Monday, June 04, 2007

The Best Key Lime Bars | Cooks Illustrated

Before I became a Cooks Illustrated lover, Jeff from C for Cooking let me borrow a few of his issues so that I could get a feel for the magazine and how the recipes were written and illustrated. When handing me the July/August 2006 issue he looked me dead in the eye and said "you must make the key lime bars in this issue." The problem was he gave me the issue during the cold wet winter, and the last thing I wanted to make was key lime anything, I wanted warm ooey gooey desserts to take the chill out of the air, so I ended looking at the recipe for about four months. Well, Friday the big ol' hot and humid summer reared its head in the northeast, delivering warm sun, humid air and a big thunderstorm to boot. The time had come for key lime squares.

When shopping at Haymarket on Friday in the blazing ninety degree heat, I noticed that all the vendors were selling limes 10 for $1. Sometimes serendipity stares you in the face doesn't it. I loaded up my bag with limes and headed home to try the recipe.

Seriously, make this recipe. We had friends over for dinner and I served this for dessert. My friend RD had multiple servings and kept raving about it as he was eating it. The recipe makes quite a bit, but it can be doubled, just up the cooking time about two minutes.

5 ounces animal crackers (about 1 1/4 C crumbs)
3 tbs light or dark brown sugar packed
pinch salt
4 tbsp butter melted and cooled slightly

2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 tbsp grated lime zest
1 can (14oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 large egg yolk
1/2 C key lime juice or regular juice (do not use bottled juice)

Garnish (optional)
3/4 C shredded coconut toasted until crisp

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Cut about 12-inch length extra-wide heavy duty foil; fold cut edges back to form 7 1/2-inch width. With folded sides facing down, fit foil securely into bottom and up sides of 8-inch square baking pan, allowing excess to overhang pan sides. Spray foil with non-stick cooking spray.

2. To Make Crust. In workbowl of food processor, pulse animal crackers until broken down, about ten 1-second pulses; process crumbs until evenly fine, about 10 seconds. Add brown sugar and salt; process to combine, ten to twelve 1-second pulses. Drizzle butter over crumbs and pulse until crumbs are evenly moistened with butter, about ten 1-second pulses. Press crumbs evenly and firmly into bottom of prepared pan. Bake until deep golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack while making filling. Do not turn off oven.

3. To Make Filling: While crust cools, in medium bowl, stir cream cheese, zest and salt with rubber spatula until softened, creamy and thoroughly combined. Add sweetened condensed milk and whisk vigorously until incorporated and no lumps of cream cheese remain; whisk in egg yolk. Add lime juice and whisk gently until incorporated (mixture will thicken slightly).

4. To Assemble and Bake: Pour filling into crust; spread to corners and smooth surface with rubber spatula. Bake until set and edges begin to pull away slightly from sides, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack to room temperature, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Cover with foil and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled at least 2 hours.

5. Loosen edges with pairing knife and lift bars from baking pan using foil extensions; cut bars into 16 squares. Sprinkle with toasted coconut if using, and serve. (Leftovers can be refrigerated up to two days; crust will soften slightly. Let stand at room temperature, about 15 minutes before serving.)

Rating = So God Damn Good


wheresmymind said...

No coconut on top?? I'm a fiend when it comes to coconut! That said, you did a FAB job on this :D

Patricia Scarpin said...

I love limes - we actually use them here the way you guys use lemon there.
These are tempting, JB - I'd love to make them when the weather gets warmer here.

Anonymous said...

Jules-This is Emily. I was talking about your blog with one of our editors here and she had just actually stumbled upon it on her own and LOVES it. So if that is any inspiration-an editor at Cook's, who works on our book team, is a fan! As am I, but I'm just the sales manager. Keep it up.


JB said...

Oh, Emily, you don't know how happy that makes me, I'm such a fan of ATK and Cooks Illustrated. You have just given me so much inspiration, and a little heart burn, I'll be honest. Must use spell check from now on.

Trish said...

We tried these a few weeks ago - amazing! Too good - the little bars are like potato chips - you can't eat just one...the Husband and I practically finished the whole pan by ourselves. (I took some to work and they were a huge hit there as well). Squeezing all those little limes WAS worth it!

Melanie said...

I just tried these at a party. I'm not a big dessert person, but I had two and then some, they were so good. So of course I'm hunting down the recipe. Only the ones I had were CI's adaptation -- triple citrus something? If you still have the 2006 issue, do you mind posting the adaptation they mention? Thanks!

JB said...

Melanie, I'm sure I still have it. Can you give me a couple days to go through the copies and get it to you?

Melanie said...

Of course! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I made these today and they were super yum. Would consider doubling the lime layer though - not quite as thick as I would have wanted. I used digestives instead of animal crackers, and added toasted coconut to the base instead of sprinkled on top.

The Man-Cave Store said...

2 oz cream cheese????? Do you mean 2 8oz cream cheese?

JB said...

Man Cave - really, do you honestly need to add five question marks at the end of your sentence. And, yes, it's two ounces of cream cheese, not two 8oz packages, that would just be gross.

laura said...

These were absolutely delicious, thank you for posting them. One question, you note in the directions when to add salt to the filling, but salt isn't listed in the recipe for the filling. I added a healthy pinch, was there a different amount?
Thanks again.