Saturday, August 27, 2011

Recipe: Lemon Bars

My dad and I are grilling tonight—marinated strip steaks, red potatoes seasoned with shallot-pepper (another great purchase from Penzeys Spices), and asparagus sprinkled with salt and pepper, served with Chimay Red (one of my all time favorite beers—a Belgian brew). Since my dad will be doing the grilling, I thought I'd whip us up some sort of light dessert to enjoy after our meal. My best friend and her family made these delicious homemade lemon bars (the recipe is actually from the Weight Watchers community) for the 4th of July weekend earlier this summer, so I thought I'd make those. Sure, I could have gotten a boxed mix—my dad and I have had it before and it's pretty good—but homemade lemon bars, with fresh lemon juice and zest, have so much more flavor!

  • 1 & 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 5 tbsp. packed light brown sugar (I used dark brown sugar, because that's all we had, but I recommend getting the light if you can)
  • 8 tbsp. (a little less than 1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 & 1/2 powdered sugar, divided into two equal portions (3/4 cup each)
  • 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest
  • Powdered sugar to sprinkle on top of the completed bars

To make the crust: Preheat oven to 350*F. Put the flour and brown sugar in a food processor and mix to completely blend. Toss butter pieces into the food processor and pulse to blend, until the picture is slightly clumpy, with butter pieces that are about the size of peas. Evenly sprinkle crust mixture into an ungreased 13x9x2-inch pan and press down on the mixture with your hand or a spatula to create a packed surface. Place the pan in the middle of the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, until slightly golden brown.

To make the lemon filling/topping: Beat eggs in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until well-blended. Add vanilla extract and 3/4 cup of the powdered sugar and mix well. Add the lemon juice and remaining (3/4 cup) powdered sugar and mix until the powdered sugar is completely dissolved, then add the zest.

As soon as the crust is finished baking, remove from the oven and immediately pour the lemon mixture over the hot crust. Reduce the oven temperature to 300*F. Put the mixture back in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes (the edges will be slightly golden brown), remove, and let cool for at least 15 minutes. Put in the fridge to cool completely. When ready to serve, cut unto 24 bars and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Store remaining bars in the fridge.

These bars are sweet, tangy, and refreshing on a warm summer day. Using fresh lemon juice and zest adds a punch of flavor and the warm yellow color is beautiful and bright. These are great served with a cup of tea, a glass of milk, or just by themselves. Don't skimp on the powdered sugar topping!—It helps balance the tartness of the lemon and sweeten the bars.

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