If you followed my advice in a previous blog post of mine and took the free IKEA ferry to Brooklyn’s Red Hook, spent some time exploring BWAC, the Waterfront Museum barge, and perhaps popped into Baked, there’s an excellent chance you saw a sign pointing to Steve’s Key Lime Pie.
This bakery store in a low slung brick warehouse building overlooking the waterfront is a destination in itself. As you approach the entrance, you’ll see an antique truck emblazoned with the Steve’s Key lime Pie logo park next to the street. A brick paved patio area outside with large wire spools serving as tables provide the perfect place on a warm sunny day to enjoy either a slice or swingle of homemade key lime pie. I’ll explain “swingle” in a minute.
First of all, Steve isn’t a generic name pulled out of a hat to name the place. It’s the owner’s first name who is onsite everyday that pies are made from scratch. Steve’s hometown is Miami so he knows a thing or two about the authenticity of key lime pies. After discovering that many key lime pie bakeries, even in Key West, cut corners by using pre-made pie crust and bottled key lime juice, Steve was determined to keep a piece of Southern Florida heritage alive. He opened his bakery and began making fresh pies based on the
following 4 core methods and ingredients. One certainty for sure, your taste buds will confirm that it’s worth his effort:
1. The crust – always made in-house with 100 % real butter in small batches of 12 using only a hand mixer, whisk and a ladle. No mechanical devices of any kind. Next, a premium Graham crumb formula baked at a specialty bakery which only makes dessert crumbs is stirred in. When baked, the Graham crumbs absorb the molten butter as they toast. The newly formed shell cools developing a rich, crisp, cookie-like consistency that simply can’t be rivaled.
2. The juice – only fresh key limes are squeezed by hand. Even when making your own at home, stay away from bottled lime juice even if it has an authentic Key West label. You’re better off using fresh squeezed Persian limes, the type that you regularly find at the local grocery store.
3. The chocolate – coating for their swingles (small personal size pies on a stick) is also made onsite using dark, semi-sweet Belcolade Belgian Chocolate. In contrast to commercial dipping chocolate which has a laundry list of ingredients thinned with 30 % palm kernel oil, Steve’s chocolate is tempered with 20 % organic coconut oil.
4. The filling – The primary ingredient holding the filling together is sweetened condensed milk. As you may have guessed, even this isn’t from a can. Short of milking a cow out back, they use a dairy in the Mid-West who packs it into 5-gallon buckets, places on a pallet, and ships it by refrigerated truck so it’s sitting in their walk-in fridge within 3 days. The other key ingredient is the egg yolks. To avoid salmonella contamination, a long standing tradition of making key lime pies is adhered to once again. Since key lime pies were never baked in the first place, the “fill and chill” method preserves the lime juice’s flavor which would otherwise be altered by heat.
Sketch Courtesy of Renee Mirsky