I made these bars last Spring when I spotted key limes for the first time at the supermarket. They’re a little out of character for me this time of year (this is pumpkin spice season after all), but key limes were on clearance last week, and I love a good sale.
Cook’s Illustrated never disappoints, and this recipe is no exception. These bars are so bright and chock full of sweet lime juice and zest, which makes them rich yet refreshing. One of the best desserts highlighting the fruit I’ve had. Only paid subscribers can see their recipes online, but I found this recipe on here for free.
Key Lime Bars
- 5 ounces animal crackers
- 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
- pinch of salt
- 4 tablespoons melted butter, cooled slightly
- 2 tablespoons cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 tablespoon Key lime zest
- pinch of salt
- 1-14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 large egg yolk
- ½ cup fresh Key lime juice
- toasted coconut pieces, whipped cream, and/or thinly sliced key limes (optional)
Position oven rack to the middle and preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cut about 12-inch length extra-wide heavy-duty foil; fold cut edges back to form 7½-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 nonstick cooking spray or grease with melted butter.
For the crust: In a food processor, pulse the animal cookies until they resemble coarse crumbs, this took about ten 1-second pulses, making sure they’re evenly fine. Remove food processor lid and add brown sugar and salt; process to combine, ten to twelve 1-second pulses (if large sugar lumps remain, break them apart with fingers). Drizzle melted butter over crumbs and pulse until everything is evenly moistened with butter, about ten 1-second pulses. Press crumbs evenly and firmly into bottom of prepared pan. Bake until deep golden brown, around 18 to 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack while making filling. Don’t turn off the oven.
For the filling: while the crust cools, in a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese, lime zest, and salt with a rubber spatula until softened, creamy, and thoroughly combined. Add the can of sweetened condensed milk and whisk vigorously until it’s completely incorporated and no lumps of cream cheese remain. Whisk in the egg yolk. Whisk in the lime juice slowly until it’s fully incorporated. You’ll notice the mixture thicken. This is totally normal.
Pour the filling into the crust, and spread to corners and smooth surface with a rubber spatula. Bake in the oven until the edges are set and are beginning to pull away from the sides, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Cool pan on a wire rack to room temperature, about 1 to 1½ hours. Cover with foil and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 2 hours.
Loosen edges with paring knife and lift bars from baking pan using foil extensions; cut bars into 12 pieces. Top with whipped cream, toasted coconut, or key lime slices, if using, and serve. The bars can be refrigerated for up to two days. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving.