I had every intention to post this recipe yesterday, as I usually do. I had all of the pictures ready, the recipe written on a note card, ready to be transcribed, but I have bad reactions to bug bites and stings. What does that have to do with this post, you ask?
On Saturday I was outside, enjoying a beautiful unexpectedly cool and low humidity morning. Low humidity is not part of a North Carolina summer, so it is something to really relish. I was minding my own business when a yellow jacket flew into my shirt sleeve and couldn’t find it’s way out. The trapped insect was understandably agitated and released it’s frustration and fear through a harsh sting on my arm before buzzing away. The sting hurt but wasn’t a big deal. Until Sunday that is, when it turned from a small dot to an itchy red swollen spot that enveloped my entire upper arm. Attractive and comfortable. Not.
This is where we get to the part where the bee sting affects this post. The swelling and itching got so bad last night that I decided the best course of action was to take a benadryl to help with the reaction. No problem. I went about the next hour as usual and then, as I was staring at my computer screen, deciding which pictures to use I realized that I was suddenly very tired. I looked at the pictures again. Did I choose this one or that one? Did I already export these? I had no idea. I didn’t remember what I had already done and what I still needed to do. All I knew was that I really needed to go to bed. So instead of a key lime pie post brought to you by loopey, swollen Hope, I bring you a late, but coherent key lime pie with pretzel crust recipe and a yellow jacket story you probably don’t care about :)
This pie was inspired by my brother, who recently celebrated his 19th birthday. His favorite dessert as of late is key lime pie, but all of the recipes I found included a can of sweetened condensed milk, which I don’t love. Instead of using sweetened condensed milk, I made a basic pastry cream recipe and added freshly squeezed lime juice and some powdered sugar, to balance out the tartness. It worked better than I could have hoped. To mix it up even further, I swapped out the traditional cracker crust for a salty pretzel crust. The result is a tangy but sweet, creamy lime filling piled atop a slightly salty pretzel crust. The flavors pair perfectly and are almost reminiscent of a cold lime margarita with a salt rim. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream, or whipped coconut cream to really make it tropical, for a dessert fit for any summer celebration.
Here’s to hoping key lime pie helps with yellow jacket stings! ;)
Key Lime Pie with Pretzel Crust
Key Lime Pastry Cream
6 egg yolks
½ cup sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
pinch of salt
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
½ – 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
¾ cup freshly squeezed lime juice (less if you don’t want the pie to be as tart)
1 ½ – 2 cups pretzels
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon sugar
7-8 tablespoons butter
Whipped cream or coconut whipped cream
Lime slices or peels
To make the Key Lime Pastry Cream
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix together the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch and salt. Whisk until smooth and pale.
In a large, preferably heavy, saucepan, combine the cream, milk and vanilla and bring to a simmer. With the mixer on medium speed, slowly pour the hot milk mixture into the mixer and whisk until combined.
Transfer the mixture back to the saucepan and whisk constantly over medium-low heat until the mixture thickens to the consistency of mayonnaise. Remove the pastry cream from the heat and add the butter, whisking until incorporated. At this point, add the lime juice and sifted powdered sugar, a little at a time, while whisking. I used 1 cup of powdered sugar and ¾ cup of lime juice. If you want a less tart pie, use less lime juice and add powdered sugar to taste to make sure the mixture does not become too sweet.
Transfer the key lime pastry cream to a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Make sure the plastic wrap actually touches the surface of the pastry cream to ensure that a “skin” doesn’t form (like the skin that forms when you refrigerate puddings). Refrigerate until cool, about 2 hours, depending on the depth of your bowl. If you are in a rush, pour the pastry cream into a large baking pan with edges, place the plastic wrap on top and chill. It will take much less time to cool since the cream is in a thinner layer and there is more surface area for the cool air to reach.
To make the Pretzel Crust
While the pastry cream is cooling, make the pretzel crust. Place 1 ½ – 2 cups of pretzels in a food processor and pulse until the pretzels are very finely crushed and become almost the consistency of flour. Pour 1 cup of the pretzel “flour” into a medium bowl. Add the brown sugar and sugar to the bowl and mix until fully combined. With your hands, work 7 tablespoons of the butter into the dry mixture until it sticks together. Add the extra tablespoon of butter if the mixture does not come together when you press it against the walls of the bowl.
Press the pretzel mixture into mini (or large) tart/pie dishes. Spoon the key lime pastry cream into each one until full. Top with a dollop of whipped cream or coconut whipped cream and a lime slice to garnish.