Tuesday, June 16, 2009

sometimes, the kitchen isn't my friend

we recently made plans 
for dinner.
as soon as it was decided,
i realized that the preceding
days would be spent at
my mom's and i worried
that i wouldn't have time
to bake together a dessert.

so even though i was using
my saturday night to make
this and this,
i still thought it would be
a good idea to throw one
more dish into the mix.

i decided drop or bar
cookies would be best,
and i had been craving lime.
everywhere i looked, there
seemed to be recipes for 
shortbread with lime,
lime sugar cookies,
lime, lime, lime.
i was in. now i just needed
a recipe.

in my continuing effort
to try to use my cookbooks
more often, i pulled a bunch
out until i found 
the recipe that seemed perfect:
lime bars with white chocolate.
it called for a 9 x 9 pan,
but i opted to increase
the proportions and bake in 
a 9 x 13 instead so that i could
bring half to my mom's 
and half to lauren's.

the grocery store - a new one -
was madness and looking
for an escape,
larry and i ducked into
the one aisle that appeared
empty: stone fruit.
i know it's not yet peach season,
but still surprising.
after the crowds passed,
we turned to leave and i noticed
a bag of key limes.

i looked at the teeny limes and
decided to slightly change course.
oh, it was fate and a very bad idea
all rolled into one.

at home, i thought i could brilliantly
balance baking two things, with
two different baking temperatures,
in an alternating pattern. 
i pressed out the crust
for the raspberry tart,
put it in the oven for pre-baking
and then got to work,
processing graham crackers,
zesting the tiny key limes and 
melting butter. 

the tart crust came out of the oven,
i reduced the temperature of the oven,
and as i waited for the signal,
i reread the next step,
very easy.
just mix together the cream cheese,
lime juice, eggs and sugar.
once the crust comes out, pour
the filling inside and return to the oven.

i set the baking pan on the middle rack
of the oven and suddenly - if this
were a movie, the gentle music 
would have immediately slammed
to a screeching halt - 
looked over and 
realized i hadn't juiced the key limes.
yes, the filling is very fast, if
you've already painstakingly squeezed
the juice out of these miniature globes.
after juicing one by hand, on my own.
i screamed for larry, who was happily
watching baseball, blissfully unaware of his
next 10 minutes.
together, i halved the limes, 
pulled the seeds out 
and handed them to him with the instruction,
no juice left behind. 
unfortunately, 15 seconds
in, larry found a cut 
that he didn't know he had. 
we switched places, but still, 
with every lime,
he screamed, 
and i alternated my time between
watching the timer countdown 
and praying
that this one bag of key limes 
was enough to yield 3/4 cup of juice. 

we just made it - we had exactly what
we needed. the timer went off
and as i begged larry to unwrap 
the cream cheese and measure out 
the sugar, i placed the crust on a cooling
rack and cracked the eggs
into a bowl.
i put everything in the mixer, as larry
walked out of the room, no
doubt shaking his head at the
crazy lady in the kitchen.

lastly, i poured in the juice, 
relieved that everything
was in place. 
i relaxed,
turned the mixer on
and screamed (again,
music stopping at a screeching halt).
i'd like to blame it on the frantic
situation, knowing that i had already
messed up by not having
my juice ready, that i had been
crazy for trying to make two 
desserts at once, rationalizing
that they both needed to be
baked twice, that i was already
ready to be out of the kitchen 
and that
if i was being honest,
i had found a cut on my finger, too.
but, really, it's just that i was having
a moment. 
a dumb moment.
because i know better than to just
pour a bunch of liquid into a mixer
and turn it on. 
i know that you
should take a spatula and fold
the contents together a few times
to moisten and incorporate.
but i didn't. and so, a bunch
(how much, i don't know) of that 
precious juice that we
squeezed and squeezed, 
flew back out
of the bowl and 
landed all over the top
half of my body.
we were out of key limes.
i didn't have any regular limes.
i had no choice but to carry on.
i finished mixing, poured the whole
thing into the crust, laughing
that it looked like a child had
put the parchment paper in the pan
in the first place,
placed it in the oven and walked 
into the living room,
still slightly dripping and now,
sticky, with lime juice.

i was done. but i couldn't
be. i still had to cook the rice,
and fill the raspberry tart.
larry followed me back into the 
kitchen, where thankfully,
he cleaned up the mess as i 
started on the rice. when the
lime bars came out of the oven,
larry left, but not before
giving me a weird look,
saying, you need a drink, 
pouring me a beer
and walking out, again.
hours (yes hours)
later, when the grape leaves
and the tart were both 
cooling, i assembled my
mock double boiler,
melted down a little bit
of white chocolate and drizzled
it all over the bars. 
kind of pretty. but i couldn't 
look at them anymore. instead,
i covered the pan, fridged
the whole thing
and decided to not look
at them again until morning.
considering what those bars
had gone through that day,
i think the decision was mutual.

key lime white chocolate bars
adapted from the greyston bakery cookbook's lime bars
these were really delicious, smooth and sweet, with nice hints of tartness (of course, it could have been more). and let me just say, these should not have been hard. this is a simply recipe that i somehow made impossible - so don't be afaid of it. as i said, i multiplied all ingredients by 1 1/2 to make sure it filled out a 9 x 13 pan, so if you only want to make 9 x 9 worth, only use two-thirds. also, because key limes are much tarter, i increased the sugar to compensate. you'll want to chill them for at least 2 hours to make sure they're firm enough to cut, but if you have the time, i recommend keeping them in the fridge overnight.

18 graham crackers (2 1/2 x 5)
1 1/2 cups, plus 2 tablespoons, granulated sugar, divided
2 tablespoons grated key lime zest, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
3 (8 ounced) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
3 egg yolks
3/4 cup freshly squeezed key lime juice (for me, this took 23 key limes, or one bag)
4 ounces white chocolate, finaly chopped
1/2 tablespoon vegetable or corn oil (optional)

make sure your key limes are juiced.

place rack in center of oven. heat oven to 350˚f. grease 9 x 13 baking pan; line it with large piece of parchment paper that extends over the sides. set aside.

in bowl of food processor, pulse graham crackers until fine crumbs form. transfer to a bowl; add 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon lime zest and salt. mix to combine. pour melted butter over cookie crumb; press mixture into the bottom of the baking pan. bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until the color deepens and the crust becomes fragrant. remove from the oven and place on cooling rack; let cool slightly.

meanwhile, in bowl of your electric mixer, combine cream cheese and remaining 3/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons, sugar. add egg yolks one at a time, mixing just until blended. add lime juice and remaining 1 tablespoon zest to bowl, using spatula, fold to combine slightly. start mixer on low, increasing speed to medium, and beat just until mixture is completely blended. 

pour cream cheese mixture over warm crust. bake 30 to 35 minutes or until the filling is set and beginning to just slightly color. place on wire rack and let cool completely.

in bowl set over saucepot of simmering water (but not touching), melt white chocolate. if the chocolate doesn't seem fluid enough, add a small amount of oil to thin it out. using fork, drizzle white chocolate over bars. let sit 10 minutes. cover bars and place in fridge. chill 2 hours, or overnight. using sharp knife, cut off edges of bars. cut into squares. chill until ready to serve.

1 comment:

Larry said...

I won't soon forget the burn of these baby limes and I'm convinced the key limes cause more pain than regular limes.