No condensed milk needed for these creamy lime bars! You can enjoy all the flavor your love from your favorite lime pie, only in easier to serve bars!
Raise your hand if you ever go a little crazy at your favorite bulk warehouse store? Virtual high fives to all of you because we’ve *all* been there. This time, I came home with approximately 50 pounds of limes. Why? I have no idea. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
When I finally came to terms with the produce drawer stuffed with limes, I took a deep breath and made a plan to waste not. This is what one does in these situations.
So, since key lime pie is a family favorite, I thought I’d bake one. Except I discovered that I was out of condensed milk! Condensed milk is a required ingredient to make key lime pie…
So what’s a baker to do? Well, we improvise! And luckily, the result is a batch of creamy lime bars with a bold lime flavor and a silky texture!
How do you make lime bars without condensed milk?
If you’re a seasoned baker, you’re probably thinking that I’m going to pull out the cream cheese. Nope! Because I was out of that too!
What I did use to make these creamy bars is a mixture of eggs and whipping cream. The eggs provide structure, and the whipping cream provides the fat necessary for a silky smooth texture.
So what is the texture of these lime bars?
It’s very delicate. And I think it’s just important to point this out. I don’t want anyone to make this recipe looking for a sturdier lemon bar texture, because this isn’t it.
The whipping cream base gives these lime bars a very light texture. It’s really good, but a bit tricky to describe. Everyone who tried the bars liked them though, so try something new!
Just don’t plan to stack these bars really high, and always keep them refrigerated.
The base for the bars is a classic shortbread base. You don’t have to soften the butter before you cut it in. It just needs to be mostly uniform when cut into the mixture.
If you don’t have a pastry cutter, you can use two knives or a food processor. My personal order of preference is a pastry cutter first (less dishes), food processor, then two knives.
Using a pastry cutter means I can wipe out the mixing bowl after making the base and use it to mix the filling. Essentially making this a one-bowl recipe. Who doesn’t love less dishes?
Second, is the food processor because it’s quick and cuts the butter into pretty uniform chunks. The two knives are last just because I’m clumsy and impatient. So, for me, it’s the messiest and most labor-intensive option. So this is totally personal bias here, haha.
For the topping layer, you’ll need about 4 limes, depending on the amount of juice. In this recipe, I use Persian limes. This is the kind you typically find at the store. If you’d like to substitute key limes, go for it! You’d use an equal amount of key lime juice and zest.
While fresh limes are great, I have used bottled lime juice and the bars have still turned out well! You won’t have the flakes of zest, but that’s okay. Bottled lime juice has a bit more bite to me, so it all balances out.
I hope you love this creamy lime bars recipe, darlings! Happy baking!
Lime Bar Base:
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar (confectioner's sugar)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 2 teaspoons lime zest (optional)
Creamy Lime Topping:
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon lime zest (about 1 lime)
- 4 large eggs
- 2/3 cup lime juice
- 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled
- 2 tablespoons flour
- extra powdered sugar for dusting
- Preheat your oven to 350 F. Grease a 9x13-inch casserole dish and set aside.
- Make the base: In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, powdered sugar, salt, and lime zest (if using). Sprinkle the butter over the flour mixture.
- Use a pastry cutter or two knives to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles wet sand and no butter bead is larger than a pea.
- Press the crust evenly over the bottom of your prepared baking pan and bake for 15-17 minutes until a light golden brown.
- While the crust is baking, wipe your mixing bowl with a clean paper towel so you can use it to make the lime topping. Start making the topping when the crust is almost done baking.
- In your large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and lime zest until smooth. Stir in the juice.
- In another bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the heavy cream until it looks fluffy, but doesn't quite hold a peak yet, or has no more than a very soft peak.
- Using a spatula, fold the heavy cream into the egg and sugar mixture until homogenous. Do this step by hand so you don't deflate the air in the cream.
- Pour the topping over the crust and return the dish to the oven. Bake until the bars are set, and additional 30 minutes.
- Allow the bars to cool completely and then refrigerate and chill before cutting into bars. Dust with powdered sugar just before serving.
- Extra bars can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a week, you might need to dust with additional sugar just before serving.
- The lime zest in the crust is optional. This step just adds extra lime flavor for the serious lime-lovers!
- Since you aren't looking for stiff peaks in your whipped cream, you can actually beat this by hand. It will take a little more effort than the mixer, but happens quickly.
- If you accidentally beat your heavy cream into medium peaks, the recipe will still turn out. You'll just need to stir a little more to get a homogenous topping. The recipe can sound more finicky than it is.
- These bars are best served straight out of the refrigerator! They don't have the same structure as a classic lemon or lime bar, so aren't a good option for individually wrapping. You can stack them 2 layers deep in a container with wax paper between each layer.
- If you're out of limes, substitute lemons. Also delicious!
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