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Wednesday 14 December 2011

Last Course: Waitrose Key Lime Pie

Some years ago, I took a holiday in Florida, so it should come as no surprise that I've sampled Key Lime Pie that was actually made in the Keys.

With that in mind, it should also come as no surprise that most things I've found in the shops labelled 'Key Lime Pie' are but pale imitations of the true dessert.

Many of them are topped with rather too much cream. Many of them use a very obviously artificial colour to emphasise that it's Key Lime Pie ("it's all green and stuff, innit? Limes!"). There are those that are too sweet, there are those that are too bland. There are very few that follow the Conch tradition of adding a meringue topping.

Because that would be too much like Lemon Meringue Pie, wouldn't it?

Flavour-wise, Waitrose version is a fairly decent stab at a Key Lime Pie. It has a good, crunchy, biscuit crumb base (described as 'gingercrumb', though I cannot comprehend why - it doesn't taste gingery, and nothing obviously gingeresque is listed in the ingredients), and the lime mousse is subtly flavoured, yet has bite and doesn't have the unpleasant aftertaste one often finds in products claiming to be 'Key Lime Pie'.

But, other than the flavour, it really isn't Key Lime Pie by any stretch of the imagination. Alongside the condensed milk required by the traditional recipe, this thing contains double cream, crème fraîche and full fat soft cheese... So it's basically a lime cheesecake. A true Key Lime Pie should be made with nothing more than lime juice, egg yolks and condensed milk and, in the oldest recipes, this pie wasn't even oven-baked - the chemical reaction between the lime juice and the condensed milk was enough to 'cook' it.

The other thing to note is that yer actual Key Limes are often not dissimilar to lemons in appearance, albeit smaller, so the green colouring is hopelessly misleading. If any additional colour is needed for a Key Lime Pie, it should be yellow, not green. This one is very pale, but still green... and the little pieces of lime zest on the top are definitely green.

Waitrose attempt, therefore, is another one for the "It's Not Really Key Lime Pie" column. Nice as the 'gingercrumb' base is, it should have been proper pie crust. Sharp and limey as the flavour is, the mousse is all wrong. As a lime cheesecake, this is absolutely wonderful... But that's not what they're calling it.

All of which makes me think that, considering how simple the traditional recipe is, I should really attempt to make a Key Lime Pie myself. Of course, it's highly unlikely that I'll be able to buy any Key limes in any of my local shops, or even the larger supermarkets further afield, so I'll just have to make do with the normal kind.

Then again, considering how simple the traditional recipe is, I wonder why so few people actually follow it...

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