Posted in custard

Key lime mini-pies

Served in a regular-sized pie plate.
Served in a regular-sized pie plate.

It is a well-known fact that miniature things are cuter than regular-sized things.  When it comes to food, they are also really good for parties.  I make itty bitty key lime pies in a mini muffin tin, and yes it is a pain in the butt to press the crust into all those little holes, but it is so worth it when everyone tells you how adorable they are.  Plus they cook a little faster.  Unfortunately, the generally accepted way to tell if a custard is done is to jiggle it and take it out of the oven when only about a quarter-sized part in the middle still jiggles.  This is called le jigglage in French.  You must learn all the proper French terms to be a good cook; no one will take you seriously if you don’t say “le jigglage.”  Despite the precision of this technique, it is useless when the entirety of your pie is the size of a quarter.  But that’s what thermometers are for.  In fact, as far as I’m concerned, thermometers are for everything that happens in the kitchen, with rare exceptions like buttering toast.  An egg yolk custard is done at about 160 degrees F.  Unfortunately, my thermometers didn’t seem to be working so well when I made these, so I still had to do a little guessing.  Perhaps I’ll start a Thermapen fund.

But ironically, the part I had the most trouble with was not burning the stupid crusts when I baked them before adding the filling.  I plain old forgot about them the first time.  The second time, I had a pan of water in the oven to help my custard cook slowly, and I didn’t want to risk taking out a pan of hot water, so I put the water on one side and slid in the crusts on the other side.  They touched the wall of the oven, and the ones on that side of the pan got positively black.  Don’t let your pans touch the oven wall.

Key limes are smaller, rounder, and yellower than regular limes.
Key limes are smaller, rounder, and yellower than regular limes.

I may have had to stay up until 3am to get them all baked properly, but my efforts paid off when my dessert was the first to be wiped out at my department’s picnic.  Yay for Florida’s state pie.  I used what appears to be the most popular key lime pie recipe on the internet, available here, for instance, in which the filling consists of only key lime juice, sweetened condensed milk, and egg yolks.  If you ignore the fact that you have to juice approximately a million key limes to get the juice, this is deliciously simple.  It does leave you with extra whites, though, which I froze in my blue ice cube trays, designated as Not Actually Ice.  I’m even trying to get another use out of the squeezed limes, but that’s another post….

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