Friday, April 16, 2010

Lemon bars



I am a huge fan of lemon bars, so much so that I can only make them if I have an opportunity to give them away. Otherwise I am entirely capable of eating an entire pan by myself. So when a friend came to visit last week I was pretty excited when she said that she liked lemon bars.

I always use this recipe, with (of course) modifications. Because, seriously? Two full cups of sugar in the lemon layer? I don't think so.

Recipe:
Preheat oven to 325F

Line a 9x13" pan in aluminum foil, then spray foil with pam (you can skip the foil if you really want to, but it makes removing the cookies later a heck of a lot easier).

In a blender, food processor or with a pastry cutter, blend:

1 C (two sticks) butter
2 C white flour
1/2 C confectioner's sugar (aka 10x sugar or powdered sugar. Normal sugar really won't work.)

This works best if the butter is cold; taking it straight out of the fridge works best. While I have used my stand mixer for this step, the texture is better if the dough isn't really blended together. You're looking for something that appears to be crumbs, rather than a smooth dough:



Dump the dough into the pan, spread it out as evenly as possible, and press down firmly. You want it to be about even thickness across the pan, but since it's going to be covered up by lemony goodness it doesn't have to be beautiful:



Stick this in the oven for 18-20 minutes, or until it is just *barely* beginning to turn a little bit brown at the edges.

While the crust is baking, blend the following until completely mixed:

1 1/2 C sugar
1/4 C flour
4 eggs (not egg replacer)
1/3 C lemon juice (about what you get from one large lemon. I sometimes add in a little extra since I have lemon juice in my fridge at all times
~1 tbsp lemon zest (about what you get from one large lemon).

Notes:

1. If you mix the sugar and flour together before adding anything else you're less likely to get clumps of flour in the batter.
2. I use a microplane zester to zest the lemon. Basically you grate off all of the yellow part of the lemon skin, leaving the white part underneath untouched. The best way to deal with the lemon is to do this first, then cut the lemon in two and squeeze the juice out.

Once this is completely blended, pour it over the prepared crust. It's ok if the crust hasn't totally cooled.



Bake for 20 more minutes, or until the lemon mixture is set. Again, you should only see the faintest of browning on the top of the bars when you take it out. If you leave it in too long the bars are kind of dry and have a funny texture. Here's how it should look when you pull it out of the oven:



Add lots of powdered sugar with a sifter (I've also used a tea ball for this. Open the tea ball, spoon in some powdered sugar, close the tea ball, then shake it over the cookies. This works really well, actually).

Finished cookies:


Wait until the bars are completely cooled before cutting, or you will make a mess. As a side note for those allergic to milk: I have personally made these using Earth Balance sticks instead of butter and it works just fine.

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