Friday, July 11, 2008

Key Lime Pie: The Yes-or-No Options

I love key lime pie. It not only tastes wonderful, but it is incredibly easy to make. But, when it comes to making a key lime pie, the variety of recipes I've seen present cooks with 3 yes-or-no options. At least 2 of these options significantly affect the taste and/or appearance of the pie.

Let's consider each of them.

Yes-or-No Option #1: Whether to use a homemade graham cracker crust. Some recipes call for preparing the crust by using a box of graham cracker crumbs. Others simplify it even more by calling for a pre-made graham cracker crust in an aluminum pie pan. I'm all for shortcuts if they don't affect taste, but my experience is that both of these alternatives do affect the taste of the crust. A homemade graham cracker crust always tasted much better. Buy your own graham crackers and put them in a food processor — trust me, you'll taste the difference.

Yes-or-No Option #2: Whether or not to cover the pie with whipped cream. Some recipes include whipped cream, while others declare this to be optional. I am definitely pro-whipped cream, especially the way I prepare it. To the heavy cream and sugar, I add a tablespoon of powdered ginger or (if you can find it at a gourmet shop) a teaspoon of crushed or minced ginger. Carefully spread the whipped cream over the top of the pie and chill. The whipped cream also balances out the acidity of the key lime juice.
Yes-or-No Option #3: Just today I discovered that there is another yes-or-no option I'd never heard of — whether to bake the key lime pie. Here is what the website Baking Bites had to say:

I don’t like baked key lime pies. Some people say that they taste the same (or very similar), but I still object. The pies are baked because of a fear of salmonella or other potentially egg-borne pathogens.

The fact of the matter is that the acid in the fresh lime juice that is used to make the pie actually “cooks” the eggs, thus destroying anything harmful that might have
been in them.

Skipping the baking step would save even more time, but I am skeptical of the claim that the acidic quality of lime juice is sufficient to kill salmonella and all other "pathogens" that might be present.

There's a pediatrician in my family. Maybe I'll ask her.

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