Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Lemon Bars

Finally, I'm claiming victorious over lemon.  I officially win the battle with these bars, which are amazing.  Never having made lemon bars, I wasn't sure how these would turn out, but I was determined.  And I so won.  These were delicious.  Tart and tangy without being overly sweet or sour.  The crust was the perfect base for the soft lemon curd.

I made these for a Memorial Day cook-out/birthday baking for a friend.  Everyone loved them, and the birthday recipient even texted me the next day all excited because she forgot she had them in the fridge, so it was a surprise when she found them.  The recipe comes from the Brown Eyed Baker, who I must say I am enjoying.  She really does a good job finding recipes, explaining them and putting together fun flavors.  I didn't do anything different to these. (Unless you count forgetting to sprinkle extra powdered sugar on the top for decoration.  No one noticed.)  Although, I will admit that my conquering of the lemon may be because although I followed directions to zest 2 large lemons, it resulted in slightly more than 2 teaspoons of zest.

Lemon Bars

1 3/4 cups flour
2/3 cup powdered sugar (plus more for decorating)
1/4 cup corn starch
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, at cool room temperature (not totally soft), cut into 1 inch pieces
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/3 cups sugar
3 Tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (from about 2 large lemons)
1/3 cup milk
pinch of salt

In a food processor, pulse 1 3/4 cups flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch and 3/4 teaspoon salt.  Add the butter and process for 8-10 seconds, then pulse until mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse meal, about three 1-second pulses.  (No food processor?  Mix the dry ingredients by hand, then using frozen butter, grate the butter into the flour mixture and toss to coat.  Rub the pieces between your fingers when tossing until mixture is pale yellow and coarse.)

Prepare a 9 x 13 inch baking pan by lining with parchment paper and dotting with butter or spraying with cooking spray.  You may want to do one sheet of parchment longways and then another perpendicular.

Sprinkle mixture into lined pan and use fingers to press into the pan in an even layer on the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of the pan.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Remove from refrigerator and bake in an oven preheated to 350 degrees F (center rack) for 20 minutes.

While crust is baking, whisk together eggs, sugar, and remaining flour in a medium bowl. 

Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice, milk, and pinch of salt to blend well.

Note #1: I swear I only zested the two pictured lemons.  Yet somehow instead of ending up with 2 teaspoons, I had somewhere around a 1/2 cup of lemon zest.  Having the failure of past lemony desserts looming in my mind, I went with it.

Note #2: I thought the fresh juice from two lemons would be enough, but it only amounted to about 1/2 cup of juice.  So I topped it off with the bottled lemon juice.

Remove crust from oven and reduce temperature to 325 degrees F.

Stir the lemon filling to reblend and pour into warm crust.  Bake until the filling feels firm when touched lightly, about 20 minutes.

Transfer pan to wire rack and cool to room temperature, at least 30 minutes.  Use parchment paper to transfer to a cutting board and cut into bars.  Sift powdered sugar over cut bars if desired.

Bars can be stored in plastic wrap or a sealed container for up to 2 days.

Note #3: Best results come from the filling poured into a warm crust, so start the filling just before you put the crust in the oven.  It won't take the whole 20 minutes to prepare the filling, but in case you run into zesting or juicing problems, you may be safe.

Makes 24 bars.

Happy Baking,
The Cookie Princess

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