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lemon bars, take 2

May 24, 2011

Hey guys, hey! Guess what! This is my 100th post!

And to celebrate, I have…um…another lemon bars recipe. I didn’t really plan that out too well. Don’t worry, though—in my imaginary blog, where I update every day, this recipe is appropriately epically chocolate and/or bread.

Anyway, remember how I said I was going to try not to forget about my beautiful Flour cookbook? And uh, remember how the last recipe I posted from there was quite a few months back? Yeah, I forgot about it.

Which is why, when the time came to make more lemon bars for Chris’s dad’s birthday, I went first to Ms. Chang.

And, well, she delivered, even for a fruit-dessert-ambivalater like me.

Man, let me tell you, I could’ve eaten whole bowls full of that lemon curd. It was just so perfectly tart, not overly sweet—it kinda tasted like that time Chris and I tried miracle fruit and downed whole slices of lemons without a single wince. And there was just the right amount piled onto the crust in a layer thick enough to be substantial. The crust itself was also a knockout, crunchy and flaky and not-too-sweet. Overall, not too shabby for a fruity dessert.

In fact, they kinda made the other recipe I used all those months ago—while still tasty—look positively anemic:

Lemon Bars
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (14 to 16 lemons) [or, if the thought of buying an armful of lemons on top of 13 eggs gives you heart failure, use the bottled stuff—trust me, the curd will still be addictively tasty]
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
8 eggs
4 egg yolks
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. To make the shortbread, using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, granulated sugar, and confectioners’ sugar on medium speed for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Stop the mixer a few times and use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and the paddle to release any clinging butter or sugar. Beat in the egg yolk and vanilla on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, or until thoroughly combined. Scrape the bowl and paddle again with a rubber spatula to make sure the egg yolk is thoroughly incorporated.
2. In a medium bowl, sift together the all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking powder, and salt. On low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture and then mix for about 15 seconds, or until the flour mixture is totally incorporated and the dough is evenly mixed. Stop the mixer and scrape the bowl again to make sure all of the flour mixture is thoroughly incorporated.
3. Scrape the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and wrap the dough in the plastic wrap, pressing down to form a disk 6 to 7 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick. Refrigerate the dough for about 30 minutes, or until it has firmed up but is still somewhat pliable. The dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month. If the dough is frozen, thaw it overnight in the refrigerator, then let it sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes before using.
4. To make the lemon curd, while the dough is chilling, in a medium nonreactive saucepan, combine the lemon juice, butter, and cream. Place over medium-high heat and heat to just below a boil. Meanwhile, in a medium heatproof bowl, whisk together the eggs and egg yolks until blended, then slowly whisk in the granulated sugar until combined. Remove the lemon juice mixture from the heat and gradually whisk a little of it into the sugar-egg mixture. Continue whisking the hot liquid into the eggs, a little at a time, until all of it has been incorporated.
5. When all of the lemon juice mixture has been incorporated, return the contents of the bowl to the saucepan and return the saucepan to medium heat. Cook, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon and making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan frequently to prevent the eggs from scrambling, for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the mixture thickens and coats the spoon thickly. To test, draw your finger along the back of the spoon; the curd should hold the trail for a second or two before it fills.
6. Remove the lemon curd from the heat and strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl or pitcher. Whisk in the salt and vanilla. The lemon curd can be made up to 4 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If using chilled curd, add 5 to 6 minutes to the baking time.
7. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees.
8. Lightly flour the dough disk and two large sheets of parchment paper. [I used waxed paper, but it was really hard to pull out the bars after baking because it had somehow disintegrated in the oven…hokay, so I guess I should bite the bullet and invest in some actual parchment paper.] Place the dough between the sheets of parchment and roll it out into a rectangle 9 by 11 inches and about 1/4 inch thick. Carefully peel off the top sheet of parchment. (Place the whole thing in the fridge for a few minutes if the dough sticks to the parchment.) Transfer the bottom sheet of parchment with the dough to a 9-by-11-inch baking pan or baking dish with at least 2-inch-high sides. [I had no idea what the what she was talking about with that pan size, so I used a random Pyrex 8-by-12-incher we had. However, I’m sure you’d be okay with a 9-by-13-incher, as long as you’re willing to put up with thinner bars and checking them in the oven about 5 minutes early.] Press the dough to fit the bottom of the pan and allow the parchment to come up the sides of the pan. The dough needs to be about the same thickness all around, but it does not have to be smooth.
9. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the shortbread is light brown—about the same color as maple wood. Remove from the oven (leave the oven set at 350 degrees), pour the lemon curd on top, and smooth the filling evenly over the shortbread with a rubber spatula.
10. Bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until the curd has set and jiggles like firm Jell-O. Let cool to room temperature on a wire rack, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to overnight to allow the curd to set. If refrigerating overnight, lightly drape plastic wrap over the top to keep any refrigerator smells from seeping into your lemon bars.
11. Gently tug the parchment on all sides to loosen the shortbread from the pan, then slide it out onto a cutting board. Trim the edges of the shortbread, then cut into 9 [ginormous] bars. The bars can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Source: Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe

And now, just for 100th-post funsies, I’ll show you what I got this weekend (try not to get too excited). Tell me these are not the cutest freakin’ plants you’ve ever seen in your life:

I also finally got my butt in gear and planted these seeds Chris got me for my birthday:

which will hopefully eventually turn into these. Wooo spring!

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