Yesterday, as I was about to commence the pre-weekend vacuum cleaner run, I heard a dusty, gritty, thump on the chimney flue - followed by another...and another. My cats, of course, were oblivious. I quickly herded the clueless "mouse hunters" out of the living room - which only required saying *voom* *voom* nonchalantly (they have an understandable dislike of the prehistoric "retro" vacuum cleaner).
I cleared most of the furniture away from the fireplace, except for the stupid lamp that will stop working if you just look at it funny, and I opened the patio door (luckily it's in the same room!). I grabbed the swiffer sweeper broom, removed the sweeper head, and, standing as far away as possible, tried using the headless end to pull down the flue opener. This seemingly-clever method did not work. The end of the broom was not strong enough to pull down the heavy, iron 'O.' So I had to resort to plan B, the Hand-Pull & Flee technique. In keeping with the streak of cleverness, I placed a towel-lined basket under the flue, hoping the mysterious creature would fall in and allow me to calmly walk it outside. I pulled open the flue, made a stuntman-like dive over the back of the sofa, and peeked over the top. After only three seconds an adorbs little red squirrel came tumbling out. Naturally it landed far away from the waiting basket (apparently my flue is wider than an 8-inch Pier 1 wicker basket). It scurried around the chimney a bit and then, almost instinctively, made it's way outside via the open patio door - leaving only a trail of tiny paw prints.
The little squirrel immediately made his way up a nearby tree and onto a branch, where he proceeded to obsessively groom himself and chirp at me - I'm quite certain he's ok.
Aside from the realization that I need to do a better job of dusting the fireplace when it's not in use (I don't want to think about the spider webs), everything ended well. My reward was a slice of key lime pie - which I was going to have anyway, but it felt more 'rewarding.'
The photos fail to capture the amazingness going on in this pie. It's difficult to see just how fluffy and light the filling
Last but not least, the filling is perfectly tart. Perfectly perfect in every way possible. I'm almost always disappointed by key lime pies because the filling is usually too sweet - any citrusy dessert should be more tart than sweet. This recipe uses lime zest + half a cup of lime juice, so there's just the right amount of luscious lime love.
This pie is best served cold after a light summer dinner (or an unexpected mid-morning squirrel rescue).
Key Lime Pie
makes one 9 1/2-inch pie
for the crust
113 g unsalted butter (that's 1 stick, or 1/2 cup) *have an extra Tablespoon on reserve*
154 g Graham cracker crumbs (about ten 2-inch by 4 3/4-inch) crackers, or (1 cup + a heaping 1/4 cup)
50 g granulated sugar (1/4 cup)
1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tablespoon cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon salt
for the filling
4 egg yolks
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
Finely grated zest from 3 limes (about 1 Tablespoon)
122 ml fresh lime juice (about 1/2 cup) *If they're tiny, about 10-12 limes
2 egg whites
for the topping
240 ml heavy cream (232 g, or 1 cup)
3 Tablespoons confectioners' sugar, sifted
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter a 9 1/2 or 10-inch glass pie plate.
Prepare the crust: Melt the 1 stick (113 g) of butter and set it aside for a few minutes. If you're starting off with whole graham crackers, place them in a food processor and pulse until they turn to crumbs (not too fine). In a medium-size mixing bowl, whisk together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, cocoa powder, cornmeal, and salt. Add the melted butter and use a fork to work the butter into the dry ingredients until well combined (the texture will be similar to wet sand). The mixture should hold together slightly when squeezed - if it's too dry, melt the reserved 1 Tablespoon of butter and stir until combined.
Press the crust into the bottom and up the sides of prepared pie plate. Use the bottom of a measuring cup to help the process - it's less sticky. Bake the crust for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and place onto a cooling rack. Cool completely before adding the filling. Leave the oven set to 350 F.
Prepare the filling: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sweet milk, lime zest, lime juice, and egg yolks; set aside.
In the *bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the whites just until stiff peaks start to form. (Don't overbeat). * When beating egg whites (meringue) always use a clean, bone-dry, bowl.
Using a large rubber spatula, fold about 1/3 of the egg whites into the sweet milk/lime mixture. Add remaining whites and continue to fold, gently, until just combined. (Don't go too crazy folding in the egg whites, you want the filling to retain some of the fluff.) Pour the filling into the now-cool, partially baked crust.
Bake 20-25 minutes or until the middle is set. Remove the pie from the oven place onto cooling rack. Cool completely before adding the whipped topping.
Prepare the topping: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, combine the heavy cream and confectioners' sugar. Beat until soft peaks form.
Assemble: Scrape the whipped cream onto the cool pie. Use an off-set spatula to spread the whipped cream into an even layer. For added dimension, use the back of a soup spoon to make random wave-like indentations in the whipped cream. Refrigerate assembled pie for at least 3 hours before serving.
adapted from epicurious