Sunday, June 12, 2011

Lemon Bars

I've been in a funk for a while and for some reason I just haven't felt the same about cooking, baking, or posting.  Which is very odd for me.  Cooking and baking are usually my go-to activities, especially when I have a fully stocked kitchen and great seasonal ingredients.  Which I do have right now.

But I just haven't really felt that wonderful feeling of happiness I normally associate with cooking.  I made pork belly today with king oyster mushrooms and onions and while it was good, I felt no real satisfaction in making it.  I also made a strawberry rhubarb crumble.  It was my first time cooking with rhubarb.  And no real excitement.  It was good, but I don't feel compelled to share it with you.

Instead, I offer you lemon bars.  I made these a few days ago because we happened to have a lot of limes in the house.  And, yes, I made my lemon bars with limes.  So really, I suppose, they should be called lime bars, but that just doesn't have the same ring to it that the name "lemon bars" does.  So lemon bars.

This recipe has been a long time family favorite.  My parents are crazy about them and I've made them as gifts for family friends many times.  They were also the defining baked good of one of my relationships.  It's funny; I have certain recipes that I inextricably associate with people.  My oatmeal chocolate chip cookies will always make me think of Josh.  My apple tart cake always reminds me of my dad.  These lemon bars always make me think of E.

When we first started dating, E. came over fairly often and to my surprise, he sometimes rummaged my kitchen and fridge.  I had never had anyone just come over and open my fridge before, so it startled me quite a bit that he did it so naturally, but I was blinded by my infatuation.  On our third or fourth "date" (I put that word in parentheses because he was just coming over to watch movies), he discovered a container of lemon bars on the counter.  Of course, he was interested in trying them.  So, we sat down in the living room with the container and we snacked on them while smiling at each other and half-watching something on the TV.  And then, the inevitable happened.  The taste of lemon bars was in both of our mouths when we kissed, and when we pulled back from the kiss, E. told me with a smile that that was the best tasting kiss he'd ever had.  I thought it was one of the sweetest things I'd ever been told.  I've baked him these lemon bars several times since then, and I am still reminded of that summer when I think of this recipe.

As I said before, I normally use limes for this recipe.  Limes are generally cheaper than lemons at the market, and no one can really tell the difference anyway. Also, one lime typically yields more juice than one lemon, so it is an economical choice.  But, if you feel the need to be "authentic," the recipe works with lemons just as well as it does with limes.

This standard recipe one 8x13 pan, but I normally find that that simply isn't enough to satiate my family and friends, so I make the recipe slightly bigger and make an 8x13 pan and an 8x8 pan so there is a lot to go around.  The bars keep well in an air tight container at room temperature.  They keep even longer in the fridge.  And when I say "even longer" I mean almost two weeks, if you're a hoarder, like myself.

These lemon bars are delicious when served with blueberries, strawberries, or peaches.  Of course, they are also great alone.

Lemon Bars (yields one 8x13 pan)

14 tbsp butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 heaping cups flour (or 2 cups + 1/6 cup)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine melted butter and sugar together, then add flour. It is often easier to add the flour in increments, rather than all at once. Once combined, pat the flour mixture into a buttered and floured pan.  For even easier removal, use parchment paper to line your pan.  Bake for 15 minutes on middle rack.

4 eggs and 1 egg yolk
1 and 2/3 c sugar
4 and 2/3 tbsp flour
all juice (5-6 tbsps) and zest from two limes
½ tsp baking powder

While the base is baking, blend together eggs and sugar. Add in flour, zest, juice, and powder, then pour over crust (you do not have to wait for the crust to cool) and bake for additional 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before running a knife around the edges to loosen the bars from the pan.

Removal method #1: Allow to cool for 10-15 more minutes before flipping out of the pan onto a large cutting board.  While the lemon bars are upside down, cut into squares using a serrated bread knife.  Once cut, flip the pieces back over.

Removal method #2: Cut the bars inside of the pan using a paring knife (I find these work best).  Best careful not to scrape your non-stick pan.

Note: If you remove the bars too soon from the pan, the base can come apart from the filling part on top.

Recipe for one 8x13 pan and one 8x8 pan
21 tbsp salted butter (melted)
scant cup sugar
3 ½ c flour

7 eggs
2 ½ c sugar
7 tbsp flour
all juice (7-8 tbsp) and zest from three limes
¾ tsp baking powder

Follow instructions from above

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