Frozen Watermelon Basil-Lime Bars

August 4, 2010 at 10:06 pm 53 comments

Frozen Watermelon Basil-Lime Bars

We don’t spend hours in the kitchen every evening.

Sometimes, I just pop a bowl of cold fried rice into the microwave for a quicker than quick dinner. On Tuesdays my mother and I steam broccoli, chop watermelon into chunks, sit down to watch Chopped and call it a night. I’ve even leaned against the fridge and eaten cold chicken salad straight out of the tupperware. Our kitchen is always stocked with enough leftovers to make us low-maintenance weeknight diners.

Weekends, though… That’s an entirely different matter. Sometimes the whole day revolves our food. My mother often wakes up before me to brush her bread with an egg glaze, and we juggle the oven so I can bake biscuits. She’s the queen of scrambled eggs and freshly squeezed juice, and I can press any berry into a special maple syrup.

My parents and I frequently head to the farmer’s market right after breakfast to shop for dinner, usually without a meal plan in mind. We pick whatever’s fresh and seasonal and bright, whatever inspires hunger even though we just ate. My family has been known to spend an afternoon rolling out pasta directly on our dinner table, marinating fish, picking through sun-warmed herbs. Then, we feast.

Frozen Watermelon Basil-Lime Bars

Don’t be fooled, though. There are plenty of awful mistakes, pain in the rear ingredients, and even the occasional temper. Our kitchen is what my dad likes to call a “two-butt work area.” The three of us barely fit inside it, and with the two dogs brushing against our ankles, it’s a very tight squeeze.

Usually, it’s chaotic frustration. As the sky darkens, my dad works from both the stove and the cutting board, on opposite ends of the kitchen. My mother can’t help but clean dishes in real time, sometimes whisking bowls off into the sink before we’re through with them. And me? I’m just trying to get to the oven, which is between the two of them. Add Tilly, who begs at your feet until you step on her, and Otis, who grunts whenever you drop a scrap – it’s an experience.

Yet once we carry plates to the table, settling down in our usual chairs, it’s calm. It’s relaxed. It’s all about passing plates and trying a bit of everything. It’s the subdued “Mmm!” at first bite. Cooking together is hectic, but it’s always worth it. There is something intangible about a meal created with your family… an hour of satisfaction, and a lifetime of memories.

Frozen Watermelon Basil-Lime Bars

Usually when I’m in the kitchen, I’m alone. Sometimes I’m even the only one in the entire house, especially now in the summer. I love baking in the serene calm of morning, with light streaming from the window above the sink and the French doors. It’s quiet, except for blue jays rustling in the backyard pines and the faint rhythm of my breath. It’s silent enough for me to sense the song of the kitchen in my ears and in my soul.

When I’m baking by myself, the kitchen is perfect for one person – spacious, even. I can’t help but feel that there’s no better way to spend life than alone with my thoughts and my Kitchen Aid. That is, until the weekend rolls around again. Then I’m weaving between my parents, half laughing and half exasperated, five minutes away from “dinner’s ready.” And at that moment, there’s no other place I’d rather be.

They’re opposite situations, and I like that. I like the contrast, and the fact that such distinct experiences can occur in the same room. The differences make each experience memorable and sweet, even if they don’t seem to complement each other at first glance.

Frozen Watermelon Basil-Lime Bars

I love juxtaposed differences, in life and in food. Sweet with salty, hot with cool, creamy with crunchy… Enter these watermelon bars, the perfect example of just that.

The bottom layer is the simplest watermelon sorbet, a snap to whirl together. It freezes somewhat hard and icy, but it’s utterly refreshing. The sorbet is spread with a basil-lime semifreddo, which is one of the most delicious things I’ve ever made. The semifreddo makes up for all the richness the sorbet lacks, whisked with sweetened condensed milk and lightened with whipped cream. It’s so thick and creamy, it should be illegal. The zing of lime and smooth, floral aroma of basil pair gorgeously with melon.

It could be a clash of flavors and textures, but I think they make a beautifully balanced combination. Together, they pack the epitome of summer in every melting bite.

Frozen Watermelon Basil-Lime Bars

Frozen Watermelon Basil-Lime Bars

I’d had these chilled bars in the back of my mind since I first saw them in Gourmet magazine two years ago. I finally froze a batch because I had a hunk of watermelon in the fridge and a bag of limes perfuming the counter. I threw in basil, my favorite herb, since it reminds me of everything summer.

My dad didn’t like the bars as much as I did, but only because he felt the two frozen desserts could be paired differently. He suggested multiple, thinner layers of sorbet and semifreddo, for a multi-layered bar or perhaps for a swirled scoop of ice cream. Both great potential variations on this dessert.

The flavors in the bars are very bold, especially the citrus. Don’t be afraid! If you know you’re not a fan, leave out the lime zest in the semifreddo. I liked everything as is.

Frozen Watermelon Basil-Lime Bars
Concept and Semifreddo layer adapted from Gourmet
Watermelon Sorbet layer a 17 and Baking original
Makes a 9”x9” pan

Watermelon Sorbet
1 1/2 pounds (24 oz) seedless watermelon, rinds removed
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier (or tequila, rum, etc) (optional)
Juice of a small lemon

Basil-Lime Semifreddo
One (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
Zest of a small lime
Juice of two small limes
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled

Line the bottom and sides of a 9”x9” pan with plastic wrap so that there is some overhang on all four sides. (I used aluminum foil, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It flaked later on when I cut the bars.) Place the lined pan in the freezer while making the watermelon sorbet.

To make the sorbet, blend the watermelon in a blender or food processor until smooth. Add the sugar, Grand Marnier, and lemon juice and blend until very smooth. Chill the mixture in the freezer for 30 minutes or until very cold, then churn in an ice cream maker. Spread the churned sorbet in the prepared pan and freeze at least 2 hours, or until the sorbet has hardened.

To make the semifreddo, heat the sweetened condensed milk with the basil in a small saucepan over medium heat until it steams. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. When cool, whisk in the zest and lime juice until smooth. In another bowl, whisk the whipping cream until it just reaches stiff peaks. Fold it into the sweetened condensed milk gently with a rubber spatula.

Smooth over the watermelon sorbet in the 9”x9” pan and freeze until solid, preferably overnight. I also recommend putting plates in the freezer at this point so when you’re ready to serve the bars, you can use chilled plates and the bars won’t melt as quickly.

When ready to serve, use the overhanging plastic wrap to lift out the bars. Cut into squares and serve on chilled plates.

Printer-Friendly Version – Frozen Watermelon Basil-Lime Bars

Entry filed under: Bars/Brownies, Frozen Desserts. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Announcing Sugar High Fridays – Browned Butter! Blackberry, Peach, and Ginger Crumble

53 Comments Add your own

  • 1. bittersweetbaker  |  August 4, 2010 at 11:55 pm

    I love it how you’re inventing your own desserts now, coming up with delicious sounding combinations. Your post reminded me that I have to try your basil ice cream, especially now because my mother bought a couple basil plants.

  • 2. Indigo  |  August 5, 2010 at 12:03 am

    This looks wonderful. Your blog is my favourite and it just keeps getting better!
    Is there anything I could swap for the condensed milk that’s non dairy?

  • 3. Pip  |  August 5, 2010 at 3:23 am

    Indigo – might coconut milk work?

  • 4. Stephanie  |  August 5, 2010 at 3:56 am

    I love the colours! Too bad I don’t have an ice cream maker… I would love frozen desserts in summer.

  • 5. The Blue-Eyed Bakers  |  August 5, 2010 at 6:28 am

    What a glorious summer dessert! And hello gorgeous! These almost look too lovely to eat…although I’m sure we’d find a way…!

  • 6. Tara  |  August 5, 2010 at 6:59 am

    This is a very unique combination that I’m sure is absolutely delicious!

  • 7. Eliana  |  August 5, 2010 at 7:25 am

    These flavors and textures sounds like music to my ears.

  • 8. Bonnie Riffle  |  August 5, 2010 at 9:12 am

    Wow! That is a very different kind of dessert! I am very intrigued! It looks so delicious!

  • 9. Jen  |  August 5, 2010 at 11:27 am

    I just wrote a post about a dessert I had at a restaurant that also had basil in it and I loved that it was unexpected. And memorable.

  • 10. Vanessa  |  August 5, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    This looks delish! And very refreshing. I may have to try it!

  • 11. Adriana from Baking Powders  |  August 5, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    sounds so refreshing and delicious! a great texture and taste combination!

  • 12. Kate  |  August 5, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Those bars look so delicious. I’m craving watermelon sorbet now.

  • 13. Sally  |  August 5, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    I’ve just bought an ice–cream maker, this soundes like a great way to justify its purchase…!

  • 14. Hailee  |  August 5, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    These look very good and refreshing! I’d love to try these some time. I love new, unique flavor combinations.

  • 15. Anh  |  August 5, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    This is so clever! I love the concept

  • 16. Aunt Lollie  |  August 5, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    These watermellon bars look delicious! I can’t wait to try them. All of your food look like pieces of art. I’m so happy i stumbled across your blog.

    Thank you!

  • 17. Susan @ SGCC  |  August 6, 2010 at 6:29 am

    This looks absolutely wonderful! Watermelon, basil and lime are such a lovely combination. I make salads with the same ingredients all the time. Very creative!

  • 18. Elizabeth  |  August 6, 2010 at 8:26 am

    This just looks like such a wonderful mouth experience, taste and texture-wise! Absolutely beautiful!!

  • 19. Carolyn Jung  |  August 6, 2010 at 8:35 am

    The perfect summer dessert. It makes me wish the season lasted all year long. ;)

  • 20. Liam O'Malley  |  August 6, 2010 at 9:15 am

    This looks beautiful. I’m going to try it this weekend, even though I don’t have an ice cream maker. Fingers crossed the sorbet texture will turn out okay with a good deal of hand-churning anyway.

  • 21. Carrie  |  August 6, 2010 at 9:22 am

    What a unique and interesting summer dessert. It’s gorgeous!

  • 22. Elissa  |  August 6, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    Indigo – I bet coconut milk or coconut cream would work! If you try it, I’d love to see how it turns out.

    Stephanie – You don’t need an ice cream maker for the semifreddo, and I think you could make the watermelon sorbet without one too. Just pour the sorbet into a metal pan and freeze for an hour or so. Keep coming back every few hours and scrape the top with a fork, breaking up all the ice. Keep doing this and you’ll end up with sort of an icy granita, You can whirl that in a food processor and make a smooth sorbet. Same advice to you, Liam! :)

  • 23. Kayla  |  August 6, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    “It’s silent enough for me to sense the song of the kitchen in my ears and in my soul.”

    I feel the same way!

    You are such an inspiring writer and photographer. Keep up the great work. I hope we still see a lot of you on your blog in college!

  • 24. Valérie  |  August 8, 2010 at 10:14 am

    I enjoyed reading your post very much. And this dessert has such summery flavours, so creatively combined!

  • 25. Dana  |  August 8, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    This sounds too good not to try! We’ve been going through watermelons so quickly here this summer, I’m sure this will be a hit at my house!

  • 26. Liam O'Malley  |  August 9, 2010 at 7:48 am

    Elissa – unfortunately I didn’t see the advice about the sorbet until after making this – but it wound up turning out great regardless. I did freeze it in a metal bowl and kept coming back to stir it up so it was basically like a granita, but never bothered with a food processor. When I laid it out in the pan I then let that freeze too, before adding the semi-freddo. So it worked out just fine but the texture probably just wasn’t quite as smooth as it could have been. Regardless – it was a hit at the housewarming I took it too =)

  • 27. Nikki  |  August 10, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    Sounds so refreshing!

  • 28. Indie.tea  |  August 10, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    I have the copy of Gourmet that this recipe was in…but yours looks even more beautiful than theirs did…the basil flecks add a beautiful touch of color, and flavor I’m sure. Delicious.

  • 29. Gabby  |  August 11, 2010 at 3:41 am

    I’m going to try it this weekend, even though I don’t have an ice cream maker. Fingers crossed the sorbet texture will turn out okay with a good deal of hand-churning anyway.

  • 30. A Teenage Gourmet  |  August 11, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    I made these too! I was wondering, did you happen to see them on my blog recently? I was featured on “Freshly Pressed” too. :)

    • 31. Elissa  |  August 11, 2010 at 4:39 pm

      Teenage Gourmet – No, unfortunately! I saw these bars in Gourmet two years ago and scribbled the recipe down. It’s been filed away in our office ever since until I dug it out this summer. But congratulations on the feature! I’m heading over now to check out your bars :)

  • 32. Katherine  |  August 11, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    Wow–I came for the watermelon bars but I can’t even get to the recipe before I’m stunned by your beautifully articulated post. Remind me to put my future kids in your school district! =)

  • 33. Frozen Watermelon Basil Lime Bars  |  August 12, 2010 at 4:36 am

    […] [Read more] […]

  • 34. katiecreations  |  August 14, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    I think the flavor combination is worth trying. I bet they are extremely refreshing. There is nothing like fresh basil, and, well, you can’t go wrong with watermelon. Especially when it comes to a frozen treat.

  • 35. jenny  |  August 15, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    I love your site. :)

    You have such wonderful writing – and combined with such great pictures; it makes your blog so fun to read! That’s why I really hope you keep this up during the school year… Good luck. :)

  • 36. vincent  |  August 16, 2010 at 12:01 pm


    We bumped into your blog and we really liked it – great recipes YUM YUM.
    We would like to add it to the

    We would be delighted if you could add your blog to Petitchef so that our users can, as us,
    enjoy your recipes.

    Petitchef is a french based Cooking recipes Portal. Several hundred Blogs are already members
    and benefit from their exposure on

    To add your site to the Petitchef family you can use or just go to and click on “Add your site”

    Best regards,


  • 37. rpanchal  |  August 21, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    I made these for a party, and while the reviews were mixed, I must say I loved them! The sorbet was soft and and very refreshing, and i personally enjoyed the creamy contrast of the semifreddo. A great palette cleanser.

  • 38. Rose  |  August 22, 2010 at 10:08 am

    Amazing blog! Elissa I love this site and this recipe in particular. I’m jealous. I’m just starting out and I hope to have a site as nice as yours. Even if I get no visitors, I just want to sustain my posts and more. I’m going to make this dessert very soon.

  • 39. Midnight Skinnydipping | A Rose Is A Rose  |  August 23, 2010 at 2:16 am

    […] Elissa’s Bernstein’s blog she had a recipe for watermelon basil lime bars and Geni’s and Zoie’s blog, Sweet […]

  • 40. Ingrid  |  August 29, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    What a great combination! Cant’ wait to try it!

  • 41. Frozen Watermelon Basil-Lime Bars « Tervislikud söögid  |  September 11, 2010 at 2:05 am

    […] Frozen Watermelon Basil-Lime Bars […]

  • 42.  |  November 19, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    I’m from Abingdon, Maryland! Big fan! Can’t wait to make the watermelon – basil lime bars. My husband and I grew melons this past summer and when I saw this recipe just after the season, I said honey…next summer we’re making this! I love your creations and you are such an inspiration! Keep ’em coming!

  • 43. izmir escort  |  December 22, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    I made these for a party, and while the reviews were mixed, I must say I loved them! The sorbet was soft and and very refreshing, and i personally enjoyed the creamy contrast of the semifreddo. A great palette cleanser.

  • 44. Isabel Kitchen  |  April 4, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    The fact that you can share your passion with the culinary arts with your family is amazing! These bars caught my eye just by reading the title and sure enough the pictures did not disappoint.

  • […] story. In a nut shell, I had three recipes swirling in my head that week from reading about Watermelon Basil-Lime Bars on 17 on Baking, Peaches With Honey Sabayon and Chamomile Granita on :pasty studio, and the ginger ice cream I had […]

  • […] Frozen Watermelon Basil-Lime Bars from 17 and Baking […]

  • […] 17 and Baking – Frozen Watermelon Basil-Lime Bars [Disclosure: This blog earns a few cents on items purchased through the links in posts.] Filed Under: Dessert, Featured Tagged With: gluten-free, ice cream, rhubarb, spring, strawberries, summer, vegetarian, yogurt […]

  • […] saying something like, “You know, I never would have thought in a million years, to put  basil, lime, semifreddo and watermelon sorbet  together in a bar; but come to think of it, it’s just the perfect […]

  • 49. how to get a larger booty in 1 week  |  February 23, 2014 at 5:27 am

    Very shortly this web site will be famous among all blog people, due to
    it’s good content

  • […] a frozen bar. These are great because you can add alcohol, or not. Whatever you prefer. Thanks to 17 and baking for the unique and refreshing recipe.Frozen Grand Marnier Watermelon Basil-Lime BarsWatermelon […]

  • 51. Watermelon inspiration | La Caccavella  |  July 28, 2014 at 7:36 am

    […] Watermelon lemonade by Pint sized bakery, 05. Watermelon Ice by Test and Tell, 06. Frozen bars by 17 and Backing, 07. Watermelon chips by Playing […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

Elissa Bernstein

I'm Elissa: a 17 (now 21) year old baker in Seattle Boston juggling creative nonfiction workshops, subway maps, and my passions for writing, baking, and photography. Photo above © Michelle Moore

Subscribe to 17 and Baking via RSS! Become a fan of 17 and Baking on Facebook! Follow @17andbaking on Twitter! Follow elissabernstein on Instagram! Email me at!

Leave Your Location


The Fine Print

Locations of visitors to this page

Site Meter

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Thank you for reading!

All text, photos, and logo
© 17 and Baking 2008 - 2013

%d bloggers like this: