GIN + KEY LIME BARS {and a gin lime meringue cookies}

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I recently had a friend ask me, “Why do food blogs have so much writing I have to get through before I get to the actual recipe?” Now I read a lot of food blogs and sometimes I love the back story people put into their posts. I think it adds fun personality and color behind it and you get a lot of interesting content that would generally never make it into a traditional cook book. But I’ll admit that sometimes, when I’m looking for recipe ideas, I’ll scroll right past all that fun, colorful, well thought out blog post and go straight to the ingredient listing.  So today, for my friend who apparently hates reading, I’ll keep my intro short:

I’m a big fan of incorporating alcohol into baked goods and have been experimenting with taking some of my favorite cocktails and turning them into delicious delicious desserts. This month, being winter with all that delicious citrus in season, I felt inspired to bake with one of my favorite classic cocktail combos: Gin and lime. This recipe is a fun twist on the classic key lime pie and pretty easy to make (no need to be an expert baker for this one). I made this recipe to have more hints of gin than full-on boozy (as some of my other recipes are). You can omit the alcohol for a more traditional take, or follow my suggestions on ways to make it even more alcoholic, if that’s your thing. You can just top these bars with lime zest, candied lime wedge, or fresh whipped cream, but I like to top them with mini meringue cookies, which I also flavored with gin and lime. It’s like if a gin and tonic or gin fizz was turned into a light airy cookie!

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For The Crust

  INGREDIENTS:

  • 12-14 GRAHAM CRACKER RECTANGLES

  • 1/4 CUP WALNUTS OR PECANS

  • 1/3 CUP SUGAR

  • 1/4 TEASPOON CINNAMON

  • 1 STICK BUTTER {MELTED AND SLIGHTLY COOLED}

  • SPLASH OF GIN {I USE HENDRICKS}

Preheat oven to 350°F and line a square baking dish with parchment (I used a 8×8 ceramic dish).  I put all the dry ingredients into a food processor and pulse until it’s a crumb consistency. If you don’t have a food processor, smash the crackers into crumbs in a ziplock bag with a heavy object (like a meat tenderizer), chop nuts finely and then combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Pour in melted butter and a splash of gin. Mix until all the crumbs are moist. If you want to add a little extra gin, cut back on some of the butter to keep the ratio correct.

Bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven but leave the oven on. Prepare filling while your crust is in the oven. (You can drizzle a small amount of additional gin on the crust while it cools)

For The Filling

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 EGG YOLKS {SAVE WHITES FOR LATER}

  • 1 CAN OF SWEETENED CONDENSED MILK {14 OZ}

  • 1/2 CUP KEY LIME JUICE OR REGULAR LIME JUICE

  • LIME ZEST

  • SPLASH OF GIN

With a hand blender or electric mixer with a whisk attachment, whisk eggs yolk in a large mixing bowl for a couple minutes (they will become a pale yellow and start to look fluffier). Add sweetened condensed milk and continue mixing for a couple minutes. Slowly mix in lime juice and gin, mixing well for a couple minutes. Your filling should look just slightly thicker, but not too thick. For a slightly more gin flavored bar, reduce the lime juice to just under 1/2 cup and add an extra splash of gin. Be careful to keep the lime juice + gin to around 1/2 cup together total or your filling will not set up correctly. 

Pour filling over crust and bake for 15 minutes. Filling should look fairly set but it will continue to set as it cools, so don’t worry too much about its jiggly nature. Cool completely. I let mine cool to room temp and then I top it with lime zest and refrigerate for 2 hours or over night.

Cut bars to desired size, top with meringue cookie (or toping of your choice) and serve, still chilled.

Gin Lime Meringue Cookies

*You can use any basic meringue cookie recipe as the base for this, so if you already have a meringue cookie recipe you like, feel free to use that. I highly recommend using a piping bag and a piping tip. You can use a large ziplock with the corner cut out, but your meringue might turn out more blobby and less pretty and precise.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 LARGE EGG WHITES

  • 3/4 CUP SUGAR

  • 1/4 TEASPOON CREAM OF TARTAR

  • SPLASH OF LIME JUICE

  • SPLASH OF GIN

Preheat your oven to 215°F and line 1-2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl with a hand mixer of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk egg whites on medium speed. As whites start of form slowly add cream of tarter, gin, lime, and sugar. Continue whisking until soft peaks start to form and the egg whites are holding more shape. Bump the speed to medium-high and continue whisking until egg whites hold firm peaks. Sugar should be fully incorporated and egg whites will be glossy and feel silky. Use a rubber spatula to transfer the egg white mixture to your piping bag (I like to sit my bag in a pint glass while I fill it).

Hold the bag perpendicular to the baking sheet. Pipe meringue by hovering over the top slightly and using gentle but constant pressure to pipe a small “kiss” of meringue onto the baking sheet; then pull bag up. Leave space between cookies, but they don’t grow the same way a traditional cookies does while baking, so you don’t have to leave tons of room.

Bake for 60 to 90 minutes. I start checking after the 60 minute mark and add more time as needed. Cookies should be crisp on the outside and dry but slightly chewy on he inside. They will feel light and hollow and be easy to remove from the baking sheet when finished. Let cool completely.

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GRETCHEN IS A WRITER-BASED IN PORTLAND, ORE. SHE GOT HER START AS A JOURNALIST WORKING ON THE SUSTAINABLE FASHION AND RESTAURANT BEAT BEFORE MOVING INTO COPYWRITING AND ADVERTISING WORK. SHE CURRENTLY BLOGS AND WORKS AS A FREELANCE WRITER.

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