The first time I had an Apt. 2B Baking Co. creation was at a picnic in Prospect Park (yep, the same as this one — it was a very gastronomically exciting day) on the kind of Brooklyn day that would be so welcome right about now — one of those rare, early summer New York days that is neither stiflingly humid nor oven hot, but breezy, just warm enough, and brilliantly sunny. Yossy’s sour cherry pie bars were kind of like if all that weather got baked into dessert — a touch of sunny warmth from a buttery crust and a craggy landscape of crumble topping, but filled with a cool, bright tartness from the sour cherries. They were thoughtful, in that they were portable and perfect for sharing at a picnic, impeccably seasonal, in that they capitalized on that elusively brief sour cherry season, and totally delicious, in that they were totally delicious. So it should be no surprise that Yossy’s beautiful new cookbook, out as of last Tuesday, is full to the brim of recipes just like that one — thoughtful, seasonal, and totally delicious.
Sweeter Off the Vine is so rich, from Yossy’s cheerfully wide-latticed signature pies, baked until burnished deep brown and crackly with turbinado sugar, to craggly old-fashioned donuts and shimmering upside-down cakes, charmingly bright pink glazes and jewel-like jams, that, like Elizabeth, I was a little stumped over what to make at first, especially in this slightly purgatory-like state between winter and spring. In the end, I chose these sunny lime bars, even if slightly off-season, in part because I’ve been meaning to make some kind of key lime bar or pie for years, and in part because they felt like they would be just as welcome on a Prospect Park picnic like the one from a few years ago. Either way, I couldn’t be more glad that I went with these, because they are everything I hoped they’d be.
The shortbread crust is perfectly sweet and buttery, and the filling comes together with a quick whisk but turns meltingly silky and smooth, with enough pucker to be lively but enough sweetness to be gentle (and totally addictive). Yossy’s iteration uses Rangpur limes, which sounded magical but proved out of my grasp, but the best part of these is that the saffron it calls for adds all the mysterious flair that you might imagine from Rangpur limes to plain old supermarket Persian ones. (Plus, the saffron turns the bars the prettiest bright, sunny orange.) It’s a subtle warmth, and not one that I would have ever thought to pair with lime, and that’s what makes talents like Yossy’s so special — that a flavor pairing like this one is just enough to add a little something extra that only highlights, rather than obscures, the appeal of a picnic classic. If you try them, I have a feeling you’ll love them just as much as I did. So happy to have this book gracing my shelves, Yossy!
Lime bars with saffron
Reprinted with permission from Sweeter Off the Vine, by Yossy Arefi (2016, Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC).
- for the crust:
- 1 cup (125g) all-purpose flour
- 3 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened
- for the filling:
- 1/4 tsp saffron threads
- 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
- 2 tsp Rangpur lime zest (substitute Persian or key limes if needed)
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 4 large eggs
- 1/2 cup (120ml) Rangpur lime juice (or Persian or key lime juice)
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- to serve:
- 2 tbsp confectioners’ sugar
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350F (180C). Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil and butter the foil.
- To make the crust: Whisk the flour, sugar, cornstarch, and salt together. Add the butter and mix with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until well combined. Press the dough evenly into the bottom of the pan. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.
- While the crust is baking, prepare the filling. Use a mortar and pestle to grind the saffron threads with a pinch of the sugar to a fine powder, then stir in 1 tablespoon of boiling water to bloom.
- Add the rest of the sugar and the lime zest to a medium bowl. Rub the zest into the sugar until well combined and fragrant. Stir in the cornstarch and salt. Whisk in the eggs, followed by the lime juice, the saffron threads and their liquid, and the butter until well combined.
- When the crust is finished baking, turn the oven down to 300F (150C). Pour the filling over the hot crust and return the pan to the oven. Bake until the filling is set but still slightly wiggly in the center, about 20 more minutes. Cool the bars completely in the pan, then lift the bars out of the pan, using the foil as handles. Cut into any shape you like and dust with confectioners’ sugar just before serving. Store the bars in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to three days.
Instead of foil, I used parchment paper, which worked just fine.