Two days before I left Charleston at the end of winter break, I asked my family if they had any last requests for baked goods before I left. After hearing a list immediately rattled off that lasted about five minutes, I caught two requests: key lime pie and lemon squares. And thus, in the interest of saving time and ingredients, I was prompted to make a mash-up of the two- these key lime bars.
While citrus desserts are actually pretty popular this time of year, I always tend to associate them with warm summer months. Maybe that’s why one bite of these tangy bars immediately took me back to warm weather and outdoor summer fun (a very welcome distraction during a week in which it’s actually been… can you believe it?… cold down here in the South).
I found these bars to have the perfect balance of tart key lime flavor and subtle sweetness, with a tender shortbread crust to top it all off. And did I mention they were vegan?! That little miracle is due to the use of tofu as the primary ingredient in the filling (make sure to use a shelf stable brand such as Mori-Nu, as this has a different texture and less of a “tofu” aftertaste). It makes them creamy and soft while also adding a punch of protein without a bunch of calories.
Trust me, the hardest part will be waiting for a few hours while they chill in the fridge- total self-control exercise right there. All that’s left is to add a little dusting of powdered sugar for added presentation points, and you’ve got yourself a tangy vegan dessert that you can eat again and again.
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Key Lime Bars
adapted from CCK
For the crust:
2/3 cup white whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoon melted coconut oil
2 tablespoon applesauce
For the filling:
1 cup shelf-stable tofu (I used Mori-Nu silken firm)
1/3 cup key lime juice
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1/3 cup powdered sugar
zest of one key lime (optional)
a drop or two of green or yellow food coloring (optional)
powdered sugar for dusting (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350F and grease an 8 x 8 inch square pan. First make the crust by stirring together the flour, sugar, and salt, then adding the oil and applesauce. Once a dough has formed, press it into the bottom of the pan until even and flat. Bake for 10 minutes until very lightly browned.
While the crust is cooking, combine all of the filling ingredients in a food processor and blend until completely smooth. Once the crust is done baking, pour the filling over top and continue to bake for 26 minutes. Let cool for about 10 minutes on the stove, then place in the refrigerator for about 2 hours so that the filling can set. If desired, dust with powdered sugar before serving.