These limes bars were the result of a happy accident–they were meant to be lemon. I’ve loved my mother’s recipe for lemon bars, pulled from a Christmas issue of either Ladies Home Journal or Good Housekeeping years ago, since I was a little girl. We are first and foremost a chocolate dessert family, but these bars often made their way onto the sweets table at New Years Open Houses and potlucks, providing a welcome bright and citrusy contrast to the chocolate. Having made these lemon bars for a fall baby shower and reminded myself of how much I liked them, they seemed like the perfect dessert for an for an impromptu Saturday night dinner party. And they would have been, if I had remembered to buy lemons.
When I went to the grocery store for this particular dinner, I had a lot of citrus on my list. Hal had asked for grapefruit, oranges, and limes for drinks, and I needed at least six lemons for the bars. Also on the list were ingredients for boeuf bourguignon, creamy polenta, and my current favorite salad. I left the store feeling really impressed with my efficient shopping skills…until I realized I had gotten twice as many limes as needed, and missed the lemons all together. Whoops. After some foot stamping and swearing over the idea of having to go back out to the store with so much cooking to do, Hal gently suggested just subbing limes in for the lemons. A quick google reassured me that it would work, and I let go of my lemon plan and got to juicing limes. And the end result was just as we had hoped–all of the things I love about classic lemon bars, with a little extra tartness from the limes. Though rest assured, there is still plenty of sweetness to balance out the tart.
The recipe that my mother has been using for decades is a really classic version of a lemon bar. A cookie base topped with an almost custard like citrus filling, the whole thing dusted with powdered sugar. No fancy bells or whistles, but a solidly delicious treat. This time around, I of course changed up the flavor with lime, and added cinnamon (another Hal suggestion: to his thinking, lime and cinnamon are great together in cocktails, so why not desserts?). I also made one alteration to the process of the original recipe, and it was a goodun. The cookie base requires melted butter. Two whole sticks worth. And at this stage of my young life, if I have to melt butter for any reason…I’m gonna brown it. SO worth it. Browning the butter gives a depth of flavor to the cookie base that absolutely ups the tastiness. Taking the time to brown the butter also–and this has been true for me before–gave a nice little standing still and focusing on only one thing respite in an otherwise run around and cook day.