Cool Coconut Lime Bars with Shortbread Crust

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Because of how often I make bars — pecan bars, lemon bars, brownies — I have begun to realize that they are my favorite dessert. It’s like mini pie when you think about it. And when you can nail that crust-to-filling ratio just the way you like it, you know you’re on to something great.

This recipe is a riff on my lemon bars. Cool off this summer with these tart, crunchy yet gooey coconut lime bars. Go ahead and tuck this recipe away, too. It’s a keeper. You could half the crust recipe and make in a smaller pan, thus increasing the ratio of curd to crust, or you could double the curd recipe if you want super thick and creamy bars. It’s up to you!

UPDATE: I have improved upon this recipe for both tartness and smoothness in the curd. I think you’ll find that this recipe could win some sort of midwestern state fair. Yes, it is that good. And by good I mean tastes good, not good for you! Recipe tweaks included… more butter and eggs! I also nixed the flour and baking soda in the filling. Enjoy!

Coconut Lime Bars

For the crust:
1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature (2 sticks)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon salt

For the lime custard layer:
4 large eggs (at room temperature, if you can think that far ahead)
4 large egg yolks
1 1/3 cups sugar (more if you are averse to tanginess)
2 Tbsp grated lime zest (4 to 6 limes)
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup shredded coconut

Preheat the oven to 350°F and liberally (and I mean it, super liberally!) grease a 9×13 baking sheet. (Trick: use the paper wrappers from your room-temperature butter to grease your pan!) Cream together the butter, salt and 1/2 cup sugar in a mixer with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, carefully add the flour to the butter until just mixed. It will be dry, but don’t worry. Gather it into a ball and press the dough into the pan, building it up about 1/2″ along the sides. (The bottom is going to puff up leaving you with less crust-wall than you began with, fyi.) Chill for 30 min to 1 hour. Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly golden brown. Let cool slightly, but leave the oven on. Get to work on the filling.

Whisk together the eggs, yolks and sugar in a sauce pan. Next, whisk in the lime juice and zest until it’s uniform and smooth. Place the pan on medium heat and stir continuously until the curd mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 8-10 minutes. (The Kitchn recommends until it’s 155°F.) Don’t let anything stick to the sides or bottom as you stir. If your eggs start to curdle, immediately remove it from the heat. The curd should remain smooth. Once it’s thickened, strain. (You could omit this step in order to preserve the lime zest, which I like. This is to ensure a perfectly smooth curd. If you are feeling confident in your curd-ing abilities, skip this!) While the mixture is still warm, but off the heat, stir in the butter, cut into cubes, until it’s completely melted.

Pour evenly over the crust and sprinkle with 1 cup shredded coconut just before baking. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or about 5 minutes after you feel the filling is set along the edges but slightly jiggly in the middle. Rotate during baking if you don’t feel it’s cooking evenly.

Let cool to room temperature on the counter, then transfer to fridge for a few hours or overnight. (I know, it will be hard to wait! But they are so good cold!)

Cut into rectangles and consume! Lime bars straight from the fridge on a hot summer day… Absolutely glorious!

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