There are several brilliant things about these simple key lime bars. Let me share:
1) The crust is made with animal crackers. Weird, kind of. And really, really genius. The texture and flavor of the simple and sweet animal crackers makes a delicious, nutty-like crust. I love the crust on these bars. Love it.
2) The wonderful lime filling doesn’t overwhelm the crust. Which really works in my opinion. It leaves the taster (me, in this glorious instance) with the satisfaction of a deliciously creamy, tart filling and enough buttery, golden crust to offset the utterly tasty limeness of the lime.
3) Cut into small squares, these bars are a) adorable and b) utterly perfect for a light, yummy dessert in the summer heat.
4) Even though the recipe title references Key limes, you can use regular big ol’ limes if you don’t feel like juicing a bazillion of the little Key limes and no one will be the wiser.
I served these (and the caramel brownies, incidentally, which are like the dark side when compared to the ethereal lightness of these bars) at a recent book club I hosted at my house. And I have to say, they have skyrocketed to the most requested recipe.
I’ll be making these a lot this summer. Simple, fresh, light and absolutely delish.
2 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 tbsp grated fresh lime zest (from about 2 limes)
1 can (14-ounce) sweetened condensed milk
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup fresh lime juice (from about 3-4 regular limes or 20 Key limes)
3/4 cup shredded coconut, toasted (optional)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, adjusting an oven rack to the middle position. 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.
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