Sunday, February 23, 2020

Lemon Bars

"I need lemons.... lots of lemons."
Well maybe not need, but I ended up with a bunch of lemons thanks to a generous friend. What does one do when life gives you lemons? Use them to cook.

Someone had suggested I make lemon bars. Given that these lemons are very tasty, I decided to give it a shot. Quickly I found that Chef John had done a lemon bars bake during my search. I can trust his recipes, it worked for the Khachapuri. So I got started.

There are two parts to this recipe, the shortbread base, and the lemon custard top.

We start with the shortbread.

Here are the ingredients I used for that. Note I may have changed some quantities from the original recipe.

1 Cup of Flour
1/2 Cup of Unsalted Butter
1/4 Cup Powdered Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/4 Teaspoon Salt

We start by making the shortbread crust so let's get started:

Spray your glass pan with cooking spray. Note we are not using parchment paper here and you'll see why soon.

First you'll mix together 1 cup of flour and the stick of butter. The butter needs to be at room temperature before mixing, and its likely you just pulled it out of the fridge. So allow that to warm before throwing it in the bowl.
Now to combine the two, I'm using the combination of my spoon and a biscuit cutter. It's a little tricky getting the butter incorporated.
To add to the shortbread mixture, add in 1/4 cup of powdered sugar, salt, and the vanilla extract. When you mix this together, you should have a slightly fluffy cookie dough mixture.

Now you must press this shortbread dough into the bottom of the pan. You can put water on your fingers to help it stick. As nonsticky as my dough felt in the bowl, it actually pressed into the pan fine. Fill up the pan with dough and press it all in. When complete, use a fork to put some holes in the dough to prevent any hot spots when baking.
This shortbread crust bakes at 350F for 22 minutes.

Now while that baked, I prepared the lemon custard top.

Here are the ingredients I used for that. Note I may have changed some quantities from the original recipe.

3 Eggs
1 Cup White Sugar
2 Tablespoons Flour
1/3 Cup Lemon Juice
~1 Tablespoon Lemon Zest
1 Teaspoon Powdered Sugar

Now if you have two bowls, this would be the time to break out the second one. If not, you need to clean your bowl as you likely have some leftover dough stuck in it.

To make the custard, crack open the three eggs in the bowl and beat them up.
Add the white sugar and 2 tablespoons of flour and stir that up.
Now we must make magic happen with those lemons...

Take that cheesegrater and zest the skin of two lemons. This will be a bit tedious but eventually you can collect that zest and add it into the custard mixture.

Now you can juice those two lemons you zests plus a third one to get the juice you need to add to it. If you want more lemon flavor, juice 4 lemons... less, only juice the two you skinned.
Stir that custard mixture together while waiting for the shortbread to finish cooking.
Once you get the shortbread base out of the oven, pour the lemon custard over the crust in the pan. It won't look that thick after pouring, but it will thicken pretty quick in the oven. This goes back in the oven for another 25 minutes.
When the lemon bars are done, you should see a somewhat frosted layer on the top of the custard layer. This is sugar that has risen to the surface while the custard hardened. Pull the lemon bars out of the oven and allow them to cool for at least 30 minutes. This should be enough time for the custard to fully set. Take a hot knife and cut the lemon bars into squares.
Remove the bars from the pan and give them a nice dusting of powdered sugar. And that's it! Enjoy your lemon bars. These came out perfect!

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