August 6, 2011

Very Easy Lemon Bars

In the last week I have made several eating missteps. The first came on Monday when I left two jars of peanut butter in my very hot car while I was at work. When I got back, one of the jars had come very close to exploding: the plastic bottom swelled outwards, and i could actually see some peanut oil starting to seep through the label. I was disturbed, but decided the peanut butter had probably just boiled. (It is REALLY hot in DC.) I didn't want to waste good pb, so I opened it and tasted it. It was a little funny, but I set it aside to try again later. The next day at work, I told my colleagues about what had happened. They all immediately leaped to a conclusion that hadn't even crossed my mind: contamination, and more specifically, botulism. Miraculously, I don't seem to have suffered any ill effects. Still, it was worrying. Then, two nights ago, exhausted, I pulled the broccoli I was microwaving out of the oven, only to discover that along with the broccoli, I had microwaved a rubber band. I ate it anyway. It tasted a little rubbery, but you know, I really wanted the broccoli.

All of this is not to scare you off trusting my baking advice or even my baked goods. (I swear, I am willing to take far greater risks when I am the only one eating!) It is, however, to explain why I am not making the David Lebovitz whole lemon bars to use up the leftover lemons from my cake. I love David Lebovitz, and when I read this recipe on his blog, I was determined to try it. Unfortunately, I am not sure that the lemons I bought are organic as he advises, and I didn't think I should risk putting any more strange chemicals in my body quite yet.

Luckily, this week also featured an eating right-step; a friend at work gave me a lemon bar his wife had made, and it was delicious! It turned out she used a recipe from a cookbook I had gotten for Christmas, but not yet made anything from: Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy, Melt-in-your-mouth Cookies By Alice Medrich. I am ashamed to admit I haven't heard of her, but the book is full of what look like delicious cookie ideas. I decided I'd use her recipe as my base. And I was pleasantly surprised to see how easy it was. No kitchen aid required! In fact, only one bowl is needed and you can mix everything up in about ten minutes. I did make some changes, though. I doubled it. (You can never have enough!) I also upped the sugar a little in the crust, since she herself admits her bars are very tangy, and I wanted a really sweet crust to play off that. I upped the vanilla too, because I don't think anything can ever be quite vanilla-y enough. As for the lemon topping: the changes I made to that were less intentional. I realized that I didn't have quite enough lemons to get three tablespoons, so I just used two. (And yes, as I was zesting, I did realize that if there were any icky chemicals on my lemons, they were in the rind, which I was now blithely putting in my bars despite all my intentions. Oh well, I guess this will all help me develop an iron constitution...) I didn't have enough fresh juice either, so I just supplemented with some reconstituted lemon juice I had in my fridge. Fine in a pinch, but I don't recommend you emulate me. Instead, just buy about 6-8 lemons. And make them organic.

The result: Delicious! The topping tastes like a delicious lemon meringue pie, and I think it goes very well with the shortbread. The texture is lovely too: the topping is like a cross between custard and lemon curd. My only complaint is that they were a little TOO good. I ate quite a few and then felt very ill: the lemon can get really overwhelming. I recommend having plenty of hungry friends around before you make this.

- Madison

Sweetness Factor: 5; Indulgence Factor: 5; Difficulty Factor:2; Chance We'd Make It Again: 7.

For the crust:
14 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
6 tbsp sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups flour

For the lemon part:
2 cups + 3 tbsp sugar
6 tbs flour
6 large eggs
1 cup lemon juice
2tbs lemon zest (or more)

To make: Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9*13 inch pan with foil, and lightly grease. Then mix all of the ingredients for the crust in a bowl, mixing just until you don't see any more flour. Press this dough into the bottom of the pan. (It helps if you divide the dough in four and put a blob in each of the four quadrants of the pan, then just press that out with your fingers). Put the pan in the oven, and bake for about 25 minutes, until light golden. (Watch the edges to be sure they don't burn!)

While your shortbread base is cooking, mix up the lemon filling. Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. (I told you this was REALLY easy.) When the shortbread is done cooking, turn the oven down to 300. Pull it out and pour the lemon mixture on top. Put it back in the oven to cook for about 25-35 minutes, until the topping is just set. (If you jiggle pan a little the lemon should just jiggle a tiny bit in response.)

Take out of the oven, and let cool completely on a rack before you take the bars out of the pan. Once they are cool, lift out the foil, cut up the bars, and serve. (If you want, you can dust with a little powdered sugar right before you serve, as I think most of us expect a lemon bar to have that lovely little bit of white on top.) And yes, as you may be able to tell from my pictures: I always taste when it comes right out of the oven. (I know its wrong, but I have no self control). And, I use my ironing board as a cooling table. (I have a small apartment, and I know it can take the heat.)

1 comment:

  1. I love lemon squares--haven't made them in ages, they are very addictive. I tried to make them in Spain once and it did not go well as I didn't understand unit conversion. (I was like the fairies in Sleeping Beauty thinking; "oh this must be a cup!")

    Um, buy some more peanut butter? And, we once accidentally put a rubber band in a soup when I was growing up. Much like an herb or spice, it lent a characteristic flavor to the dish, and unsurprisingly, not a very tasty one.