First Things First: One of my many stops during my time as a professional baker was for the Publix grocery chain. It was the spring of 2008, before all hell had broken loose, and my career in audio was coming to a painful end. There was literally no work to be had, anywhere, and I was getting tired of living and dying by the 1099. So, I decided to go back into food-related work, while figuring out my next move, and was able to parlay my previous experience as a baker in restaurants into a job at Publix. It turned out to be one of those dumb-luck things, considering what happened in September of that year. In fact, my wife’s job evaporated soon after. So I encouraged her to work for Publix as well because people in this modern world can’t avoid the grocery store.
Anyway, Publix sells an extraordinary key lime pie. It has excellent texture (except for the sliced almonds that are along the whipped cream border, which fucks up the whole smoothness of the pie), and that super-rare perfection of sweet and sour. It’s also quick and easy to make, so when I found myself with a can of sweetened, condensed milk, I knew how I was going to use it.
A caveat before we get started: I haven’t worked for Publix since 2010, when my wife and I moved several states away. This means I haven’t made that pie in over ten years, so this is a close approximation and not the original recipe which is lost to my memory. Also, I’m pretty sure Publix’s version doesn’t use egg yolks, because this is a sort-of-not-really-no-bake recipe and they’d be afraid of getting sued. But I use local eggs and generally don’t live in terror of food that isn’t cooked into oblivion. Besides, the yolks seem to do a better job of holding the pie together.
Here’s what you’ll need:
1 Cup Graham Cracker Crumbs
½ Cup Butter, melted
1 Cup Flour
14 oz. can Sweetened Condensed Milk
4 Egg Yolks
5 Limes (if you can access Key Limes, use those, but if you don’t live along the Gulf Coast it’s unlikely that they’re available)
½ Pint Heavy Cream
1 tsp. Vanilla
1 Tbsp. Powdered Sugar
Mix graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and flour together. Press into a pie dish. Or, you can be lazy and just purchase a ready-to-use graham cracker crust, at which point you might as well just buy the damned pie while you’re there and skip this whole thing.
Bake the pie in a 350-degree oven for 10-15 minutes or until just golden. Set on a cooling rack.
Mix together the sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks and the juice of the five limes. Beat on medium speed for a minute or two.
Pour filling into pie shell. Use a rubber spatula to make sure the filling is evenly distributed. This will only fill the shell about halfway, so if you really like you some key lime filling, then double the filling recipe.
Whip the heavy cream, vanilla and powdered sugar until stiff peaks form. Scoop the whipped cream into a pastry bag with an open star piping tip. Squeeze the whipped cream onto the filling in a looping pattern, starting on the outside and finishing in the center. Or, you can be lazy and just slap it on there with a rubber spatula, at which point you might as well just buy that Cool Whip shit. Why are you even here?
Lightly place a sheet of plastic wrap over the top of the pie and chill for several hours—at least 5-7—before serving so the filling can set in place.
Serve chilled. If you let the pie sit out for too long, the filling will lose its structure and just ooze all over the place, at which point you have to start asking yourself why you went through all this trouble when you could have just jumped on a plane and flown to Florida.