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lemon bars

September 30, 2010

As a general rule, I don’t really understand desserts that don’t include chocolate. If I’m going to go through all the effort of beating and creaming and folding, there may as well be some chocolate in there, right?

However, I understand that not everybody is quite as stereotypically female as I am. So in addition to the two variations of chocolate-plus-chocolate-with-chocolate-on-the-side cookies I made for the engagement party, I baked up a batch of these, too.

It’s pretty simple, actually—probably didn’t even take me as long to make these as it did to roll up those cake balls. True, there’s some wait time involved with the freezing and pre-baking of the crust, but it’s not too bad, and everything else comes together really simply.

And for a dessert that doesn’t involve chocolate, or even a kind of fruit that I really like, they’re pretty good. Despite the fact that some massive canyons of cracks formed in the top after cooling, I was able to cut the bars small enough so that you couldn’t really tell.

And man! These things are lemony! I may or may not have had one for breakfast on the morning of the party, and my throat was burning for a while afterwards. But I’m generally a wimp when it comes to those things, so if you’re into lemons, you’ll probably like it.

Lemon Bars
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at very cool room temperature (a.k.a. pretty much straight out of the fridge), cut into 1-inch pieces
4 large eggs, beaten slightly
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest from 2 large lemons
2/3 cup lemon juice from 3 to 4 large lemons*, strained
1/3 cup whole milk
1/8 teaspoon table salt
*I don’t know what kind of freakish lemons Cook’s Illustrated has access to, but I used 4 lemons and probably didn’t even get 1/3 cup of juice from them—although admittedly, I wasn’t as devoted to getting every drop of juice out that I could’ve been—so you might want to make sure you have a bottle of pre-juiced juice on hand, like I did. Unless you really want to juice those suckers.

1. For the crust, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 13-by-9-inch baking dish and line with one sheet parchment or wax paper. Dot paper with butter, then lay second sheet crosswise over it.
2. Pulse flour, confectioners’ sugar, cornstarch, and salt in food processor workbowl fitted with steel blade. Add butter and process to blend, 8 to 10 seconds, then pulse until mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse meal, about three 1-second bursts. Sprinkle mixture into lined pan and press firmly with fingers into even, 1/4-inch layer over entire pan bottom and about 1/2 inch up sides. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, then bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.
3. For the filling, whisk eggs, sugar, and flour in medium bowl, then stir in lemon zest, juice, milk, and salt to blend well. [It’ll be very, very liquidy and won’t really look like it has any intention of setting up any time soon. Don’t panic!]
4. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Stir filling mixture to reblend; pour into warm crust. Bake until filling feels firm when touched lightly, about 20 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack; cool to near room temperature, at least 30 minutes. Transfer to cutting board, fold paper down, and cut into serving-size bars, wiping knife or pizza cutter clean between cuts as necessary.
[I made these two days in advance, left them uncut in the pan, pressed wax paper onto the surface of the bars, stretched plastic wrap over the top of the pan, and stuck it in the fridge. Also, this might be normal for lemon bars, but they’re kind of messy and squishy, so it’s probably best to leave them in the fridge even after you’ve cut them, until you’re ready to actually eat them.]

Source: Cook’s Illustrated

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