Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Cook's Illustrated closely guards its online recipes. They're only available to members. But sometimes, another blogger posts them. That's how I got this recipe. Mac & Cheese, a neat blog with loads of restaurant reviews and recipes, posted this recipe in 2006. When my local Harris Teeter had a bag of Melissa's key limes on clearance for $.89, I thought it was a great opportunity to try key lime bars. Boy, am I glad I did. These are so-o-o-o-o-o good. The filling is nicely tart with a full tablespoon of lime zest and 1/2 cup of juice. But it's mellowed out just enough by an animal cracker crust and a slightly sweetened whipped cream topping. CI says the best topping is toasted shredded coconut, which you could sprinkle on top of the whipped cream, if you want. I left mine plain. These bars are divine. The sweetened condensed milk makes them creamy, smooth and delicious. A real keeper.

Key Lime Bars
Adapted from and Cook's Illustrated
Rating: 9 out of 10

Non-stick cooking spray
5 oz. animal crackers
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
pinch of sea salt
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
4 oz. cream cheese, softened,
1 Tbsp. minced zest from key limes
Big pinch salt
1 can (14.5 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1 large egg yolk
½ cup juice from key limes
½ cup heavy whipping cream, chilled
2 Tbsp. powdered sugar (10X)
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Optional: 1/2 cup toasted shredded coconut
Heat oven to 350F. Position oven rack in center of oven. Line an 8x8 baking pan with tinfoil, with overhanging ends. Spray foil with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
Pulse animal crackers in a food processor until finely crumbled. Add sugar, salt and butter and pulse until combined. Press crumbs firmly into bottom of baking pan. Bake until golden, 18-20 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Wipe out work bowl of food processor with damp paper towel. Combine 4 oz. cream cheese, zest and salt in work bowl and pulse till smooth and fluffy. Scrape bowl on sides and bottom. Add condensed milk and pulse till lumps are gone. Scrape bowl on sides and bottom. Add egg yolk; pulse briefly. Add lime juice; pulse till mixture is smooth. Scrape bowl on sides and bottom to be sure no lumps remain. Pulse again if needed. Pour mixture into cooled crust. Bake 15-20 minutes, or till edges are set. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely, about 2 hours. Refrigerate, covered, overnight to blend flavors.

Before serving, beat cream with powdered sugar on medium speed of electric mixer in medium-sized bowl till thick. Add vanilla and continue to beat on high speed till very thick. Spread over bars with spatula. If desired, sprinkle with toasted flaked coconut. Cut into 3 rows by 3 rows.
Refrigerate or freeze leftovers. Yield: 9 servings


Barbara Bakes said...

These do sounds fabulous! I love key lime pie, so I'm sure I'd love these!

Donna-FFW said...

Judy -Ive actually made these before.. the animal cracker crust is my all-time favorite..

SLColman said...

I wonder if I could make this dairy free?? It looks sooooo good!!!

Judy said...

SL - I don't know of a dairy-free substitution for the condensed milk.

Hairball said...

Yum! I love citrus desserts.

Katrina said...

Love the use of the animal crackers for the crust. Yummy bars.

My Carolina Kitchen said...

I love anything key lime. These look terrific.

Reeni♥ said...

These look heavenly! I love key lime pie. These just improve on it. Scrumptious!

Lynda said...

These look wonderful Judy! I love Key lime.
Thanks so much for the award, I really appreciate it. It may be a day or 2 before I post it.

Anonymous said...

Wow, great deal on the limes!

I have never once been disappointed with a Cook's Illustrated recipe - and I do pay for the recipes because there are so many! Never thought to google them for free! :D

Elyse said...

These key lime bars look amazing! You know, I've never made a key lime bar like this before--just the toxic green looking ones from a box. These look amazing! I'm definitely going on a search for some key limes!

Sophie said...

MMMMMMM...this dessert looks FABULOUS!!!
Lovely picture too! I just stumbled onto your lovely blog & I am glad that I did!!

unconfidential cook said...

I'm not a key-lime person, but these look unbelievable. I'm gonna give 'em a try!

Coleen's Recipes said...

GREAT photo, just makes me want to take a bite!!

Kevin said...

That key lime bar looks so good!

Jenny S., Neenah, WI said...

I just returned from a pot luck with an empty dish that had the best key lime bars. Yum. Thanks for the recipe. I had searched the internet pertaining to substituting regular limes but ended up using Nellie and Joe's Key West Lime Juice. It's not often that I use "presqueezed" and I was bummed once I saw that it was from concentrate, but the bars were fabulous. Even though it said "double strength" I used the amount called for--adding a little at a time and tasting it. It wasn't too strong. I used regular limes for the zest making sure I did not use the pith.

I used half fat free sweetened condensed milk and half regular. I bet lower fat cream cheese would have worked, but I used whole fat. My daughter and I enjoyed the left over bowl scrapings so I knew the baked version would be fabulous. The crust was still crunchy at serving time (refridgerated overnight)and was very buttery--yum again.