Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Lemon Bars

All of this snow and blizzard talk has had me craving something decadent and fresh. It's like I need the flavors of summer to remind me that this snow will melt away and the flowers will bloom again.

I also need something delicious and comforting because, after shoveling out our car from under 28+ inches of snow, I am sore in places I didn't even know could be sore. Dessert seems to be the only way to cure this pain, and these Lemon Bars did just the trick.

A crispy buttery crust is topped with a creamy, lemon custard-like filling. Both the zest and the juices of lemons give this dessert tang while an extra (generous) dusting of powdered sugar is soft and sweet.

My older sister and my grandpa are total lemon junkies. I'm pretty sure they would eat lemon meringue pie for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if the family allowed them. I couldn't help but think how much they would love these lemon bars...I better make a batch the next time I go home...

So, life has thrown us lemons and we aren't making lemonade but we are definitely making lemon bars. And not the kind of lemon bars that involved mixing a boxed cake mix with canned lemon filling. Sorry, folks. That's a no-go here. Don't panic though...this is a decadent, sweet, and flavorful dessert that comes together fairly quickly, with just over 30 minutes of baking time.

We will first make the buttery crust, which starts by beating 2 sticks (hehe) of unsalted butter with granulated sugar and light brown sugar until fluffy.

Flour and salt join the party.

Then the mixture is pressed gently into a greased 9 x 13 baking dish.

While that bakes a bit, you prepare the custard filling. It's totally simple. Beat together 4 eggs with granulated sugar. Add in a few tablespoons of flour along with the zest of one lemon and the juice of 2 to 3 lemons. This gets poured over the hot crust and the whole thing bakes about 25 minutes more, until the bars have set and are no longer jiggly.

Now we wait, rather impatiently, for the bars to cool completely...

Still waiting...

Now cut the bars with a very sharp knife.

OK! Now. Powdered sugar! Go ahead and spoil yourself, the more the merrier.

So much yumminess is going on here. A crispy, buttery base and a smooth and creamy lemony filling. The powdered sugar. Everything is so right. These are rich without overdoing it. Subtle, in a way, and totally delicious.

These would make a great Valentine's Day dessert when topped with a few fresh raspberries! Go ahead and impress that special someone, these bars won't disappoint.

adapted from the Joy the Baker cookbook

Here's what you need for Lemon Bars:

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened (I left the bars out for about an hour and a half)
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
6 tablespoons flour
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large or 3 medium lemons)
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Here's what you do:

Add the butter and sugars to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat together about 3 minutes until light and fluffy.

Add the flour and the salt and beat until just incorporated. Finish combining with a flexible rubber spatula.

Grease a 9x13 inch baking dish with unsalted butter and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Dump the mixture into the prepared baking dish and use your fingers to gently press the crust onto the bottom of the dish. Try to make it as even as possible, but it doesn't have to be perfect.

Bake for about 20 minutes until the sides are just starting to get golden brown.

Meanwhile, prepare the lemon filling. Whisk together the eggs with the sugar until pale. Add in the flour, zest, and lemon juice and whisk to combine. Immediately pour on top of the hot crust and bake for another 25 minutes or until the sides are browned and the top is set and no longer jiggly.

Allow to cool completely in the pan, then cut into bars using a sharp knife. Dust each bar with a bit of powdered sugar. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to four days.

Besides lemon, these would also be delicious if made with lime juice and zest, or orange juice and zest for a fun twist on a classic dessert.

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