I love discovering regional and/or vintage recipes so when I recently read about a pie that was once served at many restaurants along North Carolina’s Atlantic coast, I started researching its history. If you’re dreaming of hot sun, blue water, white sandy beaches, and palm trees, this recipe for easy beach pie is just what you need—without packing a suitcase or waiting in a line at the airport.
The original recipe is known as North Carolina lemon pie or Atlantic beach pie, and the filling is made with sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks, and lemon juice. Now you’re probably thinking “ho hum, another pie with a graham cracker crust”, right? Nope, this is a pie crust made with saltine crackers!
Some recipes use Ritz crackers and I’ll probably try that at some point, but this time I went for the saltines. This crust is so simple that anyone can make it. Throw the saltines in a food processor and pulse until they’re mostly big crumbs. Then drizzle the melted butter and corn syrup over the cracker crumbs, and pulse some more until the mixture looks kind of like oatmeal.
In case you’re concerned about using the corn syrup, be assured that it is NOT the same as high fructose corn syrup that we all want to avoid.
Spray a 9″ glass pie plate lightly with non-stick spray, then pour all of the crumbs into it and use a flat bottom measuring cup to press the crumbs into an even layer on the bottom and up the sides of the plate. Use your other hand to form a ridge along the top edge.
Ta-da! All ready to go into the oven for a pre-bake.
And here it is baked and ready to be filled.
Citrus fruits are in season right now, so when I saw the beautiful variety of fruit displayed in the produce section, I decided to put my own twist on the filling recipe and used orange and lime juices in addition to the lemon juice for a more complex flavor profile.
I juiced one orange, two lemons, and one lime, but I zested only the orange and lemons; green flecks of lime zest in the filling didn’t seem like a good idea. =0)
Whisk the sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks, cream, and zests all together until smooth, then whisk in the citrus juice until the mixture is once again smooth and starting to thicken, and pour it into the pre-baked crust.
Ready to go back into the oven.
And a few minutes later you have your finished pie. Cool it for about an hour, then refrigerate it for another four hours so it’s firm enough to slice and serve.
Then whip the cream, lavishly spoon it on top of each slice, and savor that fabulous combination of flavors and textures–salty, sweet, tangy, creamy, crunchy–easy beach pie is a dessert that is light and luscious and easy to make. What could be better?
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- 6 ounces (172 grams, about 1-1/2 sleeves) saltines
- 1/8 teaspoon salt (omit if using salted butter)
- 10 tablespoons (5 oz, 142 grams) butter, melted
- 1/4 cup (2 fluid oz) light corn syrup
- 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1/4 cup (2 fluid oz) heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon grated zest from an orange and a lemon
- 1/2 cup citrus juice (I used 2 lemons, 1 orange, and 1 lime)
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup heavy cream, chilled
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pre-heat oven to 350°F with the rack in the middle position, and lightly coat a 9" glass pie plate with non-stick spray.
- Combine the saltines and optional salt in food processor and pulse to coarse crumbs, 10 to 15 pulses. Add melted butter and corn syrup and pulse until crumbs look like oatmeal, about 10 to 15 pulses.
- Pour the saltine mixture into the prepared pie plate and use the bottom of a dry measuring cup to press the crumbs into even layer on the bottom and sides of the plate, using your hand to form the crumbs into a rim on the top edge,
- Slide the pie plate into the oven and bake 18 to 20 minutes, or until light golden brown and fragrant.
- While the crust is baking, whisk the sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks, heavy cream, zest, and salt in a medium bowl until smooth, then whisk in the citrus juices until the mixture is well combined and starting to thicken.
- Pour the filling into the pre-baked crust and bake until the edges of the filling are set but the center still jiggles when shaken, 15 to 20 minutes.
- Set the pie on a wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour, then refrigerate until fully chilled, about 4 hours.
- Using a hand or stand mixer, beat the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla on medium-low speed until foamy, then increase the speed to high and whip just until stiff.
- Serve the pie with a dollop of the whipped cream.
- Store leftovers, covered, in the refrigerator.
You can use an equal amount (by weight) of Ritz crackers instead of saltines.
If you're using salted butter as I do, omit the salt in the crust, but do add the specified salt to the filling to keep it from tasting "flat".
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