The heat is on here in Northern California! We are three days into a week-long spell of triple digit temperatures. Luckily, I have an answer to the dilemma of preparing a quick and easy dessert, in spite of hot weather. This one is a classic of restaurants along the North Carolina coast (where they know something about hot weather). “Beach pie” is a cinch to make and is delicious to eat.It’s similar to a Key Lime pie, but with the distinctive addition of a crunchy, almost savory crust of saltine crackers. Mix up the cracker crumb crust and give it a quick stint in the oven, to set and brown. The filling is a simple mix of sweetened, condensed milk, citrus juice, and egg yolks. Bake the filled pie for fifteen minutes, then cool and chill. If you get this done in the early morning, you won’t heat up the kitchen at all. When you’re ready to serve, whip some heavy cream and spread it generously atop the chilled pie. Decorate with a little citrus zest, if you like, or even a little sprinkle of flaky salt. Voila! The best dessert for hot weather; it’s rich, but light, and the citrus filling contrasts perfectly with the salty crust. It’s a birthday request here (for consecutive years), that I’m always happy to provide. Try it and see if you don’t agree.
Atlantic Beach Pie
A popular hot weather dessert that's delicious to eat and easy to make. Beach pie has a salty crust, and a rich, citrus filling; it's all topped with softly whipped cream.
- 5 ounces saltine crackers
- 6 tablespoons softened, unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 14-ounce can sweetened, condensed milk
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (I used a combination of lemon and lime juice)
- 1 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
- A few shards of fresh lemon zest, for garnish (I used a zester to get fine strips of zest)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the saltine crackers in a food processor, and pulse until finely chopped. Add the butter and sugar and pulse until the mixture is crumbly and holds together. There should be a little texture to the mix, so don't over-process. Press the crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie plate. You can form a little edge if you wish, but try to keep the thickness even. Chill the crust for 15 minutes, then transfer to the oven and bake for about 18 minutes, or until set and golden brown.
Set the crust aside while you mix the filling. In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks into the condensed milk. Add the citrus juice and blend thoroughly. Pour the filling into the crust and bake for about 15-16 minutes, or until set. Cool to room temperature, then chill before attempting to serve.
Whip the heavy cream and confectioner's sugar to medium peaks. Spread over the chilled pie and garnish with lemon zest. Serve and enjoy! Store any leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
There are many versions of "Beach Pie", but the one I took inspiration from is Bill Smith's. You can the original recipe here.