Baker’s Hours

January 10, 2009

Dexter's Search for the Perfect Key Lime Pie

Filed under: Baking Tips,Recipes — Admin @ 1:48 am
Tags: , , ,


A few days ago, someone on Twitter asked me if I made Key Lime Pie. As I have warned before on a few occasions, you shouldn’t try to rationalize how my brain works. I say this because after receiving that question on Twitter, the first thing that popped into my head was the TV show, Dexter.

Without a doubt, one of my favorite shows currently on television has got to be Dexter! I had discovered the show during one of Showtime’s free weekends two years ago (Season one had just ended), and I have been hooked ever since. As a matter of fact, I liked the show so much that I cancelled my HBO subscription (Why not, Sopranos had just ended, and they just cancelled Rome and Deadwood.) and made the switch to Showtime. As far as I’m concerned, the jump was well worth it. 


Those of you who watch the show probably know where I am going with this, but for those of you poor souls who have yet to discover the genius that is Dexter (yes I am totally geeking out over this), I shall explain. In season three, episode seven titled, “Easy As Pie” (you can watch the episode here) close family friend, Camilla Figg is in the hospital dying of lung cancer. Realizing that she is nearing her death, she charges Dexter with the task to find her the perfect Key Lime pie. Sentimental serial killer that he is, Dexter accepts Camilla’s request, and proceeds to bring her Key Lime pies from various bakeries around Miami. However, even nearing death, Camilla remains a finicky pie connoisseur. 

Throughout the episode, Camilla shoots down everyone of Dexter’s attempts to fulfill her request. “This one has whipped cream folded into it,” she says to one. “This one has green food color added to it,” she says to another. Now, I’m sure that to the average person this seems to be a rather mundane plot point, but as someone who has made a fair share of Key Lime pies, I could appreciate every one of Camilla’s complains. At one point, I remember thinking to myself that someone on the writing staff must really like Key Lime pie to have it occupy such a large part of the episode. The thing that tickled me most though, was that every opinion Camilla had about the perfect Key Lime pie was right. A real Key Lime pie should not be whisked like an anglaise, nor should it have whipped cream folded into it, and it definitely SHOULD NOT have green food coloring in it! If you see anything like this throw that piece of pie away… As discreetly and politely as possible of course.


Know the Difference

The first thing you need for a great Key Lime pie are of course Key Limes. How can you tell if you have Key Limes? Simple, if your limes are green, they are not Key Limes. The common green limes that you find in your local market are Persian Limes. Although Persian Limes can make a very tasty pie (truth be told, that is what I use at work), if you want an authentic Key Lime pie, get yourself the real thing. You can read up more about Key Limes at where else?


Prior to my arrival at my current job, they used to put food coloring in their Key Lime recipe. I have no idea why anyone would want to add food coloring to their pie. Although lime juice does have a tinge of green in it, the resulting color of your pie should always be yellow. If you want to add green food color to your pie, be my guest. Personally, I feel that if it doesn’t do anything to improve the flavor of the pie, then it shouldn’t be in there. Besides, adding color makes the pie look unnatural, and that to me is unappetizing. I explained this to the owner of the restaurant, and he agreed with me.


You can search the internet and find hundreds of Key Lime pie recipes, and I have tried my fair share. Yet of all the recipes I have tried I have found that the simplest one is the best.

  • 2 each              Sweetened Condensed Milk (14 oz. cans)
  • 10 each            Egg Yolks
  • 2 each               Lime Zest
  • 1 1/2 Cups       Key Lime Juice
  1. Combine condensed milk and egg yolks together in a bowl.
  2. Zest lime directly into the bowl. (see note)
  3. Add lime juice. Strain and refrigerate mix for one hour. (see note) 
  4. After an hour, pour filling into prepared graham cracker crusts
  5. Bake in 300º F oven for 30 minutes. 
  6. Remove from oven (Should wiggle like jello) and refrigerate immediately.
  7. Top with whipped cream and enjoy.


1. I always tell people to zest citrus directly into whatever bowl they are mixing their ingredients. When zesting citrus, oils from the rind are released. That oil is what will add flavor and aroma to whatever you are making. If you zest into a separate bowl, you are wasting all that flavor. Also, only zest the colored part of the rind. The white part is is very bitter, and will ruin anything you add it to.

2. Refrigerating your filling is very important to the end result of your pie. The citric acid in the lime juice begins to coagulate the proteins in the egg yolks the instant that they come into contact with each other. This in turn thickens the mix, an reduces the cooking time of your pie. I’m sure that there are other chemical reactions going on in there, but lets keep this simple. If you skip this step, you risk either scorching your pie or having it separate during cooking (not a pretty picture I assure you).

So, there you have it! I seriously doubt that this will give you the perfect Key Lime pie, but I promise you that it’s a damn good one.


Key Lime Pie made by yours truly.

Key Lime Pie made by yours truly.



Song stuck in my head at the time of this post: So What by P!nk



  1. you bake it for 30 minutes,that seems like very long time

    Comment by david m. williams — January 12, 2009 @ 4:55 pm

  2. It takes 30 minutes to bake because I bake this at a lower temperature than usual. Most recipes bake at 350º, hence the 15-20 minute cooking time. I prefer the lower temperature because it there is less of a chance of scorching on the top, and less browning of the crust.

    Comment by NctrnlBst — January 12, 2009 @ 5:22 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: