Key Lime Bars

So America’s Test Kitchen is two for two in my house. Saw this recipe for Key Lime bars and just had to try it out. I have to say it’s quite easy to put together, even for those of us who are baking challenged. Some helpful notes that they don’t tell you: you can use one of those disposable 8″ foil baking pans and then simply cut the corners when it’s time to cut the sheet into bars and remove. I did it no problem and it didn’t effect the quality of the crust in the least. Also, before you press down the crust with your measuring cup, be sure to give it a quick spritz of non-stick spray. I learned this the hard way :-)

The bars turn out like little citrus cheese cakes with yummie, crunchy crusts. Very light and refreshing. Enjoy and let me know how they turn out!

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If you cannot find fresh Key limes, you can use regular limes. Do not use bottled lime juice. Grate the zest from the limes before juicing them, avoiding the bitter white pith that lies just beneath the outermost skin. The recipe can be doubled and baked in a 13- by 9-inch baking pan; you will need a double layer of extra-wide foil for the pan (each sheet about 20 inches in length) and should increase the baking times by a minute or two.

Makes sixteen 2-inch bars

Crust
5 ounces animal crackers
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar (light or dark)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
Pinch table salt

Filling
2 ounces cream cheese , room temperature
1 tablespoon grated lime zest , minced
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup fresh lime juice, either Key lime or regular
Pinch table salt

1. 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 nonstick cooking spray.

2. TO MAKE THE CRUST: In workbowl of food processor, pulse animal crackers until broken down, about ten 1-second pulses; process crumbs until evenly fine, about 10 seconds (you should have about 1 1/4 cups crumbs). 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 butter over crumbs and pulse until crumbs are evenly moistened with butter, about ten 1-second pulses. Press crumbs evenly and firmly into bottom of prepared pan. Bake until deep golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack while making filling. Do not turn off oven.

3. TO MAKE THE FILLING: 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).

4. TO ASSEMBLE AND BAKE: 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.

5. Loosen edges with paring knife and lift bars from baking pan using foil extensions; cut bars into 16 squares and serve. (Leftovers can be refrigerated up to 2 days; crust will soften slightly. Let bars stand at room temperature about 15 minutes before serving.)