Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Key lime cheesecake bars

This is probably the first time in many years that we did not get asked by neighbors, coworkers or friends to buy Girl Scout cookies. Thankfully, I still have some in the freezer that are stashed away for a rainy day. To my horror, I saw a box of Savannah Smiles® hiding in our pantry. If you've never had these cookies before, they are lemon flavored wedge cookies that are dusted with powdered sugar. I wanted to find a use for the cookies since we hadn't eaten them.

I also happened to find bags of key limes at my local grocery store. These citrus beauties are a rarity at my grocery store, so I was happy to snatch a bag while I saw them. My one-pound bag only yielded 1/2 a cup of juice, so I sought to find something to do with this liquid gold.

I asked my husband and daughter what I should make with the key limes. My husband said that he wanted bars, but Addie suggested cheesecake. How was I supposed to pick between bars and cheesecake? Well, I didn't. I decided to make cheesecake bars to make both of my family members happy.

The lemon Girl Scout cookies turned into my cheesecake bar crust, and I used all of the juice and zest from the limes for the filling and topping. Surprisingly, Addie did not want to try a bar (silly girl), but my husband and I both liked them. We wanted the bars to be more lime-y, but since my juice was limited, there wasn't more I could have done given my limited resources.  If you make these, I hope your key limes yield more juice so your bars have a more pronounced lime flavor. The other change I would suggest is to halve the crust recipe below so it's not as thick (be sure to shorten the baking time if you do this).

Regardless, these key lime cheesecake bars were great, and it was a wonderful way to kick off the beautiful weather we experienced the day I made these.

Key lime cheesecake bars
Crust
  • 1 cup crushed vanilla wafers, graham crackers or Savannah Smiles® Girl Scout cookies (I used a combination of the Girl Scout cookies and vanilla wafers)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Filling
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup key lime juice, depending upon how much juice your limes yield
  • Zest from 1 pound of key limes, divided
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Directions
To make the crust: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Generously grease or line 9x13 inch baking pan and set aside.

Mix together the vanilla wafers (or graham crackers or Girl Scout cookies), flour, melted butter, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon. Gently and evenly press this into the bottom of your prepared baking pan. Bake in your preheated oven for 20 minutes or until the crust is golden. Remove the pan from the oven.

To make the filling: In the bowl of your stand mixer or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until fully incorporated. Add the sweetened condensed milk, the key lime juice and about 3/4 of your lime zest. Mix well.

Turn the mixer to low and add the flour and salt and mix until just incorporated. Do not over mix.

Pour the cheesecake mixer over the baked crust and bake in the preheated oven for an additional 20-25 minutes or until the cheesecake is no longer jiggly when shaken.

Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle on the remaining lime zest.

Allow the bars to cool slightly before refrigerating and slicing. Bars are best served cold but can be frozen and thawed as necessary.

Yield: One 9x13 inch pan (about 24 bars, or more if you cut them into smaller portions)

Source: Adapted from Food.com


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