Luscious Lemon Bars

Tuesday, December 29



These tiny bursts of sunshine were one of the first recipes I placed on my blog and I thought it would be nice to revisit them again as the new year approaches. These also deserve some better photos since my first attempt involved a flash and what would appear to be a dark, dungeon that never saw the light of day (my kitchen is dark, but not that dark).

What makes these so spectacular is the large amount of lemon juice. It's enough to satisfy my craving for tart, borderline sour, citrus desserts. The few times I actually buy lemon bars are always a huge disappointment and a lesson which I will never learn. I fall for the bait all the time when they claim to be 'tart', yet 99% of them are far too sweet with only a hint of puckery lemon. After I found this recipe, I don't think I will ever have to look around for another.



As if I need to make a stronger case for these, I will share the potentially disastrous error which occurred during the process of making the curd. Just know that the lemon survived despite my stupidity. Everything was coming along smoothly. The crust was baked, the lemon curd was cooked to perfection and all I had to do was add some almond extract. Of course I should have had the extract bottle pulled out and nearby but it was sitting patiently in the cupboard, along with it's extract friends, vanilla, maple...and peppermint. My hand went for the latter. When I use extracts I seldom measure them since I can usually tell how much a teaspoon is, so I poured, then smelled, then panicked and inadvertently poured even more! I can't repeat the expletives which flew out of my mouth. After a moment of terror, I calmed myself down and cleared my head. Very carefully I scooped out the tainted layer of curd, trying not to push the mint in even further. Despite the fact that some of it seeped in, the bars were still amazingly lemony. The tartness stood up to the brazen peppermint and showed him what's what. I don't think anyone can deny that this is one powerful lemon bar. And they are a lovely bright dessert to ring in 2010!



Luscious Lemon Bars
(recipe found on FineCooking)

* printer friendly Recipe *

Shortbread Ingredients:

8 Tbs (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
2 Tbs. granulated sugar
1 Tbs. confectioners' sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cake flour
1/4 tsp. baking Powder
1/4 tsp. salt

Lemon curd Ingredients:

1 cup fresh lemon juice (from 4 to 6 lemons)
2 oz. (4 Tbs.) unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces
2 Tbs. heavy cream
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. almond extract

Method:
To make the shortbread
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and both sugars with a hand-held mixer on medium speed (or mix by hand with a wooden spoon) until light and fluffy, about 5 min. Beat in the vanilla until thoroughly combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl.

In a medium bowl, sift together both flours, the baking powder, and the salt. With the mixer on low speed, slowly blend the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, scraping down the sides, until the flour is completely blended and the dough is homogenous.

Scrape the dough from the bowl onto a sheet of plastic. Wrap well and press down to form a 1/2-inch-thick square. Refrigerate the dough until it's firm but still pliable, about 20 min. Heat the oven to 350°F. Prepare two sheets of parchment or waxed paper, each at least 11x11 inches. If using waxed paper, grease an 8x8-inch metal or glass baking pan with butter.

When the dough is firm, unwrap it and put it between the sheets of parchment or paper. Roll the dough to an approximate square, slightly larger than 8x8 inches and about 1/4 inch thick. Remove the top sheet of parchment or paper, trim the dough with a dull knife to an 8x8-inch square, and, if using parchment, put it and the dough into an 8x8-inch baking pan. If using waxed paper, flip the dough into the greased pan and peel off the paper. Press the dough into the bottom of the pan, letting the excess parchment come up the sides (trim it to about 1 inch above the rim). The dough should be an even thickness all around but it needn't be perfectly smooth. Bake until the shortbread is light golden on top, 25 to 30 min.; in a glass pan, look for a golden brown color on the bottom. Remove the pan from the oven, but keep the heat set to 350°F as you make the lemon curd.

To make the lemon curd
In a medium saucepan, heat the lemon juice, butter, and cream to just under a boil; the butter should be melted. Remove from the heat.

In a medium bowl, whisk together by hand the sugar, eggs, and yolks until combined. Whisk in a bit of the hot liquid and then gradually whisk in a bit more until it's all added. This technique, called tempering, heats the eggs slowly and gently so they don't curdle.

Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and heat on medium, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom and sides of the pan to keep the eggs from scrambling. Cook until the lemon curd coats the spoon thickly enough to leave a line when you draw your finger through, 5 to 8 min. Remove from the heat and strain through a fine sieve. Stir in the salt and vanilla.

To finish
Pour the curd over the baked shortbread and smooth it evenly with a spatula, if needed. Bake until the curd has set and jiggles like firm jello, 15 to 20 min. Let cool to room temperature. Gently tug on the parchment on all sides to loosen the bars from the pan. Lift them out and onto a cutting board and refrigerate until the curd has completely set, at least 4 hours.

6 comments:

  1. You are sooo right about store bought lemon bars, it's almost false advertising. I fell into that trap a time or two myself.
    Your recipe made me smile because I've been twiddling myself and I use a full cup of lemon juice as well. But, call me insane, no butter, no almond extract but 2-3 Tbsp of finely grated lemon rind which I process with some sugar so that it blends in better. I love the bite. My husband thought I was nuts but everyone loves them.

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  2. Oh, How I love a good lemon bar!

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  3. Lemon bars are one of those things I keep promising to make and haven't. Yours look nice and thick, and tart you say? All righty. This is the one I'm going to try. Just need to get back on savory ground for a while before I tackle a dessert again. I want to be able to enjoy every molecule of lemon flavor.

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  4. Luscious is right! Those look so tasty and perfect. For some inexplicable reason, my husband and kids don't appreciate lemony treats, thus I have never made these. One of these days though . . .

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  5. Jane: Make these for yourself but don't be surprised when they get stolen. Also lemon bars freeze really well; of course, that's never stopped a lemon bar deprived woman of a frozen treat, erm.

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  6. You're a funny writer! This is the first time I've been to your blog, and I enjoyed, "...sitting patiently in the cupboard, along with its extract friends...."!

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Thanks for visiting, and for taking the time to read through my ramblings!
If you have a recipe comment or question, I'd love to hear from you.

Happy Baking!
♥ Valerie

 

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