My husband and I have this deal, you see. He really isn’t into sweets, which is rather unfortunate since all I know how to do is bake. He will, however, make an exception for several things that incorporate fruit, such as the thumbprint cookies from a previous posting. I promised, in keeping with the theme of the approaching summer, that all of my baking would include fruit until at least the end of August.
So when I saw this recipe on the Pioneer Woman Cooks, I knew I had to try it. After all, it’s Ree Drummond. Have you met Ree? If not, then head on over to The Pioneer Woman ASAP. You’ll thank me. Not only does she bake, she cooks, and her recipes are insanely good, her writing is always entertaining, and her photos are gorgeous.
Anyway, on Ree’s site, there was this darling recipe for lemon crumb squares. And it caught my eye, because I was just talking about lemon squares with my mother the other week. But we were talking about more traditional shortbread-bottomed, cooked pudding-topped lemon squares. Ree’s recipe is a variation that uses two layers of crumbs that are cousins to coffee cake crumbs, except without cinnamon…and way denser…and with oatmeal...with a delicious layer of lemon sandwiched between them. And then, the clincher: Ree casually mentions at the bottom of her post that the recipe would also work for key limes.
I hoofed it over to the supermarket and grabbed a few limes, a can of sweetened condensed milk, and a bottle of Nellie and Joe’s Famous Key West Lime Juice. Sometimes this is in the juice aisle, and sometimes it is in the baking aisle, so you might have to look around for it. Why didn’t I just squeeze the nice limes I grabbed at the supermarket, you ask? I don’t know, “key lime” just sounds a little sexier. Key lime pie, Florida, summer, and all those other lovely word associations I made in my head. Besides, key limes are tarter than the average lime. But, this recipe will also work fine with the juice from the typical Persian limes found in your supermarket. So if you feel really bad about pitching a perfectly good lime after zesting it, you can do this. Or you can do how I do and use the key lime juice from the bottle, zest from the Persian lime, and then cut up the Persian lime into wedges suitable for Coronas. Problem solved, no more qualms of conscious here. Phew.
So anyway, you zest the sucker (if you don’t already have a microplane zester, you should look into it. I much prefer it to traditional zesters with the holes on one end), which is a good way to wake up in the morning, by the way. The smell is amazing.
Then you take all that lovely zest, a can of sweetened condensed milk, and about ½ C of the lime juice, and beat it together. I’ve already made these bars a few times, since there is way more than ½ C of lime juice in the bottle I bought, and I’ve used both the whisk and paddle attachments to do this, and they both work great. The mixture will be a little runny no matter how you mix it, don’t be alarmed.
Next up, the crumbs. You cream slightly softened butter with brown sugar until it is nice and combined. Then you add in some oats. At this point, I diverged from Ree’s original recipe a little further, because I made the command decision that I wanted coconut in my key lime bars. Because they go together. There’s even a song about it that Kermit sings (okay, Harry Nilsson sang it first, but who can resist Kermit the Frog?). So add about a cup and a half of shredded sweetened coconut at this point as well, and mix it up. Then, sift in the flour, salt and baking powder.
Half the crumbs go down on the bottom of the pan (I used a disposable 8X12 pan; Ree used an 8X11 casserole dish; a 9X13 pan can also be used, the bars will just be thinner). You can push the crumbs down with your hands, or the back of a measuring cup.
Then, dump on all of that lovely lime filling on, and spread it around.
Then I decided to sprinkle more coconut on top of the lime layer, just by eye until I figured it was covered enough.
And then, sprinkle on the other half of the crumbs. Don’t pat them down like with the bottom layer, just gently even them out. You don't want wayward crumbs standing tall, they will brown faster than the rest of the top layer, and may burn before the rest is done.
Then you bake it at 350F for about 25 minutes. When it comes out of the oven, let it rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes, to give the filling a chance to set up.
Then, I would advise cutting the bars (leaving them in the pan) and then popping them in the fridge. Trust me and cut them before you chill them – if you wait until after you chill the pan, the crumbs will be harder to cut through, and you will most likely destroy the top layer.
These bars are pretty fabulous, especially if you like citrus, and especially if you're ready for summer! They are easy to put together, and a definite crowd-pleaser! If you want lemon, that can be substituted as per Ree's original recipe. Personally, I'd like to try the lemon one with some blueberries sprinkled on top of the lemon layer, and maybe a dash of cinnamon in the crumbs.
- 1-⅓ cup All-purpose Flour
- ½ teaspoons Salt
- 1 teaspoon Baking Powder
- 1 stick (1/2 Cup) Butter, Slightly Softened
- 1 cup Brown Sugar (lightly Packed)
- 1 cup Oats
- 1 ½ cup shredded Sweetened Coconut for crumbs, plus more for sprinkling
- 1 can (14 Ounce) Sweetened Condensed Milk
- ½ cups Key Lime Juice
- Zest Of 1 Lime
1. PREHEAT OVEN TO 350 DEGREES.
2. Mix butter and brown sugar until well combined.
3. Add oats and coconut to the butter mixture and combine
4. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder together into the butter/sugar mixture and mix to combine.
5. Press half of crumb mixture into the bottom of an 8 x 12 inch pan (or 8X11, 9X13, etc).
6. Mix together condensed milk, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Spread onto the bottom layer of the crumb mixture.
7. Top with the other half of the crumb mixture, but don’t press.
8. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown.
9. Allow pan to sit on counter for 30 minutes after baking. Cut into squares and refrigerate for a couple of hours or until cool.