Saturday, March 14, 2015


key lime pi

This is what we had for breakfast in honor of π day 03/14/15 at 9:26:53. I've never made key lime pie before, but wanted to experiment with combining an aquafaba meringue with fats. In this case, it was coconut cream from a can of full fat coconut milk. Traditional key lime pie is made from sweetened condensed milk, yolks, and lime juice in a graham cracker crust with whipped cream on top. Around where I live, key lime pies are actually green inside, but the traditional pies are light yellow from the egg yolk and condensed milk. 

And it was one of the best pi·s I've ever tasted!

EDIT: [Now that Pi Day 2015 is officially over for me, more rational [harhar] measurements have been added in brackets to replace the ratios based on pi]

Most of the vegan key lime pie recipe ingredients I found are wildly different than the traditional version. Some recipes use soy, which I wanted to avoid. Some use cashews, which I like, but I couldn't find any recipes that had egg yolk in them. The Vegg is an amazing egg yolk substitute, so I thought I would wing it and see if I could make something somewhere close using simple, direct substitutes for the traditional ingredients.

As a twist, I also wanted to see if I could make the ingredients multiples of pi.... here's how it went down:

First, the crust.

Graham cracker crusts are dead simple. You take some crackers, grind them up, pour in some melted butter and sugar and bake at 350 for 10 minutes. For this version, went with:

  • π Tbsp [3T + 1/8T] of melted soy-free earth balance butter
  • π/2 Tbsp [1.5T] of granulated sugar
  • blended with 3π [10 minus a bite] vegan graham crackers in the food processor

I mashed that as artfully as I could into the π plate, baked it for 3π [10ish] minutes, and set it aside to cool.

Then the condensed milk.

Vegan sweetened condensed milk is essentially a plant-based milk like soy milk or coconut milk, boiled with a significant amount of sugar down to about half its volume. I found wildly different recipes for it online, so I calculated a rough average and went with this:

  • One can of full fat coconut milk
  • π/5 [scant 2/3] cups of granulated sugar

I combined those and boiled them for 14π [44] minutes. Then I did that again, because I realized I only had half of what I needed. The second time took just as long, but it didn't overflow or burn like the first batch because I resisted walking away from it to check facebook. I combined both batches of the resulting sweetened condensed coconut milk outside to cool down:

Followed by the middle ...

In a medium stainless steel mixing bowl, I combined the following and beat on high speed for about 30 seconds with a hand mixer:

  • π [3 would be fine] vegan egg yolks (using The Vegg mentioned in the introduction and the instructions on the back of the package)
  • π/5 [2/3] cups of freshly squeezed lime juice
  • π/2 Tbsp [1.5T] of lime zest
  • both cans of the sweetened condensed coconut milk from the previous step (it was still warm to the touch).

Then I stared at that and ruminated for a really long time.

The setback

The idea with the real key lime pies seems to be that you bake that in the oven for 10 minutes at 350 and some magic happens between the yolks, the sugar, and the lime juice. Trusting that magic, you're supposed to pour that into the shell, chill and be done with the pie.

I don't have quite that much trust in The Vegg. It's wonderful stuff, but without a fundamental understanding of the chemistry going on there, my thought process was to stick the stainless steel mixing bowl in the oven at 360 degrees (because 2π radians and alll that .... it's a late night math joke ... anyway ...) for 3π [10ish] minutes and chill that to see what happens. I reasoned that if it firmed up like it's supposed to, I could probably just spoon it into the crust and nobody would be the wiser.

As suspected, nothing interesting happened after the mixture cooled completely. It didn't set up in the slightest. It was exactly the same as when I was done mixing it. Maybe there's an art to how things are mixed together. I don't know. Since it was already 3:14am and I was already ready for bed, I thought a quick fix might be to add some agar to it. As long as there wasn't too much agar, it should help it set up without changing the texture or taste for the worse, and it tasted delicious already, so *shrug*. Into a small saucepan, I added:

  • 3π Tbsp [1/2 cup] of filtered water
  • π/6 tsp [1/2 tsp] of agar powder [it may actually have been 1tsp of agar. my notes got wet at this critical juncture, so I will have to repro before I know which it was]

and boiled those for five minutes and blended it into the cool mixture for about 3π [10-ish]seconds with an electric hand mixer on medium high speed and poured it into the shell.

Setting that aside, I moved on to the topping.

The topping

The topping is composed of π things:

  • π/5 [2/3] cups of the liquid from a can of garbanzo beans
  • π/5 [2/3] cups of granulated sugar
  • π heaping Tbsp [scant 1/4 cup] of coconut cream from the top of a can of full fat coconut milk
  • a pinch of cream of tartar

I whipped the liquid from a can of Libby's garbanzo beans in a stand mixer with balloon whisk along with a pinch of cream of tarter until stiff peaks formed (about 3.1415... mins). Then I slowly poured in the granulated sugar until all the sugar was in and the meringue was strong -- strong enough to stick straight up without falling while shaking the whisk. That strong.

Half of the meringue went into one mixing bowl to test how well it would combine with the fat, and the remaining half I saved in case it failed.

Gently folding the coconut cream into the meringue appeared to work at first, and tasted amazing. I am starting to develop a strong sensitivity to the taste of garbanzo beans, and normally would have used Great Northern or cannellini beans instead, but I have quite a few cans of garbanzos taking up space on the counter. The more I folded, however, the flatter and flatter the combination became. Figuring it was a lost cause anyway, I put the hand mixer on high and blended it completely flat. When it was done, it was just slightly thicker than the consistency of unwhipped cream. But it still tasted great!

So, very delicately, I folded the flat cream into the meringue I had set aside, and put it onto the pie in dolops. As long as I didn't fold it too much, they seemed to stay in a delicious heterogeneous glob of glop on top of the pie.

By then I needed sleep, so I put it in the fridge until morning.

The verdict

"This is the best pie, ever!" says our middle son. I don't know if that was the novelty of having pie for breakfast or not, but I had very nervously cut into the pie in the morning not knowing whether the amount of agar I had used was going to be anywhere near the mark.

Surprisingly the pie texture was just as good as any key lime pie I remember. I was able to lift it out onto plates with only a slight buldge, and the meringue on top was a nice, delicately sweet offset to the lightly sour filling. I couldn't detect any offensive agar agar qualities and just thoroughly enjoyed the results. My wife was very reluctant to try it at first ... "fruity desserts aren't my thing in the morning" she said. But after trying a bite of mine, it was "OMG that's so [explitive removed] good. You need to send that to veg news! It's just the right amount of sour. Not too sweet at all! Subtle flavor" (or something along those lines, anyway :)

This is a pie I could definitely see myself making again, if only to translate the amounts into a non-pi-day version. I'm not sure if there's a better place in the process to add the agar, though, and I want to learn more about what that inside custard is actually supposed to be doing in only 3π minutes in the oven. There's some voodoo chemistry there.

Full disclosure: I have never actually been to Florida, so I don't feel I'm actually qualified to judge just how good it was, since I don't believe I've ever had an authentic key lime pie. All I know is there's very little left of it, and I can't stop eating it!!!

I also realized while writing this up that I forgot to put the vanilla bean powder into the middle stuff.


It was still good. Really good. And here we have π remaining ...


  1. Replies
    1. Jeez, i Forgot to say
      THANK YOU !! For your recipe and wonderful experimentations!!!!!!!!

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