Thursday, December 1, 2011

Key Lime Bars

Before I talk about these brilliant bars, I need to get something off of my chest. Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas!!! I am just a leetle obsessed with the Christmas season. As in I'll listen to Christmas music year-round and, if I could, I would leave my Christmas tree up all year and decorate it according to the seasons/holidays. My mom put up one of her Christmas trees in early November and decorated it for Thanksgiving. It was absolutely adorable and I wanted to go home and do the same. But, after several pleading glances from my husband, and after a few "Please???" and "No." sessions, I decided to focus on Thanksgiving and pull out my dozens of Christmas decorations after the Turkey Day. I was listening to the radio this morning as I drove to work and heard Bob August announce the forecast for the day. The temperature at 7:00 am was 27 degrees and the high for the day was around 40. Hello winter! So, despite the chill in the air and the holiday recipes that are popping up everywhere, I decided to share with you something reminiscent of Spring, warmer weather, sunshine, and fresh fruit. I shouldn't say things like that in December.. That's just mean.

Back to the bars! These are very similar to the classic lemon bar, but there are a couple of differences. 1) The lime, of course! I thought it was a very nice change to the regular lemon flavor, and mixed with the sweetened condensed milk and cream cheese, it made a glorious creamy filling with just a tang of lime. 2) The crust is made with..... animal crackers. Weird? Yes. But surprisingly very tasty. It added a sweet, familiar taste that really paired well with the tangy filling. These are the perfect little treat! They can be cut into petite-size squares for holiday (or garden) parties, or into large brownie-sized chunks just for you. And for anyone else you have to share with.. :) Bottom line, people: these are delicious. AND the recipe is from Cook's Country at America's Test Kitchen - you just can't go wrong there. (Recipe source: Cook's Country Cook Book. Picture Courtesy of Mel's Kitchen Cafe)



  • 5 ounces animal crackers (about 2 1/2 cups)

  • 3 Tbsp. light brown sugar

  • Pinch salt

  • 4 Tbsp. butter, melted


  • 2 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature

  • 1 Tbsp. freshly grated lime zest

  • 1 can (14-oz.) sweetened condensed milk

  • 1 large egg yolk

  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice (From about 3-4 fresh limes, or 20 key limes)

Garnish (optional)

  • 3/4 cup shredded coconut, toasted

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, letting two opposing edges hang over at least an inch or so. Grease the foil with cooking spray.

For the crust, process the animal crackers, sugar and salt together to fine crumbs in a blender or food processor. Drizzle the melted butter over the crumbs and pulse to incorporate (or stir together in a bowl with a fork). Sprinkle the mixture into the prepared pan and press the crumbs into an even layer. Bake the crust until fragrant and golden, about 15-18 minutes.

For the filling, while crust bakes, in a medium bowl, stir the cream cheese, lime zest and salt together until combined. Whisk in the sweetened condensed milk until smooth (you can use a handheld electric mixer, if you want). Whisk in the egg yolk and lime juice until combined.
Pour the filling evenly over the crust. Bake the bars until the filling is set and the edges just slightly begin to pull away from the sides of the pan, 15-17 minutes.

Let the bars cool completely in the pan set on a wire rack, about 2 hours. Then cover the pan with foil and refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours. Remove the bars from the pan using the foil overhang and cut into squares. Sprinkle with toasted coconut if desired.