Sunday, January 15, 2012

When life hands you lemons...make lemon bars!


I'm a little embarrassed to say, but yes, this is the second time this week that I have made lemon bars. However, the second time was more social in nature because I was able to teach my friend Jen, over at The Arizona Russums, a thing or two about baking :)

First of all, I grew up loving my Aunt Pam's lemon bars. Occasionally, she would bring them to family gatherings and I would always over-indulge. In fact, I'm pretty sure I've specifically requested them for parties/gatherings. Her lemon bars had the perfect ratio of shortbread crust to lemony goodness.

Recently, I tried Ina Garten's lemon bar recipe. I typically love anything that Ina makes, but her lemon bars fell short. The lemony goodness (I don't really know what else to call it...the topping?) was too thick and gooey, almost like the filling in a lemon jelly donut. So I went to one of my most visited cooking blogs, Smitten Kitchen for help and I was not disappointed. She too, had tried Ina's recipe and also wasn't a huge fan of the proportions. Lucky for me, she had posted her revisions which decreased the amount of topping to an almost 1:1 ratio. You can find the recipe over at her blog or down below with a few of my added tips.



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Lemon Bars
Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook
These are bold and tart lemon bars, ones I feel are best in smaller doses than Ina Garten suggests. I’ve made a few changes to the recipe–increased the salt in the crust, reduced the sugar in the lemon filling and an encouragement to grease your pan, as mine were all but cemented into their non-stick pan. For those of you who like the 1:1 crust to lemon layer ratio, use the second option (Smitten Kitchen alterations).

For the crust: 
1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
For the full-size lemon layer: 
6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (4 to 6 lemons)
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup flour
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
[Or] for a thinner lemon layer: (this is the topping that I prefer)
4 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (3 to 4 lemons)
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2/3 cup flour
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking sheet.
For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into the greased baking sheet (I greased the baking sheet and then lined with parchment paper to ensure sticking was not a problem), building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill.
Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.
For the lemon layer, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes (I baked the thinner topping for 20 min), or about five minutes beyond the point where the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature.
Cut into rectangles and dust with confectioners’ sugar.

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The stars of this dessert are the fresh California lemons...I have a few leftover, but think I'm going to freeze the juice to use at a later date :)

While Jen's lemon tree wasn't quite producing fruit, this orange tree was in full bloom!




1 comment:

Erin said...

I'm still so jealous..... So awesome to meet you and hang out today! :)

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