Key Lime Cheesecake Bars

We Floridians don’t get serious about many things; witness our casual approach to the 2000 U.S. Presidential election. However, we and our sunstruck politicians can be roused by the important matter of key lime pie. In 2006, for example, after several months of vigorous debate in the Florida State Senate and House of Representatives, it was officially named the Florida State Pie. And earlier, in 1965, a state legislator with a keen sense of the State government’s essential oversight responsibilities introduced a bill that would have imposed a fine on anyone advertising key lime pies not actually made with real key limes.

key-lime-bars3601For the uninitiated, the key lime is a small, yellowish, and seedy lime that is distinguished from its more common Persian lime cousins by its very tart, almost bitter flavor. And therein lies the challenge of the deceptively simple key lime pie. Its sweet and sour ingredients must be perfectly balanced so that its tartness definitely gets one’s attention but not so much that rictus ensues. In this easy recipe for key lime bars with a crumb and almond crust, key lime cheesecake filling, and optional almond topping, I have aimed for this “just right” result.

Ingredients
3/4 cup plain graham cracker crumbs (approximately 6 graham crackers)
1/2 cup unsalted, sliced almonds
A dash of ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 14-ounce can sweetened, condensed milk
8 ounces cream cheese (or American Neufchatel cheese), at room temperature
2 raw egg yolks
9 tablespoons (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) fresh or bottled key lime juice (if the latter, the Nellie & Joe’s brand is particularly good)
(optional topping) 1/4 cup unsalted, sliced almonds tossed with 1 teaspoon confectioner’s sugar

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a square 9-inch cake pan or 8-inch by 10-inch rectangular baking pan with parchment paper cut to fit.

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In the container of a food processor or chopper, pulse the graham cracker crumbs, 1/2 cup sliced almonds, and cinnamon until finely ground. If you don’t have a chopper, make sure you have good kitchen knives to break up the crackers as much as possible. Add the melted butter and pulse briefly until fully blended. Press the crumb mixture firmly into the bottom of the prepared baking pan.
In a mixing bowl, whip the condensed milk, cheese, egg yolks, and key lime juice until smooth. Pour this filling over the crumb crust. If desired, sprinkle on the optional 1/4 cup sliced almonds tossed with 1 teaspoon confectioner’s sugar.

Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes or until the filling is just set and the optional almond topping is lightly toasted. Chill for at least 6 hours, or preferably overnight, before serving. Serves 6-8 as dessert.