Thursday, March 29, 2012

Lemon Bars

Everyone loves Lemon Bars. This is the classic version - flaky shortbread crust topped with a tangy-sweet baked lemon curd.  Finished with a generous dusting of powdered sugar, these Lemon Bars look good, taste good, and they are simple to make.

Here’s a kicked up fast dessert:  plate a refrigerated lemon bar along with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, drizzle a teaspoon of limoncello onto the ice cream, sprinkle all with powdered sugar and garnish with a couple of mint leaves.  Your dinner guests will think you’re the best!

Choose your lemons carefully. Most grocery stores sell Eureka or Lisbon lemons.  These lemons have the acid and brightness and give lemon bars their best results.  Meyer lemons, a cross between a lemon and orange, can be used in these bars; however, they don’t offer the same flavor contrast.  Some lemons have been left on the tree too long and have lost their lemony-ness.  When scrubbing the lemons, your nose should detect a strong lemony aroma.  If not, use other candidates.

Using a pastry cutter makes quick work when cutting the cold butter into crust’s the dry ingredients.

Pressed unbaked crust should be evenly packed.

Combine filling ingredients.

A citrus zester helps extract juice.

Pour filling over baked crust.

Gently peel foil from the sides of the lemon bars.

Lemon Bars

1 ½ cups unbleached flour
½ cup powdered sugar
½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick), cold

4 eggs, large and at room temperature
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
¼ cup unbleached flour
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking powder
2 lemons, juicy

Powdered sugar to sprinkle

Line a 13”x9” baking pan with foil with the foil ends extending about the short sides of the pan and spray bottom and sides with a non-stick coating.  Preheat oven to 325º F.

In a medium mixing bowl, make the crust.  Combine 1 ½ cups flour and ½ cup powdered sugar.  Cut the butter into small cubes and add to the dry ingredients and with a pastry cutter or 2 forks, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture looks like small crumbs.  Pour the crust ingredients into the prepared pan and with your hand, firmly press the crumbs to evenly form a crust.  Bake on the center rack for 20 minutes or until crust is lightly browned.

While the crust is baking, make filling.  In the same bowl used to make the crust, combine the eggs, granulated sugar, flour, salt and baking powder.  Wash and scrub the lemons with a brush or dedicated sponge and dry well.  Roll the lemons on the kitchen counter, depressing the lemon to loosen the juices inside.  Finely grate both lemons, juice the lemons and add to the other filling ingredients.  About a minute before the crust is finished, with a mixer over low speed, beat the filling together until well mixed.

When crust is ready, remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack.  Remix the filling and gently pour over crust to cover entire surface.  Carefully return the lemon bars to the oven and bake for another 20-25 minutes or until filling is set (doesn’t jiggle when pan is shaken).  When bar are done, remove from oven and cool completely on a cooling rack. 

When completely cool, dust the top of the bars with sifted powdered sugar.  Grab the short ends of the foil to remove bars from pan and put onto a large cutting board.  Carefully flatten foil from sides.  Use a long sharp thin knife (such as an all-purpose) to cut the bars, cleaning knife after each cut if necessary.

Store in a tightly covered container between sheets of wax paper for up to three days.  Makes 24 bars.

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