Wednesday, July 31, 2013

My Poor Neglected Blog and The Best Key Lime Bars

It has been ages.  

A few things have recently given me a gentle nudge to get back to the blog.  First, was a similar confession from blogger, author, and fellow CLC alumna, Andrea Dickinson (you can check out her blog here, and pick up her latest novel Baltimore Heat for some saucy summer reading!)  Her writing muse had gone on holiday, but once she put it out there publicly, the dame came 'round, and Andrea was able to get some words down.  My issue has been.... lack of prioritization?  Some days after work all I feel I can accomplish is dinner, putter in the garden a bit, maybe taking a photo or two, get into bed.  Weekends are spent teaching yoga, and with, you know, weekend stuff.  I have barely even attended yoga class lately, but that's another issue.  By putting my intention out there to write more, I hope to commit and get more accomplished.  

A second impetus is the upcoming August Break, hosted each year by Susannah Conway.  In the August Break, participants take a photo each day and post to their blog.  The gist is to take a break from the rigors of blogging, be fully present, and just take photos and blog for the fun of it.  I had just started this blog about this time last year and hardly needed a break, but joining in gave me some early momentum to work on the blog and post a lot.  I plan to do it again this year, and maybe I'll have similar results.  Interested?  Join in!  You don't need to have a blog, you can participate by sharing your photos on Instagram / Flickr.  Any camera will go.  Again, the idea is just to capture what is around you.  This year there are prompts if you get stuck.  

Lastly, over the weekend we were at a friend's birthday cookout, and I brought Key Lime Bars to share.  The hostess mentioned two things to those she introduced me to, I'm sure meant as conversation starters; that I made the Key Lime Bars, and that I have a blog.  Oh my poor neglected blog!  Yes, technically....   That really made me feel I should post some new content.

These Key Lime Bars are the perfect thing to bring along to a summer cookout.  I find anything citrus delicious in summer, it seems lighter and more refreshing than chocolate-y desserts, and you avoid the whole melting issue.  Lime bars are a nice change-up from the typical lemon.  Hand-held bars and cookies are ideal for carefree summertime, no utensils needed.  

I generally use Persian limes, not actual Key limes.  Key limes are hard to find in Chicago.  I can, but it involves a stop on Devon Avenue in the Indian / Pakistani neighborhood.  The Vietnamese / Thai area of Argyle St. may also have them or especially the Caribbean markets of Rogers Park, but I'm closest to Devon.  And Key limes are a pain.  It takes a gazillion of them to get the required juice.     

Comparison of Persian and Key Limes, from Cook's Illustrated:

Just don't use bottled juice, and it's all good.  You need the zest anyway.  I think zest is paramount for a robust citrus flavor.    

These could easily be made gluten free by using a neutral tasting vanilla-flavor crunchy gluten free cookie.  Next time I'll try this recipe to make condensed sweetened coconut milk  (scroll to the bottom) (The Espresso Hello Dolly Bars sound tasty too, they are in my queue).   

The double-foil method makes it so easy to get the bars out of the pan.  Use a kitchen dedicated ruler to measure out the bars and cut them evenly.  I am quite generous with the coconut topping, using more than in the recipe.  They do require a little bit of forethought, due to the chilling time after baking.     

Bring these Key Lime bars along to the next cookout or picnic, everyone will thank you.  They are the best (the best I tell you!) 


The Best Key Lime Bars
Cook's Illustrated July / August 2006
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 tbsp grated lime zest
1 can (14oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 large egg yolk
1/2 C key lime juice or regular juice (do not use bottled juice)

Garnish (optional)
3/4 C shredded coconut toasted until crisp


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 non-stick cooking spray.

2. To Make Crust. In work bowl 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. 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 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 pairing knife and lift bars from baking pan using foil extensions; cut bars into 16 squares. Sprinkle with toasted coconut if using, and serve. (Leftovers can be refrigerated up to two days; crust will soften slightly. Let stand at room temperature, about 15 minutes before serving.)