What are the best summer dessert bars?
Do you have trouble deciding what to order? Is the sampler platter, the flight, or the combo deal your best friend?
Of course, it’s not just menus where I experience the “and” not the “or.”
I am a mom and educator – equally comfortable on both sides of the IEP table or school conference (though two decades-plus of education still doesn’t make your own child’s IEP any less routine).
I am a reader and a writer – leaning all the more heavily on both these stationary habits as quarantine life layered upon autism mom life shrunk our radius more than we thought possible.
I am an eater and cook – learning what I love by trying it, and then trying to recreate it myself – often with a twist.
Like making lemon bars with other citrus – grapefruit, tangerine, or lime.
Or fusing the richness of cheesecake with the fluffy goodness of meringue.
Or doing that all in one delicious bite.
So when you want all your desserts in one, consider this summery fusion option: lime ricotta bars with Italian meringue. Which are the best summer dessert bars you can imagine.
The Best Fusion
Let’s start from the bottom up – with a lime zest infused crust, the texture enhanced by both cornstarch and powdered sugar. The lime curd filling gets a scoop of (ideally fresh, homemade) ricotta. And then it’s topped with Italian meringue, lightly toasted. By whipping the egg whites with heated sugar syrup, Italian meringue a
Lime Ricotta Bars with Italian Meringue
- food processor
- Stand Mixer with Whisk Attachment
- small saucepan
- 9 x 13 baking pan
For the crust
- 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon lime zest
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 1/2 sticks, cut into 1-inch pieces, slightly softened plus extra for greasing pan
For the lime-ricotta filling
- 8 ounces 1 cup fresh whole milk ricotta drained (preferably homemade)
- 4 large eggs beaten
- 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons lime zest
- 2/3 cup lime juice from about 4-6 limes strained
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the meringue:
- 2 large egg whites room temperature
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons agave syrup or corn syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
To make the crust:
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350° F.
- Using a pastry brush, lightly butter a 13×9-inch baking dish and line with one sheet parchment paper. Butter paper, then lay a second sheet crosswise over it.
- Pulse flour, confectioner’s sugar, cornstarch, lime zest and salt in food processor.
- Add butter and process to blend; then pulse until mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse meal.
- Sprinkle mixture into lined pan and, press firmly with fingers into even layer over entire pan bottom and about 1/2-inch up sides.
- Refrigerate for 30 minutes, and then bake until light golden brown, about 20 minutes.
To make the filling:
- Whisk ricotta, eggs, sugar, and flour in a medium bowl, then stir in lime zest, juice, and salt to blend well.
- Reduce oven temperature to 325° F. Stir the filling mixture before pouring into warm crust.
- Bake until filling feels firm when touched lightly, about 30 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack; cool to room temperature, at least 2 hours.
To make the meringue:
- Place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat whites in mixer until soft peaks form. Beat in salt. Set aside.
- Stir sugar, agave syrup, and 1/4 cup water in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Attach a candy thermometer to side of pan. Increase heat to medium-high and boil without stirring, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush, until thermometer registers 238°, 6-8 minutes. Remove pan from heat.
- Slowly pour hot sugar syrup down side of bowl into whites and beat until meringue is firm and glossy. Continue beating until cool, about 4 minutes.
- Transfer lime-ricotta bars to cutting board, fold paper down, and cut into bars, wiping knife or pizza cutter clean between cuts.
- Pipe or dollop meringue on top of each bar, then toast using a kitchen torch. Serve immediately or keep chilled.