Lemon BarsPosted: 6 May 2011
I recently fell in love. With a blogger. Her name is Andrea. I adore her. I want her to be my best friend. She is hilarious and silly and I love all of those things. She also loves to bake and has recipes that aren’t just funky and interesting, but some really fabulous basics. I recently read every single one of her blog posts which is maybe not as taxing a chore as reading every Pioneer Woman post, but still, it took me a good week to get through everything. In my week of reading, I found a few gems that I flagged for later trial and consumption. I often need a reason to bake, otherwise I’d bake us out of house and home and Senor and I would eat nothing but desserts. Luckily, Easter is the perfect reason to bake. No traditional desserts means it’s the perfect holiday to make whatever the heck you want.
I took a poll which is to say, asked my sisters what they wanted. I knew that I had two pies in mind. One, a banana cream I made for purely selfish reasons. I wanted to eat it. The other, a chocolate pecan that I made first at Thanksgiving but which had come out with a burnt crust. I was determined to get it right this time. Pies are delicious and fun to make, but they are very much an ‘after-dinner’ sort of dessert. When my sister pipped up and said, “lemon bars please!” I realized I could make Easter a two-part dessert event. Lemon bars and cupcakes for pre-dinner, egg-hunt snacking; pies for after dinner consumption. The idea was well met.
Since I already had the pie recipes figured out, I turned to Andrea’s blog for her lemon bars and a fun twist on cupcakes. The cupcake post is on it’s way, so don’t fret. They were delicious and I think, the hit of the desserts overall. They did not include any faux ‘bird nests’ with ‘candy eggs’ on top. Does anyone else find that phenom super annoying? I think I saw 4.2523 million pictures of cupcakes topped with coconut ‘nests’ and holding little candy eggs. Still, the cupcakes took a lot of time and effort to make. I think I have figured out a way to streamline the process, but these aren’t something you would want to whip up when you realize guests are on their way over. The lemon bars…the lemon bars are the perfect, simple, gorgeous kind of dessert that are easy to make and come out perfectly with very little work on your part. I baked the cupcakes, bars and both pies on the Saturday before Easter and because of my frantic day-long endeavor, left my camera out of the mix.
I made a very few alterations to Andrea’s recipe. Her’s is adapted from an issue of Family Circle magazine circa 1996. Just more proof that sometimes the best recipes aren’t the crazy embellished ones. Every once and a while a basic combination of butter, sugar and eggs is all you need.
Adapted from Can You Stay For Dinner’s Recipe
1 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
2 cups unbleached flour
Turn your oven on to 350º. Line a 13×9 inch pan with aluminum foil, and coat completely with cooking spray or grease with Crisco/lard. This will keep the sticky, gooey bars from sticking and makes them a snap to remove.
Mix together your crust using a hand or stand mixer. Blend together the butter, sugar and salt until it’s soft and creamy. Stir in the flour by hand or on low.
Press the crust dough evenly into the pan and smooth so that all sides are level. Bake for 20 minutes.
2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup unbleached flour
8 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
Extra powdered sugar for dusting
While the crust bakes, whip up the lemon filling.
Using a clean bowl, beat the sugar, flour eggs and lemon juice and zest until smooth. It’s best to use fresh lemon juice for these, although the plastic squirt kind should also work.
A few things to keep in mind, pastured eggs which are naturally darker in the yolk than conventional eggs will give your lemon filling a much brighter color. This means your filling will be brighter and more lemon-y. I love the result I got with our eggs from Blue Gentian Farm. Such a bright color! Also, these bars and nice and tart, so use powdered sugar for dusting to suit your own tastes. I used more powdered sugar to keep them sweet but if you’re looking for a lighter, more tart dessert, a fine dusting will do.
Pour the filling over your pre-baked crust. Tap the pan lightly on the counter to make sure there are no air bubbles and to evenly distribute the filling.
Bake for 25 minutes. Remove the bars and let cool in the pan for 30 minutes. Remove the bars from the pan by lifting them out by grasping both sides of the foil liner. Let stand until completely cooled before cutting.
Dust with powdered sugar before serving.