Key Lime Bars

I had this great idea to make Key Lime Meringue Tarts for my guest post over at Beantown Baker. They were going to be these adorable little pavlova-type meringues filled with key lime curd. Elegant, cute, and totally easy. Unfortunately, I was defeated by egg whites. Twice. I’ve never had a problem making meringue before. It’s always turned out perfectly. But this time, two different recipes, two different methods, exactly the same result—no matter how much I whipped, I couldn’t get stiff peaks. And then there was that little time management problem where I didn’t give myself long enough before work to bake the second batch, and ended up with marshmallows instead of meringue. But we won’t talk about that. Let’s talk about how I scrapped the whole thing and made Key Lime Bars instead.

Can I be honest? The only Key Lime Pie I’ve ever had is the one you can find in a box in the frozen foods section of the grocery store. Do those even use real key limes? Oh, and Key Lime Pie yogurt. But I’m sure that counts even less. I’ve never had a real Key Lime Pie. But the recipe for these bars looked so easy, I knew I had to give it a shot, whether it tasted like real Key Lime Pie or not.

Seriously. I’m talking E-A-S-Y. You don’t even need to use a mixer for this recipe. I even skipped the food processor part and just used store-bought graham cracker crumbs and mixed the melted butter in with my fingers. The part that took the longest was juicing the key limes. Those things are tiny so it took about 20 to get a half cup of juice. (But regular limes will work just as well, and only take a fraction of the time to juice!) I highly suggest buying a reamer if you don’t already have one. It makes it so much easier to juice those little babies than trying to jam them into a citrus press/squeezer or trying to squeeze them by hand. Roll the limes on the counter, pressing down firmly to help get the juices flowing, and then cut them in half. Set a mesh strainer over a liquid measuring cup to catch any seeds, and press the tip of the reamer into the center of the lime and twist, letting the juice flow through the strainer into the measuring cup. Once you’ve got the tiny halves juiced, slip the skins over your finger like a thimble and carefully run your zester over it (try not to zest down to the white part), before discarding!

While I have no idea what a real Key Lime Pie tastes like, if it’s anything like these bars, it may just be my new favorite pie. (Or really, my only favorite pie.) Unlike the lemon bars that made me do the sour shudder, the Key Lime Bars are a nice balance of sweet and tart, neither flavor overpowering the other. They’re thick and creamy, and the graham cracker crust has stayed mostly crisp even after a few days of hanging out in the fridge! (I’ve been selfish, and only shared one piece with Boyfriend, hoarding the rest for myself.) I’ll definitely make them again, although I’ll probably try it with regular limes next time, if only for the convenience of knowing I can always find them at the store. And not having to spend 20 minutes juicing 40 halves.

 Key Lime Bars
Adapted from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures
Makes 9 bars

1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs*
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
Pinch of salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 tablespoon grated lime zest
Pinch of salt
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 egg yolk
½ cup fresh key lime juice (or regular limes)

*I used store bought graham cracker crumbs, so I’m not sure how many full graham crackers this equates to. I’ll have to do some investigating later.

1. Make the crust: Preheat oven to 325F. Line an 8x8 square baking dish with foil along the bottom and up the sides, letting the two opposite ends hang over about 2 inches so you can pull the bars out of the pan after they’ve baked. Spray foil with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
2.In a medium bowl, mix graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, and salt with a whisk or your fingers. Drizzle melted butter over crumbs and mix together until crumbs are evenly moistened. (If using a food processor to make crumbs, pulse graham crackers until they turn into fine crumbs. Add the brown sugar and salt and pulse to combine. Drizzle butter over crumbs and pulse until mixture is evenly moistened.)
3. Pour the crumb mixture into prepared baking pan, pressing down evenly into the bottom of the pan with the bottom of a glass or a measuring cup. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack while making the filling.
4. Make the filling: In a medium bowl, stir together cream cheese, lime zest and salt until thoroughly combined. (I smashed mine up against the side of the bowl to make sure there were no lumps.) Add sweetened condensed milk and whisk until smooth and fully incorporated. Whisk in egg yolk until combined. Carefully whisk in lime juice until smooth and creamy.
5. Pour the filling on top of baked crust, spreading to the corners and smoothing the top. Bake until filling is set and edges begin to slightly pull away from the sides of the pan, about 15 to 20 minutes. (Mine actually took about 23 minutes, and never really did pull away from the pan while baking.) Remove from oven and let cool completely on a wire rack, 1 to 1 ½ hours. Cover pan with foil and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, about 2 hours. Using the foil overhang, lift bars out of the pan, and cut into 9 squares before serving. Store bars in the refrigerator.
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Kiesha Jenkins-Duffy said...


Dorothy said...

YUM! I really want to try these. I have a newfound love for lemon, so I'm sure it extends to lime. Thanks for the great recipe!

Misbah said...


Kiesha said...

Question: Did you cut the little heart out of the lime slice in the first photo, or did that just happen naturally?

Danae - The Busty Baker said...

Kiesha- That was natural! It's where the seeds were stuck into it. I didn't even realize it made a heart until I was editing the pictures later.

Belle said...

oh yum!!!!

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