Jen Mai isn’t normally a fan of key lime pie, but that changed after one bite of the cute mini-version served at Fishing With Dynamite in Manhattan Beach. We agree. And while it may not be a Key lime pie in the most traditional sense — there are passionate arguments about whether the pie should be topped with whipped cream or meringue, and whether the crust should be flour-based or the more crumbly graham cracker, not to mention whether the filling should include eggs or the more classic condensed milk — if this creates another fan, we approve. Plus, it’s adorable. Think of it as a little gateway pie.
Graham cracker crust
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in a small saucepan, and set aside to cool slightly.
In a large bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter. Press the dough into each of eight (4-inch) tart shells.
Bake the crusts until set and lightly colored, about 6 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool.
Key lime filling
Whisk together the Key lime juice, sugar and eggs in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, until the mixture thickens to a custard, about 8 minutes. Be careful to scrape the sides and bottom of the pan while cooking so the mixture doesn’t curdle on the edges. Remove from heat.
Strain the custard into a bowl, then cover the surface with plastic wrap and set aside to cool. When the custard comes to room temperature, add the butter and use a hand blender to blend the mixture until it is silky smooth. Divide the filling among the prepared crusts and refrigerate until set, 4 to 6 hours.
Key lime pie
Combine the water, sugar and corn syrup in a small saucepan, then cook over medium heat until a thermometer inserted reaches 240 degrees. Meanwhile, beat the egg whites in a stand mixer or large bowl until frothy.
Remove the sugar from heat and slowly, with the mixer running, beat the sugar into the egg whites until the meringue becomes cool and holds a stiff peak.
Fill a piping bag fitted with a star tip with the meringue, and pipe the meringue, in small peaks, onto the tops of the pies.
Use a crème brûlée torch or blowtorch to brown the tips of the meringue. The pies can also be quickly placed under the broiler to brown the tips.
Garnish the tops of the pies with lime zest and serve immediately.
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