Monday, August 10, 2009

Beta Recipe: Coconut Lime Bars

I was asked to make a dessert recently and I had a very difficult time deciding what to make. I was torn between pies, cakes and other pastries. After much searching, someone suggested to me that I make lemon bars. Now there's a nice, simple dessert that's got a clean, refreshing taste and is always a crowd-pleaser.

Of course, I needed to figure out a way to make this dish mine. I started perusing the Joy of Cooking for its basic recipe for lemon bars (just to get a baseline) and then it hit me: swap the lemon for lime. It's unexpected, but will likely have just as much appeal. To sweeten the deal, I decided to add coconut to the crust for an extra tropical flavor. Also, to cut the pungent flavor of the lime, I chose to sweeten the curd with honey instead of regular sugar, which gave it a fuller, more rounded off taste.

I consider this to be a beta recipe because I'm not quite happy with the proportions just yet. The taste was quite good, but I may need to scale up the volume of the curd, or scale down the size of the pan. It's not quite perfect, but it's a good chunk of the way there!

You'll notice I call for egg substitute - this is my attempt to make up for the whole stick of margarine in the crust. Sorry, but there was just no way around it - oil just doesn't cut it (baking pun not intended). I used margarine simply because I wanted this dish to be pareve (non-dairy) - but you can easily make this in dairy form (which will likely be even tastier) by swapping the margarine for butter (I haven't tried this, but you may want to keep in mind that butter is 20% water, so the swap ratio may not be exactly 1-for-1 - but I would probably try that first anyway just as a test). I also think I might need to up the powdered sugar in the crust.

When you make the curd, you'll notice that it is in fact not lime green but yellow, from the eggs. You can leave it like that and watch as unsuspecting tasters sink their teeth in expecting lemon only to be fooled and surprised by the lime deception; or, you can beat them over the head with it by adding a few drops of green food coloring to turn it a bright neon green (admittedly, this was not the color I was looking for - but it sufficed).

Finally, one last note, you may notice that in a 9x13 pan (as in the picture), the curd does not quite completely cover the crust (my own underestimation). I would either use a smaller pan (such as an 8x8 - this may mean you will have a thicker crust, which you may like) or increase the volume of the curd recipe (though I can't quite tell by how much yet - this is an experiment for next time I make this).

I hope these few reservations won't deter you from making this on your own - and if you figure out a way to improve it, please let me know!

A tropical twist on your everyday lemon bars

Coconut Lime Bars

For crust:
1.5 c flour
1 stick margarine
Pinch salt
1/2 c powdered sugar
1/2 - 3/4 cup flaked coconut

For curd:
1/4 c flour
1 c sugar
Less than 1/2 c honey
1/3 c lime juice (about 2-3 limes)
1 tbsp lime zest
1 egg
3/4 c egg substitute (equivalent of 3 eggs - you can use real eggs if you like)
3-4 drops green food coloring (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350. Combine crust ingredients, cutting margarine into flour, forming a dry dough.

2. Press dough into an ungreased pan. Bake for 15-20 min until the top is golden.

3. Whisk curd ingredients together.

4. Pour curd on top of crust and bake for another 25-30 minutes until semi-firm.

5. Dust with extra powdered sugar before serving.

Serves 12-16.