I have never had a key lime pie before I moved to U.S. in 2002. I, also, have never seen limes that are this big.
It was a “light bulb going off” moment when I had my first slice of key lime pie. I though it was the most refreshingly sweet desert I have ever had.
I was at a friend’s house when they served a key lime pie that they bought from Publix. After I left their house that day, I went to the Publix near my house and bought one for myself. For a very long time it was my favorite thing in the world. I loved having a slice of that key lime pie for breakfast with a cup of Earl Grey tea.
Then one day it dawned on me that I should try to make it myself. I tried a couple of recipes but none of them turned out as good as the one from Publix.
I never thought I could love a supermarket cake so much.
When I saw this Key Lime Bars recipe in Cook’s Illustrated magazine years ago, I decided to give it a chance. The result was incredible. Since then I have not bought key lime pie from Publix.
This recipe uses animal crackers to make the crust. The brown sugar, with the help of butter, gives it a nutty caramely flavor that is just out of this world. If you can’t find animal crackers you can use Graham crackers as well. I recommend that you use real limes instead of a store bought juice because the refreshing taste of freshly zested and squeezed lime really makes a difference.
I can honestly say that I made these key lime bars more than 50 times for friends and family. I had guests come over and tell me that they do not like key lime pie and after eating this they changed their mind.
This recipe never fails. Perfect every time. Try it and you shall see…
- To make the crust:
- 5 ounces animal crackers
- 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar ( I used light brown sugar)
- ⅛ teaspoon table salt
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- To make the filling:
- 2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated lime zest from 1 to 2 limes
- ⅛ teaspoon table salt
- 1(14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 egg yolk
- ½ cup fresh lime juice from 4 to 5 limes, (I used store bought limes)
- To Garnish
- 2 tablespoons sweetened shredded coconut, toasted until golden brown
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
- Line an 8X8-baking dish with aluminum foil by ensuring that it covers the bottom and the sides of the pan. Spray it with non-stick cooking spray.
- Place animal crackers in a food processor and pulse them until they are evenly fine, for 10 to 12 times. Add the salt and brown sugar and pulse again to mix, 5-6 times. Drizzle it with butter and pulse in 1-second intervals 15 times or until crumbs is evenly moistened with butter.
- Using a flat bottom ramekin, press crumbs evenly and firmly into the bottom of prepared baking dish. Place it in the oven and bake until golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Take it out and let it cool.
- As the crumb bottom of the cake is cooling make the filling.
- With a spatula, mix cream cheese, lime zest, and salt in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined. Add in the sweetened condensed milk and whisk vigorously until thoroughly incorporated and no lumps of cream cheese remain; whisk in egg yolk. Add lime juice and gently whisk it until incorporated. Don’t be alarmed; it may thicken a little bit.
- Pour the filling on to the crust. Using a spatula spread it evenly over the crust. Bake until set and edges begin to pull away slightly from sides, 15-18 minutes. Take it out and let it cool in room temperature for at least 1 hour. When cooled enough place it in the fridge and allow it to chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- When ready to eat, lift bars from baking pan using foil extensions; cut them into 9 squares. Sprinkle each of them with toasted coconut and serve.
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Magazine’s Key Lime Bars recipe.