Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Lemon Bars

When life hands you lemons you make . . .

. . . lemon bars of course!

Sorry for being so punny, blame it on the holiday weekend. Last week I saw the three pound bag of lemons on sale for $1.50 and instantly snatched up two thinking aloud, "yay! lemon bars!" Seriously, I saw the price of lemons creep up to $8 a bag this year. That's insane! After thoroughly embarrassing the kids in the produce aisle I tucked them away and nearly forgot about them. I hate when that happens.

Finally got around to making an obscene amount of lemon bars this week. I just love them but oddly enough I didn't grow up eating lemon bars. Growing up in Miami we had plenty of key lime pie but lemon bars in my dominican household were just not common. So don't be surprised that my go to recipe for another quintessential american dish is Cook's Illustrated. These people take type A perfectionism up a notch. I love that I end up with a great recipe and they're kind enough to let their readers know the process behind tweaking the recipe - both the good parts and the failures. They save me so much time.

So what can I say? Super tart, but slightly sweet puckery lemon curd filling on a crumbly, tender cookie crust. You can't go wrong. Well unless someone doesn't like lemons and then, well poor you. Yeah, the first time I made these about two years ago I served them excitedly to my crew of men. Mr. Maricucu said they were too lemony. Not good. The boys found them a bit too puckerish for their delicate tast buds that happily ingested pounds of play sand, licked car tires and bit matchbox cars. So I dutifully consumed the bars to be sure none were wasted.

This year I made them again thinking I'd have one amazing freezer stash of lemon bars to last me quite a while - at least until I found the lemons on sale again. Sorry to say that the children now adore them. Go figure.

Lemon Bars
adapted from Cook's Illustrated Perfect Lemon Bars

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter - slightly softened. I always use salted butter. I know, take away my foodie blogger card right now.

4 large eggs
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 teaspoon all purpose flour
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup whole milk
1/8 teaspoon table salt

In the pictures I'm making a double batch which fits on a half sheet pan. The original recipe listed above makes a 9x13x2" pan of bars.

First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease your pan. I added a sheet of parchment to the bottom or you can use foil. If you're using a rectangular pan for the original sized recipe you can lay strips of foil or parchment that overhang the sides of the pan to make lifting the bars out of the pan easier.

In a food processor add all the crust ingredients except for the butter and pulse to mix.

Then add the butter cut into chunks. Pulse for 10 seconds.

The mix will resemble a heavy powder and won't look like it will come together at all. That's fine.

With a flat bottomed measuring cup or a spoon, evenly spread out the crust ingredients. The original recipe has you chill the crust for 30 minutes now. I've never remembered so I don't do it now. Place the crust in the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes.

Now, this is where reading the recipe before doing something comes in handy. Thinking I had done this so many times I dumped all the filling ingredients in the mixing bowl. I got a few lumps I had to whiz in the food processor. The proper way to do it is to mix the flour, sugar and eggs first, then add the rest of the ingredients. Promise you'll do it right.

When the crust has baked for 20 minutes, slide out the oven rack and pour in the filling while the pan is still on the oven rack. This saves you from walking to the oven teetering a liquid filled pan.

Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake the lemon bars for another 20 minutes or until the filling is set.

The bars won't be very browned, just set. Let them cool completely before cutting.

See that beautiful shortbread crust? The smooth lemon curd? I know what you're thinking - where's the powdered sugar?

Well you don't want to sprinkle that on until right before serving or it sinks into the bar sort of melting. But once you do, move aside. Yum.

The first time I ever made a double batch of these bars, I froze the portioned surplus in order to avoid eating the whole pan. Well it turns out these are delicious straight out of the freezer. Who could have known?


Stacy said...

Yum, those look delicious!

Marielle said...

Glad you like them! It's nice to see you on my blog.

Lowell said...

We made these today. YUM!

Marielle said...

Glad you enjoyed them! Of course, now I have a craving . . .

Chula said...

just made these for the second time and just realized i forgot the salt , hope they still come out okay =/