Monday, July 9, 2012

Key Lime Meringue Bars

 Oh mercy, y'all. It's been a little cray-cray the past few weeks. One of the things about living in a vacation spot is that people like to vacation there. Derp. I've spent lots of time with extended family, friends of family, and the like. And it's all fabulous, don't get me wrong. It's just hard to blog is all. So I took an unofficial break. But! I made these lovely little key lime bars (twice!) because I'm a crazy person. Unless you live in like Seattle or some other lovely Pacific Northwest city, it's probably been hot as as the Devil's boiler room where you live.

And that's what makes me a crazy lady. I don't know why in the world I thought standing over a stove making key lime curd when it's 100º outside was a good idea. Except that it absolutely is a good idea when the end result is these precious beauties. The key lime curd is tart and perfectly citrusy so that the fluffy meringue on top balances it wonderfully.

The first step is to make the shortbread base. You'll need: butter, powdered sugar, granulated sugar, flour, and key lime zest.

To make the sugars super-super fine, buzz them in a little food processor/mini-chopper for 1 minute.

Add the lime zest to the sugars in a large bowl.

Add chilled butter to the sugar.

Beat with a hand mixer until thoroughly incorporated.

To get the tenderest dough, mix in the flour by hand until all the flour is just moistened by the butter. I think it's a good idea to chill it for 5 minutes in the fridge.

Spread the dough in an 8x8 baking pan, preferably metal. It really helps if you own an 8x8 pan instead of a 9x9. I can tell you with confidence that it is possible to jerry-rig a 9x9 pan into an 8x8 pan with the tin foil you have to line it with anyhow. But when you make this a second time you should probably buy an 8x8 pan.

Prick the dough all over with a fork and bake about 30 minutes in a 325º oven (300º if you're using a glass pan).

While the shortbread base bakes, you can make the curd. You'll need: key lime zest, egg yolks, butter, sugar, key lime juice, and a pinch of salt.

In a double boiler (makeshift or otherwise), combine the egg yolks and sugar. I don't actually own a double boiler, so I just place a glass bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. The most important part is that the bowl should not touch the water. Not difficult, but quite crucial.

Egg yolks and sugar start off the curd.

Add the butter, juice, and salt. Stir it in, but don't be concerned that it looks like a hot mess.

See, I know this isn't pretty. It's just part of the process. When the butter melts it'll start looking like curd.

Told you! It's smooth and silky. Just keep stirring until it thickens up. I have to warn you, this can take upwards of 30 minutes since we're using an indirect source of heat. I just think it's safer than cooking it straight in the pan.

In the last 10 minutes or so of the curd thickening up, make the meringue topping. You'll need: sugar, cream of tartar, vanilla extract, and the egg whites separated from the yolks for the curd. See, it all works out. I just hate when a recipe calls for just a white or a yolk and I can't find a use for the other part. Waste not, want not y'know?

Egg whites and the cream of tartar go into the mixing bowl.

Beat until the egg whites are foamy and start to make a soft peak. Add the vanilla extract and gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until the egg whites are glossy and form stiff peaks.

Boom boom pow.

This is how your curd should look when it's ready. Thick but still pourable. Run your finger down the spoon to see that the curd doesn't fill in the line.

Strain the curd to be sure you don't have any pieces of cooked egg lurking.

Honestly, I could just eat that with a spoon. SO good. Stir in the lime zest.

Pour the warm curd over the shortbread and spread it around evenly.

Top the whole thing with the meringue topping and bake at 300º for 10 minutes.

To get this browning, I opened the oven and turned the broiler on low. Then I turned the pan every few seconds to get even browning on top. Cool on a wire rack and chill the finished key lime squares for at least 30 minutes before cutting them into squares.

Simply lift the foil out of the pan to get the bars out. Carefully peel the foil off and transfer to a hard surface to cut them on.

Sixteen pretty squares. You can easily eat two or three.

 Tart key lime sandwiched between a layer of sweet meringue and buttery shortbread.

My sister and Rich invited a couple they know down to the beach. I made these for dessert and they loved them. In fact, Adam's words were "Day-um these are good." He specified "damn" should be two syllables.

So I understand if you don't want to stand over a stove when it's hot enough to fry an egg outside. That's cool, just wait for a rainy day. Or suck it up and be a crazy lady like me.

Key Lime Meringue Bars (makes 16 bars)
Adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum

2 tbs powdered sugar
2 tbs granulated sugar
2 tsp key lime zest
10 tbs unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
1 1/4 c all-purpose flour

Key Lime Curd:
4 egg yolks
3/4 c granulated sugar
3 oz key lime juice (fresher is better!)
4 tbs unsalted butter, softened and cut into pieces
Pinch of salt
2 tsp key lime zest

4 egg whites
Pinch of cream of tartar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbs granulated sugar

  • Preheat oven to 325º. Line an 8x8 metal pan with heavy duty foil, making sure that on two sides the foil hangs over like handles.
  • For the shortbread, process the sugars in a small food processor for 1 minute. (Note: This little step helps make the very best version of this shortbread. That said, you can skip it and still turn out a wonderful shortbread.)
  • Combine the sugars and lime zest in a large bowl. Add the butter and beat with a hand mixer until thoroughly combined. Add the flour and mix in with your hands until all the flour has been moistened by the butter. Chill the mixture just 5 minutes in the refrigerator to make it easier to handle. Press the mixture in the bottom of the prepared pan. Prick all over with a fork. Bake 25-35 minutes, or until just golden on the edges but not the top. I recommend checking at around 20 minutes.
  • While the shortbread bakes, prepare the curd. In a double boiler over medium heat, stir together the yolks and sugar. Add the key lime juice, butter, and salt. Stir to combine as best as you can. Stir every few minutes while the butter melts, then stir constantly until the mixture thickens. When it is thick but still pourable and coats the spoon, it's ready. This can take upwards of 30 minutes.
  • In the last 10 or so minutes of the curd cooking, make the meringue. Combine the egg whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on high speed until foamy. Add the vanilla extract and gradually add the sugar, beating until the egg whites are glossy and form stiff peaks. 
  • When the shortbread is ready, take it out of the oven and turn the heat down to 300º. Strain the key lime curd and stir in the zest. Pour the curd over the shortbread and spread evenly over the cookie. Top with the meringue and gently spread to cover the whole surface. Bake 10 minutes, then open the oven and turn the broiler on low. Turn the pan every few seconds to evenly brown the meringue. Remove from the broiler and cool completely on a wire rack. Chill in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before slicing. When chilled, cut into 16 squares.

No comments:

Post a Comment