Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Pop of Color

Oh my God, yous guys.

Time keeps on slippin', slippin' into my future. And well, I never blog. For reals, the blog is always on my brain but there just are not enough hours in my day. I know, I know. One doesn't REALLY need to be up watching Downton Abbey in marathon form until 1:30 a.m. But at least it's intellectual and British and historical and....

Right. The weather here in Jersey SUCKS. I mean, could it BE more dreary? - said in my best Chandler Bing voice I could possibly muster at this hour all alone on my couch while the Jersey Girl fellas are sleeping soundly - that is snoringly - in their comfy cozy cribs. So in honor of all things springy, summery and just all around more joyful than the dreariness that is February, I bring to you some Key Lime Bar action. Because a burst of vivacious green is what the world needs right now, no?

In a funny twist, one of the most popular posts on my groundbreaking, revolutionary, awe-inspiring blog is my Nigella Lawson Key Lime Pie write-up. Seriously. This gem is blowing up the culinary blogosphere with millions of hits. It's like so totally viral...Not really. But when I scour my blog posts to see if anyone actually stops by here, I am quite struck by how many people really do discover moi by searching Nigella and key and lime and pie.

This Key Lime Bar recipe comes to you thanks to another culinary goddess, Martha Stewart. While lovely Martha doesn't make me all warm and fuzzy inside like my idol Nigella (who I know I will run into when The Husband takes me on our next getaway to London.  A girl can dream, right?), I must say the gal does know a thing or two about making a fab dessert.

I'm sharing  a link to the recipe here, but for all y'all who rock recipes the old school way - like in a cookbook - I highly recommend "Martha Stewart's Cookies" cookbook. It is awesome on many levels, including sharing with a snuggly toddler who wants to point out cookie shapes before saying night nights.

Some deets about the recipe: The bars are super duper low-maintenance. I always find citrusy desserts require mucho prep time due to zesting and squeezing and all that. With the Nigella key lime pie recipe, there's the whole matter of beating up egg whites until your arms fall off. So, comparatively speaking, I think Martha makes an easier go of the key lime variety dessert. And of course, if size matters to you, the bars can feed more peeps simply because there are more portions - 18 vs. 8.

And on to the matter of key limes. The Jersey Girl used your average lime, because key limes were not to be found in my market that day. Curses. I used about 5 limes, but limes are tricky suckers. Sometimes they yield only a teeny tiny bit of juice, so buy at least 8.

The recipe calls for 1 cup plus 2 1/2 tablespoons of graham cracker crumbs, but it gave no indication as to how many crackers I would need to grind up in the handy dandy food processor. I'm not gonna lie: This kind of annoyed me. Come on, Martha. Help a sista out. Anyway, according to Betty Crocker 21 graham cracker squares yield 1 1/2 cups of crumbs. You're welcome.

These bars are fabulous. You are viewing mine ungarnished. But you must, and I mean MUST, make the whipped cream for them. It balances the sugary sweetness of it all. I always chill a glass bowl and some beaters for a few hours before rocking out my whipped cream.

Key Lime Bars
Makes about 1 1/2 dozen

For the crust:
1 cup plus 2 1/2 tablespoons finely ground graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
3 large egg yolks
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup fresh Key lime juice (about 23 key limes total)

For the garnish:
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 Key limes, thinly sliced into half-moons

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Make crust: Stir together graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter in a small bowl. Press evenly onto bottom of an 8-inch square glass baking dish. Bake until dry and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Make filling: Put egg yolks and lime zest in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Mix on high speed until very thick, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to medium. Add condensed milk in a slow, steady stream, mixing constantly. Raise speed to high; mix until thick, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low. Add lime juice; mix until just combined.

Spread filling evenly over crust using a spatula. Bake, rotating halfway through, until filling is just set, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

Make garnish: Cut into 2-inch squares. Put cream in the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the clean whisk attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Garnish bars with whipped cream and a slice of lime. Ungarnished bars can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 3 days.