Here at Steve’s Authentic, we’re quite proud of the product we make and the ingredients we use. As purists, we insist on making everything we can “in-house”. For the sake of simplicity or because its easier, most bakeries rely on outside suppliers who control the ingredients. We do the hard work because know what the results are. We are basically recreating the very same key lime pie Steve was making for his family and friends as a young man in Miami, in fact, some of the ingredients have gotten better over the years.
We start with our crust, which we hand-make on a daily basis in-house. Other bakeries, even those touting authenticity, rely on purchasing pre-made crust from commercial factories where the “bottom line” mentality always prevails. As we’ve done from day-one, we make all of our crusts for all of our products here in our bakery.
We start with a premium Graham crumb formula, baked to our specifications (trans-fat free and no high fructose corn syrup) at a specialty bakery who only make dessert crumbs. The particular formula we use is minimally processed, the list of ingredients is probably 20% of what you’d find in an off-the-shelf commercially made Graham cracker crust. This is one of those cases where our ingredients have improved over the years, as we are always striving to make the best product we can, not cheapen it by reducing the quality of the ingredients.
We incorporate 100% pure butter with the crumbs, basically the “glue” that holds the the crust together. When baked, the molten butter toasts the Graham crumbs while being imbedded into the crumbs themselves. The result, when cooled, is a rich, crisp, cookie-like consistency that cannot be rivaled by any commercially made crust. We’ve always done it this way, and we always will, even though there are less expensive alternatives to using butter.
Our filling comes next. Another example of ingredients getting better over the years. The primary ingredient used is sweetened and condensed milk. Most bakeries use a canned milk product which was produced, packaged, shipped to a distributor, shipped to a wholesaler and eventually delivered and used maybe months after production. There is little or no control over the handling of the product, how long it sat canned in a warehouse or truck before it finally made way to be used. You’d be surprised to know how many bakeries still use this stale product.
We have tracked down a regional dairy who routinely produces sweetened and condensed milk. When we place our order, the next production run is packed into 5-gallon buckets, placed on a pallet, shipped by refrigerated truck. Within a few days the fresh milk is sitting in our walk-in fridge and ready for transformation. The quality of this product cannot be had out of a can, this sweetened and condensed milk is undoubtedly the freshest available, anywhere. We take great pride in using this product in our pies and bringing it to our customers. The condensed milk contains nothing more then milk and sugar, no oils, no gums, no mystery ingredients.
The egg yolks are a touchy subject for us. As purists, we would prefer not using a processed product, but as everyone knows, raw egg yolks always stand the chance of salmonella contamination. Although there are methods of pasteurizing yolks (we will post this later in a “how to” video), this procedure simply cannot be done on the scale that we produce our pies, so the choice really came down between using pasteurized yolks or baking the filling. Being the sticklers we are for authenticity, the decision was easy. Traditionally, key lime pies were never baked, it was always the “fill and chill” method. The baking of the filling changes too much of the quality that makes a key lime pie so special. The consistency changes and the flavor of the lime juice is altered by the heat. But we’re not just using any commercially available egg yolks, our yolks come from a 100% cage-free and humane facility. Happy chickens make happy eggs.
Now comes the magic, the element that sets our product apart from all other commercial bakeries. The one thing we’ve done from the beginning and will continue to do as long as we’re making key lime pies, fresh squeezed key limes. This is the only source of juice we use, period. I’ve met other key lime pie bakers, in Key West no less, who asked why we didn’t just use a bottled key lime juice. I found this incredulous, the very idea of using processed key lime juice simply on account of the ease of use. This is the very reason I began making key lime pies years ago, it seems that people just don’t want to do the hard work. You would be hard-pressed to find any of the commercial key lime bakeries in Key West who are using real, fresh squeezed key limes.
We stand proud of this point, and feel that we’ve earned our bragging rights. As we’ve said many times before, we do recommend the bottled from imported concentrate, complete with chemical preservatives, reconstituted and complete with a real Key West label variety of key lime juice, if you’re stripping paint or removing rust, but not not in a food product. Even if you’re making a key lime pie at home (which we will post a how-to video later), you’re better off using fresh squeezed Persian (regular) limes.