April: Key Lime Bars

“You know what they say: Why sit at a table that doesn’t have key lime pie on it if you don’t have to?” – Sloane Crosley

Now that spring is on the way, I can’t wait to pack away my heavy sweaters, throw open the doors and let the sunlight in! One of my favorite ways to get a jump start on summer is with our annual Miami Party: inflate a couple of palm trees, fly a Conch Republic flag, and eat Florida-themed food like Cubano sandwiches. The key lime pie is the official pie of the state of Florida, so this seems this recipe is perfect for our event.

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Before starting this project, the only thing I knew about key limes was that they are absolutely not the same as regular limes. They have a completely different flavor and acidity, and if I want to do this right, I need to use real key limes. Florida is thousands of miles away, so I bought a bottle of pure key lime juice; key limes are smaller than regular limes, and I would need to juice 25 of them each time I make the recipe. No, thanks.

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The recipe I used is based on Joe’s famous key lime pie from Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami Beach. The acidity of the lime juice reacts with the condensed milk, and it naturally thickens without baking. Many early recipes for key lime pie rely exclusively on this chemical reaction, probably because fishing boats in the Florida Keys in the early 20th century usually kept canned milk on board because it didn’t require refrigeration. Today, the pies are baked, but only for a short time, because consuming raw eggs can be unsafe.

Aside from the key limes, everything you need is easy to find in an average grocery store. You will need an electric mixer with a whisk attachment. The recipe calls for an 8-inch square glass pan for cooking; the only 8-inch we had was a ridged metal one, but I had no problems getting the finished bars out of the pan with a fork.

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I had hoped that the key lime bars would be thick enough to pick up and to take a bite out of it, but the graham cracker crust was more delicate that anticipated – it can survive moving from the pan to a plate, but not much more. Maybe I needed to press the crust into the pan more firmly before baking. The topping is creamy but messy, so I recommend using forks. The lime flavor is perfectly tart, you don’t really need to add the whipped cream garnish (unless you want to). According to a Florida native who has far more experience with key lime pie than I do, these treats are excellent!

 

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