Have you noticed the price at the decent bakeries for pies and cakes?  Two weeks ago I choked when I paid for a cherry pie – $26.  To add insult to injury, some bakeries are charging more than $40 for a strawberry short cake.  Even though the cherry pie was excellent, I can’t afford to continue in this direction.

Last week was my mother’s birthday (the big 85), and sitting on my counter was a bag of Key limes that I purchased for $3.  Now my mother loves lemon meringue pies, and never had the courage to make them so when I offered to make her a Key lime pie, she jumped at the offer.

These pies are easy, spectacular and very affordable.  Plus you can use this recipe for Key limes, regular limes and lemons.  Key limes are about ½ the size of regular limes (or lemons), so you will need at least double the amount of fruit.  Don’t mess around making a traditional pie crust but try a simple graham cracker crust.  For the meringue topping, put the meringue in a pastry bag (get a real big one – mine is a 20”).

I’m lucky that I even got a picture of the pie before it went into the oven to cook the meringue.  When I brought it to the table, my group of lime lovers devoured the pie.  And it cost me so little to make – probably under $5.

KEY LIME MERINGUE PIE– give yourself time, about 2 hours before serving, to start the pie.  It is a 3-step process; crust, filling and meringue topping.

Crust – 10 minutes active time, 10 minutes baking time

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (10 crackers)

1/4 cup sugar

3/4 stick of melted unsalted butter

Preheat oven at 350 degrees.  In a large bowl combine sugar and graham crackers.  Add melted butter and mix well.  Press mixture into a pie pan – I used a fluted, ceramic tart pan.  Bake for 10 minutes and cool.

Filling – 15 minutes active time, 1 hour cooling time

1 cup of sugar

¼ cup flour

3 tablespoons cornstarch

¼ tsp salt

2 cups water

3 eggs, separated

1 tablespoon butter

¼ cup fresh lime juice – approx 10 – 12 Key limes or 5-6 limes/ lemons

Grated rind of 1 lime (2 key limes)

Combine sugar, flour cornstarch and salt in a saucepan and gradually stir in water.  Cool, stirring constantly, until thickened.  Gradually stir the mixture into the beaten egg yolks, return to low heat and cook, stirring, 2 minutes.

Stir in the butter, lime juice and rind and cool slightly.  Pour into the baked graham cracker shell and cool. Put in refrigerator

Meringue Topping – 15 minutes active time, 1 hour cool down.

3 egg whites

¼ tsp cream of tartar

6 tablespoons sugar

Preheated oven at 425 degrees. Beat the egg whites until lift and frothy.  Add cream of tartar and continue beating until the whites are stiff enough to hold a peak.

Gradually beat in sugar and beat until meringue is stiff and glossy (or stand up a spoon).

Pile meringue lightly on cooled pie filling, spreading it until it touches the edges of the crust to prevent the meringue from shrinking.  If you prefer (I do), put meringue into a pastry bag with a large tip and twist down the top of the bag so that the meringue is forced to squeeze out. Decorate the top of the pie, always making sure the meringue touches the edges of the crust. Bake for 5 to six minutes until top is brown.  Let pie cool down and refrigerator.

Graham cracker crust recipe courtesy of Ina Garten

Filling and meringue topping recipes courtesy of The New York Times Cook Book by Craig Claiborne