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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Lime Bars

This weekend, though the weather outside wasn't giving any indication of spring's impending arrival, I went through some of my old cookbooks, magazines, etc. looking for ideas for new spring recipes.  I was immediately drawn to the Key Lime Bars in the American Classics 2009 issue of Cook's Illustrated.  In my little look around the internet it appears it has been published in previous, and possibly subsequent, issues of the magazine.  The crust employs animal cracker crumbs where many recipes use graham cracker crumbs and the result is surprisingly perfect.  The filling is sweet but the lime stands front and center and the toasted coconut is really an excellent counter-point to the tartness of the filling.

I used freshly squeezed Persian (standard) Limes rather than Key Limes.  In the past I have juiced and attempted to zest a million tiny limes and, in my hunble (though backed up by the folks who write the Cook's Illustrated magazines and cookbooks) opinion the flavor difference, if not entirely imperceptible, doesn't justify the additional expense and hassle.

You'll Need: 

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 1/2 tsp grated lime zest
1 can (14oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup lime juice

1/4 cup shredded sweetened coconut toasted until crisp and golden

Getting Started:

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.

Put coconut into a shallow baking dish and set aside.

In the 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. 

Pour crumbs into the prepared baking pan and press crumbs evenly and firmly into bottom of prepared pan with the bottom of a measuring cup, glass, etc.

Bake until deep golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes.  

Add coconut for last 10-12 minutes of baking shaking to stir every 2-5 minutes.

Cool pans on wire rack while making filling.  Do not turn off oven.

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).

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.

Loosen edges with pairing knife and lift bars from baking pan using foil extensions. 

Cut bars into 16 squares, sprinkle with toasted coconut, and serve.

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