnaps or graham crackers, they both make a nice crust. I have found Eagle brand condensed milk to be the thickest, some of the other brands can sometimes have a runny consistency and are not as rich. When I was little I could eat it straight out the can with a spoon, I refrain from that little habit these days, but needless to say I like condensed milk a lot!
A note on the key lime juice- I only use Nell and Joe's brand key lime juice, it's available at most major supermarkets and is superior to all the other brands I have tried. When key limes are available, I use freshly squeezed juice. I roll and press the limes on the kitchen counter with the palm of my hand before juicing them to make the juicing process a little easier.
Key Lime Pie
2 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup melted butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 - 14oz. cans condensed milk
3 egg yolks
3/4 cup key lime juice
1 teaspoon key lime zest
berries and key lime slices for garnishing
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla or 1 vanilla bean, scraped
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Pre-heat oven to 350 F
1. In a large bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, butter and sugar. Press cookie mixture into a 9 inch pie or tart pan. Pressing firmly all along the sides and making about a 1/4 inch thick crust. Place pie on a sheet pan and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
2. In a large bowl whisk together condensed milk, egg yolks, key lime juice and zest until smooth and combined. Pour into pie crust and bake an additional 20 minutes. Remove pie from the oven and refrigerate until completely cooled. (up to 3 days)
3. Once the pie has completely cooled, whip the cream with the sugar and vanilla until stiff peaks form. Spread the whipped cream over the pie and garnish with key lime slices and fresh berries. Refrigerate pie until ready to serve.