Sunday, July 15, 2012

Oh, Martha, Lemon Bars

I've been wanting to try my hand at lemon bars for a while now, and since the weather has been a tad cooler of late, I no longer actively dread my kitchen. I've never attempted anything even close to lemon bars before, so I figured I'd better be safe and go with an established recipe.  And so, I turned to my handy-dandy Martha Stewart's Cookies cookbook, page 266.  I used the amounts listed in the recipe, but added an ingredient and followed my whim on the instructions (in other words, I blatantly ignored the instructions offered). Result? Tasty.

What You'll Need
Large mixing bowl                                                       Liquid and dry measuring cups
Whisk                                                                           Measuring spoons
13 x 9 inch baking dish
Crust:                                                                            Filling
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter                                         4 large eggs
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour                                          1 1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup confectioner's sugar                                        3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt                                                                   1/4 tsp salt
                                                                                      1/2 tsp vanilla
                                                                                      3/4 cup lemon juice
                                                                                      1/4 cup milk

Now Let's Make Lemon Bars!
Start by preheating your oven to 350 F. Grease your casserole dish with butter or cooking spray. (I accidentally forgot this step, but it didn't seem to matter much).

You're going to start with the crust, which is essentially a shortbread.  Soften your butter slightly if it's not already.  While the butter softens (do not melt! I forgot my butter and did this today, too), measure out 1 3/4 cup flour, 3/4 cup confectioner's sugar, and 3/4 tsp salt and add it to your large mixing bowl. Whisk the dry ingredients together until they are thoroughly blended and have no large lumps left (alliteration! Sorry, couldn't help myself).  

Add the slightly softened butter to the flour mixture. Using your whisk, cut the butter into the flour. Do this until all the butter clumps are broken up and no larger than pea sized (as pictured).  This can take a while. The butter tends to clump in the whisk, so you'll need to stop periodically to shake it back out. I find that rolling the whisk over stubborn butter clumps helps break them up quickly. 

Pour the dry ingredients into the casserole dish. Don't freak out! I know it doesn't really look like dough.  Spread the flour/butter mixture out until it is evenly distributed across the bottom of the casserole. Now, using your hands press the mixture so that it packs down tightly on the bottom of the dish.  Continue until the entire surface is a hard packed dough, with no loose floury bits.  Put the casserole in the oven and bake at 350 for 20 minutes, until the dough is a light golden color.

Remove the crust from the oven and set aside. Turn your oven down to 325 F.  

Rinse and wipe out your large mixing bowl (no sense dirtying another dish).  Crack 4 large eggs into the bowl and lightly whisk them together. Then, measure out and add to the bowl 1 1/3 cup sugar, 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour, and 1/4 tsp salt (Martha calls for course salt in her version, but I sensed no difference when I used regular). Mix the ingredients together completely; it's kinda gloppy so make certain all the dry ingredients get blended in.  

Next add 1/2 tsp vanilla, 1/4 cup milk, and 3/4 cup lemon juice.  Carefully stir everything together, until it's well mixed and you have a smooth liquid filling.  Be careful; this is really easy to slosh out of the bowl as your mixing. I found that the egg mixture really resisted being mixed with the liquids. To combat this I started out by using a folding motion, then switched to a regular stirring motion when it started mixing.

Pour the filling over the crust evenly. Bake at 325 F for between 18 - 25 minutes.  Martha's original recipe called for 18 minutes, but I found that mine was still liquid at that point.  I wound up cooking mine for a little longer than 25 minutes. Start with the recommended 18 minutes, then add time as needed, watching the lemon bars closely.  You'll know they're down, when the very edges are golden brown and the top appears solid and springy.  Let cool.

Once cool, cut into bars and dust with confectioner's sugar. Serve and enjoy the lemony bite!


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