Coconut Key Lime Squares

coconut key lime squares

Citrus is such a January thing.  Which is good – because citrus fruits are light, fresh, cheerful, juicy and refreshing – all the things January desperately needs.  And, they go well with vodka.  If nothing else, vodka with a splash of lime or orange will definitely improve January.  Not that I’m encouraging drinking to evade January blahs or blues or bleahs.  I’m just saying… a little orange and vodka… I’d give it a go!

It is impossible not to be cheered up by looking at a lemon.  Or a lime.  Go on – pull some out of the veggie crisper and put them in a big bowl on the table – instant cheery uppyness.

Coconut Key Lime Squares

I’m most partial to the lime myself.  I like them so much I named my business Fine Lime.  Because really, they make so many things better: salsa, guacamole, thai food, coca-cola, margaritas, web design, biscotti, cookies, Corona, cheesecake, PIE…

Did you also know that LIME is an anagram of MELI?  And did you know that my nickname since high school has been Meli?  Genius business name picking, no?  haha.  So genius that my mom was the only one who worked it out!

I also like to think that limes reflect me – cheery, fresh, light, bright… but that would be really pushing it.  I’m probably more like a turnip – moody, round… and ummm… what else would a turnip be?  Let’s just say that I hope my design work is a little more reflective of limes than turnips :)

Coconut Key Lime Bars

Lime and coconut are natural partners.  The very idea of them together makes me feel like I’m somewhere tropical when really, I’m just sitting here looking out the window at frozen drizzle coming down.  When I saw the recipe for coconut key lime bars in my January issue of Martha Steward Living (seriously, check out the cover – how can you not be cheered up by all those lemons and things!?) I knew I had to give them a try.

I ran into a few difficulties – first, I had no key limes.  In fact, I nearly had no limes at all! I got the urge to make these on New Year’s Eve.  Apparently,  a lot of people buy limes on New Year’s Eve (vodka, remember?) and quantities were rather low at the grocery store.  So, I just used regular limes.  I didn’t alter the sugar quantity but you may want to if you’re not using key limes.  I like my citrus bars to be a little bit tart and with white chocolate in the base, I thought that would add enough extra sweetness for my palate.  You may feel differently

I also don’t understand why recipes for bars never seem to add citrus zest to the base.  It adds another dimension to so many great bar recipes.  I always add a little lemon zest.  So I made some changes there as well.

Coconut Key Lime Squares

Coconut Key Lime Squares
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A sweet and tart citrus square
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 25 bars
  • 6 tbsp cold, unsalted butter cut into small pieces
  • ¾ cup all purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt (rounded up if you like)
  • ½ cup shredded coconut, unsweetened. I used half toasted coconut and half plain coconut because it's what I had on hand
  • 3 ounces white chocolate coarsely chopped
  • 2 tsp grated lime zest
  • 3 large eggs at room temp
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp all purpose flour
  • ⅔ cup fresh Key lime or regular lime juice
  • 1 tsp grated lime zest
  • confectioner's sugar for dusting
  1. preheat oven to 400F
  1. line bottom of an 8x8 pan with parchment paper - overlapping the edges so you can use them as handles later to pull the bars out
  2. combine flour, brown sugar and salt in a large bowl
  3. add butter and combine with fingers until the mixture resembles small pebbles or peas
  4. add coconut, 2 tbsp of lime zest, and chocolate and work together with your hands until the mix it starting to hold together (you can do the above steps in a food processor but I don't have one and I actually prefer to use my hands for this)
  5. pour mixture evenly into the pan and pack down firmly with your hands until it's level and of even thickness
  6. bake until crust starts to turn a deep golden brown - about 18-20 minutes and remove from oven
  7. turn oven temp down to 300F
  1. while crust is baking whisk together eggs and granulate sugar in a bowl
  2. add flour and whisk further
  3. gently stir in lime juice - don't whisk or stir energetically or the mixture will foam up - you don't want that!
  4. pour the filling over the hot crust when it comes out of the oven
  5. return to oven and bake for approx 15 minutes or until the filling sets - sprinkle remaining lemon zest on the bars with about 5 minutes of cook time left - watch it doesn't burn!.
  6. remove from oven and let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack
  7. when cool, run a knife around the edges not covered by parchment paper. Use the parchment paper "handles" to pull the entire slab out of the pan and slice into 1 inch bars (or whatever size you like!)
  8. dust with confectioner's sugar if you wish (I left mine naked!)
  9. bars can be stored in an air tight container at room temp for 2 days, longer if kept in the fridge.

Food Photography Tips

Let’s talk food photography for a few minutes.  Here’s the thing… angles are good.  All different kinds of angles.  Don’t be afraid to try them.  It will mean that you need to move your dishes around, possibly climb furniture, adjust the leg height and ball lock on your tripod and a host of other things.  But this is how you learn.

Don’t get locked in to one kind of shot, in one part of your house.  Don’t shoot from the same point of view every time.  First of all, it’s boring.  Second of all, it doesn’t work for every dish.  Third, this is not how you become a photographer – you can’t learn about how light moves if you never move.  Imagine how the world would be if we never changed our perspective!

Right, sermon over.

I did shoot these all in the same spot but I moved around a lot, including climbing furniture!  I had exceptionally bright natural light to contend with that was very low in the sky, casting very long shadows.  Here’s an example:

Coconut Lime Squares in direct sunlight

Woah! Holy shadows batmen and batgirls! No amount of white board and reflectors was going to fix that!

Enter my trusty diffusor – it’s part of my Interfit 5 in 1 Reflector and I just propped it up on a chair in front of the window and carried on.  All the photos in this post (save the one directly above here) have the diffuser to the left and that’s it.  All the light is natural and from my window.  I probably could have done a longer exposure but I kind of like them like this so I left it.

To get a really great comparison, look at this image and then compare it with the other overhead shot further up the post – all that changed was adding the diffuser!

Now off you go… and remember… movement!


  1. Brooks says

    Hi Melissa, I dashed over from G+ for a closer look at these lovely Coconut and Key Lime Squares. You make a splendid point with the addition of zest to the base because depth of flavor, IMHO, is where it’s at. Enjoyed your photography tips too. I could put a diffuser to good use in my house and you’ve inspired me to incorporate movement!

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