Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Key Lime Coolers and a Tart Taste Test with Cleo Coyle

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I have a thing for alliteration. No surprise, right? My pen name is Cleo Coyle, and my amateur sleuth-cum-coffeehouse manager is Clare Cosi. So, of course, I’m going to like the sound of Key Lime Coolers...

But guess what?

You don’t have to use Key limes to make these delectable, sweet-tart meltaway cookies. You can bake up this recipe with your standard (American) grocery store limes (aka Persian limes).

Cleo Coyle, alliterating
author of The Coffeehouse
For those of you in the USA, this may beg the question: What's the difference between Key limes and the "everyday" limes I usually buy?

Well, I'll tell you... 

Key limes are smaller, rounder, more aromatic, and have a thinner rind than our more common Persian limes. They're picked green and turn yellowish as they ripen.

The name Key lime comes from the fruit’s association with the Florida Keys, but today most Key limes are cultivated in Mexico. Around the world this variety is more commonly known by other names: the West Indian lime, the Omani lime, the Mexican lime, and the Bartender’s lime. 

What about the taste difference? Is there one?

There should be in theory. The larger, Persian limes were created in 1895 by a California man named Bearss who wanted to develop a seedless lime that was milder than the Key lime, but I never actually sampled them back-to-back. For this blog post, I decided to give it a try.

My husband, Marc, helped me set up a blind taste test with: (1) freshly-squeezed Persian lime juice; (2) bottled Key lime juice; and (3) freshly-squeezed Key lime juice.

How did I do?

I guessed every one correctly --and not because I'm ready to take on Gordon Ramsay. :) I simply knew Key limes were supposed to be more acidic than Persians. I expected the Key lime juice to be more tart and intense. And it was.

The difference was not subtle. The Persian lime juice (1) smelled and tasted almost sweet. I could easily sip the juice without...well, gagging.

On the other hand, the freshly-squeezed Key lime juice (3) was so acidic that I had a hard time sampling it straight. Clearly, the Key limes bring a much bigger punch to any flavoring party.

The bottled Key lime juice (2) was easy to identify, as well, but not for a good reason. Like most bottled juices, it tasted more sour than bright. In the past, for convenience, I have used bottled juices, but after this taste test, I’m going to try harder to use fresh-squeezed whenever possible. When you sample them back-to-back, there really is no comparison.

As for the recipe I'm sharing with you today, I made batches of these cookies using each type of juice tested above, and all three worked just fine. Key limes will give you a more intense lime flavor, but Persian limes work, too. The only advice I can give you is to use fresh-squeezed juice if you can. You’ll get much better flavor that way, and you know I always want you to eat with joy. :) 

~ Cleo

Cleo Coyle’s
Key Lime Coolers

To download a free PDF of this recipe that you can print, save, or share, click here

Makes about 2 dozen cookies


1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar 
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon Key lime zest* (see my note)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 Tablespoon Key lime juice* (see my note)

For sugar-dusting:

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons Key lime zest* (see my note)

*Note: As mentioned above, if you can’t find Key limes, simply substitute the more common (Persian) limes for this recipe. The tart flavor will be less intense, but the cookies will still taste delicious.

Warning: Lime juice may curdle your butter so follow this recipe's directions. Do not add the lime juice to the dough until the end of the mixing process.

Directions: First preheat your oven to 325° F. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Blend in the vanilla extract, salt, and lime zest.

Add the flour and baking powder, and mix very briefly until a shaggy dough forms.

Now add your lime juice and mix until a smooth dough comes together, but do not over-mix or your cookies will be tough instead of tender.

Roll the dough into balls about one inch in diameter.

Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. cookies are done when bottoms are slightly browned. Note that cookies are fragile while warm, so handle with care.

To finish, mix ½ cup confectioners’ sugar with 2 teaspoons lime zest in a shallow bowl. While cookies are still warm, gently roll them, one at a time, in the bowl of sugar and lime zest.

After all the cookies are coated, finish by sprinkling any remaining sugar-lime mixture over the cookie tops.

Store cooled cookies in an airtight plastic container. They also freeze extremely well. I store my extras in freezer-safe re-sealable plastic bags. On a hot day, these babies truly do live up to their “cooler” name. So…

Eat (and read) with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Yes, this is me, Cleo (aka Alice). 
Friend me on facebook here.
Follow me on twitter here
Visit my online coffeehouse here.

To view the
Coffeehouse Mystery
book trailer, click here.

* * * 

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This culinary mystery
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* Dairy-Free "Cinderella" Pumpkin Cake
* Dairy-Free Almond Milk Custard
* Caramel-Dipped Meltaway Cookies 
* Black Forest Brownies 
* Cappuccino Blondies 
* Shrimp Kiev
* Dr Pepper Glazed Chicken
* Silver Dollar Chocolate Chip Cookies
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* Snow White Chocolate Mocha

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See Once Upon a Grind's 
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Comments and

To leave a comment or 
question for Cleo, click here
and visit the
Coffee Talk Message Board 
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* * *

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  1. Love the "shaggy dough." And how did we survive without Microplane graters? I swear I read a column somewhere that said it was one of those inventions that changed the world (just a slight exaggeration?).

    Our grocery store stocks Key limes, and I have a Mexican squeezer that's exactly the right size for them.


  2. Fresh squeezed sounds like a must! You know, in my *head* a lime was a lime...so glad I read your post! This reminds me a little of some soft cookies I ate when I was little that my mother made. They were SO GOOD! And these look amazing.

  3. This is a truly mouthwatering recipe - I can taste these cookies from here! These are some I can definitely eat with joy. What wonderful summertime treats!

    Cleo, your posts are always read with joy - the photos, the background, the recipes, your comments. Thank you!

  4. Cleo, what an interesting taste test. Thanks for doing it for us so we don't have to. LOL. And the cookies are amazing looking. Love the photo with the limes in the mix. Nice.

    Congrats to all our June releases! Doing well, ladies. You're giving readers what they need for the summer.

    Best to all,

    Avery AveryAames.com

  5. Cleo, I always learn something from your posts and always save the recipes!

    Thanks for an informative new take on cookies and limes. I can taste them!

  6. What a perfect summer cookie recipe. I can't wait to invite friends out to the patio and serve a pretty plate of these. Wonderful lesson on limes, Cleo. I had no idea the limes I usually use are Persian. And I have to add, I completely agree about the bottled lime (and lemon, for that matter) juice. I never buy it anymore. There's such a huge difference between that and fresh!

  7. Cleo, this sounds like a wonderful cookie recipe for this summer heat we're having.

    Thoughts in Progress
    Freelance Editing By Mason

  8. What fun! I love your taste test, Cleo. How did your husband do? I'm often amused and sometimes in awe when they have taste tests on the cooking shows.

    We should do a MLK taste off sometime when a bunch of us are together!

    ~ Krista

  9. Cleo lovely cookies , the sugar lime coat makes it more delectable!

  10. Last year when I went to the Keys I found these everywhere, boy was I surprised by the buttery melt in you mouth flavors, I love lime. Thanks for sharing this recipe I havent had them since and cant wait to try these little gems!

  11. I have already bookmarked this recipe-perfect summer treat! Also this post was very informative concerning the limes-Thanks for sharing-buzz!

  12. These look so yummy. I imagine them being the perfect flavor on a nice summer day!

  13. Thanks to everyone for leaving such wonderful comments. These cookies really are delicious. Lately, I'm enjoying them right out of the freezer. They absolutely live up to their "coolers" name!

    ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  14. Let me tell you: I'm very picky choosing cookies as it's not my fav dessert. But when I see ones looking like yours, I simply cannot resist.
    PS: I also sometimes eat limes and lemons. (As you would eat an orange.) So you are making me truly happy with this recipe and this extra little knowledge! Thanks!

  15. I simply adore these cookie Cleo! Thank you for setting the bar straight on the limes. I teally had no idea about the difference in acidity. I am looking forward to making these little gems!!

  16. Reply to --

    @Claudie - Thank you for the very kind comment. I'm very glad to know my cookies hit just the right culinary note for your taste buds!

    I'm also amazed that you'll eat lemons and limes as most people eat oranges. Although, I must say, the Persian limes I've been buying lately have been big, fat, juicy and sweet -- good enough to eat straight. I just may try it, too... :)

    Cheers and thank you for stopping by our Kitchen,

    ~ Cleo

  17. Reply to --

    @Lo-mo/Lori - I hope you enjoy them (in your Little Kitchen on the Prairie!) as much as I have. On the taste test...

    You know, I did expect to taste a difference in the limes, but I thought it would be much more subtle. The difference was huge, and I'm glad I did this. I see more blind taste tests in my future!

    Eat with joy,
    ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  18. Glad you've got the zest! love limes and love these.

  19. I am a fan of the commercial lemon cooler cookies, but to make my own lime ones- this sounds like a definite summer project with my girls!

  20. Cleo-I have been so busy, but I wanted to tell you that I used this cookie recipe for my monthly baked donations to the Wounded Warriors at Ft Hood TX-and they loved them. Those 6 dozen went quickly! Thanks for a great recipe

  21. I finally got a chance to make these delicious cookies. My one complaint - the recipe doesn't make enough! Next time I triple it so there's enough to serve and some to freeze for later. In the interest of those who don't use parchment paper - I baked on an ungreased cookie sheet and they came out perfect! Thanks Cleo for a great recipe!

  22. This looks and sounds like a great recipe. My girls are the bakers in this house, so I'm going to suggest they use this recipe. We love the taste of Key lime pie, so these cookies will be an interesting addition to our Key lime addiction. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  23. I have a similar recipe but I don't dip them in powdered sugar, I will definitely try that next time, thanks!

  24. I'm making these now for my Christmas cookie platter; I rolled them in powder sugar before baking since it seemed easier and I'm kinda lazy... I dusted with more powder sugar while they cooled and then I'm placing in the freezer until I serve them for Christmas. I will add this makes a little batch. Maybe I rolled larger but I doubled and still got 2 1/2 dozen so I'd triple next time... I'm so excited for these; Happy Holdays! :)