Bake Something! for the Cookie Challenge September 2020
Key Lime Bars
I wanted to make something with Key Limes. There was an entire bag on sale at the grocery store for 99 cents. I just had to buy them. You can’t grow them where I live. In fact, growing anything where I live is pretty hard. Montana. The growing season is six weeks. And that is in a good year. Of course, the sun is out from 4 AM to 10 PM for many for those weeks, so what we don’t have in weeks, we make up for in intensity. But I digress.
Key limes, beautiful little green orbs. I thought they would be from Florida, where there are Keys, little islands near the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Key West, Big Pine Key, Duck Key, Key Largo. Key West, a favorite haunt of Hemingway and now an overrun tourist trap. It’s the southernmost point of the United States. You have to go along Route 1, on a concrete causeway over the water from Miami. It takes forever, it seems, then suddenly you’re in the midst of civilization again. Key Largo was a great movie with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. But I digress.
The key limes from the grocery store were from Mexico. Oh well, so much for my romantic interlude in Florida. So I bring home the little bag and start checking for a recipe. Key Lime pie, no, don’t like doing a crust. Key lime cookies, now here’s an idea. Key lime bars in an older cookbook I found at a thrift store. “The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show, 2001-2011”. I will need cream cheese and butter, brown sugar, sweetened condensed milk, key limes, an egg yolk and animal crackers. Check, check, check, check, check, check, and what? Animal crackers? Do they still make those? Now the hunt is on for the little animal shaped crackers. Two grocery stores in town and neither have animal crackers. Well, not the ones you remember. You know them. They always came in a little box that looked like a circus railroad car? All they had in the stores were cookies shaped like animals with frosting, no. So I got teething biscuits. Similar, but good enough. But I digress.
Now I start the cookies. The recipe calls for the juice from 20. Key. limes. 20. Do you know how big they are? 1-2 inches in diameter says Wikipedia. They are a variant of the big green lime you’re familiar with, a Persian lime. So, have you ever attempted to squeeze 20 limes? Small limes? Not fun. I do have antique glass juicers. So I begin. And yes, I know I can buy bottled key lime juice. But isn’t that cheating? I need 1/2 cup juice. It takes about 15 limes to make that little amount of juice. And about 1/2 hour of my time. But I digress.
Mixing and baking these gems are easy. If you know how to make a lemon bar, you can do a key lime bar. Basically, you make the crust first, bake it and then pour a filling over the crust and bake again. Follow directions and you too can be a pastry chef! There is a show on the Food Channel, 'Chopped', called 'Chopped Sweets', where they are challenged to make desserts. Great fun. And of course on PBS 'The Great British Baking Show' is a treat to watch. But I digress.
So baking, my friends, is really no more than a fancy chemistry experiment. You combine certain chemicals: flour, sugar, leavening agents, and other goodies. You expose them to heat. And then you stand back and see what happens. And if you can follow directions, you usually will end up with something that resembles the picture in the cookbook.
By the way, I eventually did find the animal crackers, the real deal. They still sell them. Made by Nabisco, Barnum’s Animals Crackers. And if you use your imagination, they kind of look like lions and tigers and bears. Oh my! The key lime bars are wonderfully sweet and good. I bought an extra bag of animal crackers just in case they are extinct by the next time I want to make these.
Key Lime Pie ▼