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May 8, 2014

Key Lime Bars

As Samantha mentioned earlier this week, I made key lime bars over the weekend for my husband Josh's birthday party. Key lime is my husband's favorite pie, but as we were having people over for his birthday, I elected to go the bar route instead. This recipe makes enough for a 13 x 9 pan, or roughly 30 bars.

Unlike most key lime pie/bar recipes I've encountered, this one calls for animal crackers rather than graham crackers. The sweetness of the cookies really tempers the tartness of the lime, and the toasted coconut on top adds a nice crunch. If you don't need enough to feed a crowd, just halve all of the amounts for an 8 x 8-inch pan and reduce the baking time by a few minutes.

Key Lime Bars (from America's Text Kitchen)

For the crust:
10 ounces animal crackers
6 tablespoons brown sugar
2 pinches of table salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

For the filling:
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons grated zest
2 pinches of table salt
2 14-ounce cans sweetened condensed milk
2 large egg yolks
1 cup fresh lime juice, from about 40 Key limes or about 8 Persian limes*

Optional garnish:
1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut, toasted until golden and crisp


Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 325F. Line a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with a double layer of foil, placed so that the foil extends beyond the sides of the pan. Spray foil with nonstick spray.

For the crust, pulse the animal crackers in a food processor until crumbs are evenly fine, about 10 pulses. Add the brown sugar and salt; process to combine, 10 to 12 pulses. Drizzle the butter over the crumbs and pulse until the crumbs are evenly moistened with the butter, about 10 pulses. Press the crumbs evenly and firmly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake until deep golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack while making the filling. Do not turn the oven off.

While the crust cools, in a medium bowl, stir the cream cheese, zest and salt with a rubber spatula until softened, creamy, and thoroughly combined. Add the sweetened condensed milk and whisk vigorously until incorporated and no lumps of cream cheese remain; whisk in the egg yolks and the lime juice until incorporated. Pour the filling into the crust; spread to the corners and smooth the surface with a rubber spatula. Bake until set and the edges begin to pull away slightly from the sides, 15 to 20 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack to room temperature, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Cover with foil and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 2 hours. When you are ready to eat, lift the bars from the pan using the foil and cut the bars into squares. Sprinkle with the toasted coconut and serve.

*I ended up needing 9 Persian limes. I couldn't find key limes, and the prospect of juicing 40 of them is a bit daunting, regardless. Since limes are currently quite expensive ($1 each at my local grocery store), you'll want to make sure you get the most out of each lime. Juicing them when they are at room temperature helps!

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