Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Tang Of Lemon

Don't you just love the tang of lemon? The fragrance is awesome, too, especially if the lemons are Meyer lemons. Recently I was gifted with a half dozen beautiful Meyer lemons (thank you Andersons!) so today I used three of them to make one of my favorite cookies, Lemon Bars.

It's been a while since I made 'em, so I scouted through some internet sites like Food Network and Betty Crocker and AllRecipes to get some ideas, then made my own recipe. I used a microplane grater to grate the zest because then you get just the yellow part, which has all those tangy lemon oils. I also used the technique of rubbing the zest into the sugars in both crust and filling to release those oils into the sugar. You get a very even distribution of flavor that way.

I decided on the 8-inch square pan as the right size since I didn't want to use all of my lemons on this one dessert. Using heavy duty foil to line the pan makes it really easy to cut the bars when they are cooled, so I went that route.

For the base I used brown sugar for the slightly butterscotch flavor it gives, plus some powdered sugar since the cornstarch enhances the shortbread quality. Of course I used non-dairy margarine instead of butter.

For the filling I was generous with the lemon zest and the eggs and I'm glad I was because these bars were really tangy and the filling was gooey but held together when I cut them.

I cut the finished bars into 16 squares and put powdered sugar on half. Sweetie prefers his with no powdered sugar, but I was taking some to a friend who is not feeling so well. Nothing like a sunny lemon bar to brighten up a rainy day!

Elle's Lemon Bars
Make 16 cookies

1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoons salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) non-dairy margarine, cold

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 - 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (I used about 1 1/2 tablespoons)
1/4 cup flour
3 eggs
1/2 cup lemon juice, seeds removed

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a greased 8-inch square baking pan with foil, leaving some foil hanging over the edges. Grease the foil. (I used Pam spray oil.) Set aside.

For the crust, place the lemon zest and the brown sugar in a medium bowl. With clean hands, use your fingers to rub the zest and sugar together until zest if fully combined with the sugar. Add the flour and confectioners' sugar  and salt and whisk the mixture until combined. Use a pastry blender or two table knives to cut the cold butter into the flour mixture until butter is in very small pieces. Turn the mixture into the prepared pan and, with very clean hands, pat the mixture down firmly to form an even crust, with a small amount (about 1/2 inch) of crust up the sides of the pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Crust should be barely light brown.

While crust is baking, prepare the filling:
Place the granulated sugar into the same bowl you used for the crust. Add the lemon zest and, using clean fingers, rub the zest into the sugar. Sugar may look like damp sand since you are using a lot of zest. Whisk in the flour and then the eggs. Once well combines, whisk in the lemon juice. Taste a bit of the mixture and add more zest if you like it zestier.

When the crust is barely light brown, remove the pan from the oven and pour the filling over the hot crust. Return the pan to the oven and reduce the heat to 325 degrees. Bake for about 15-20 minutes more. When done there will be a bit of browning around the edges of the cookies and the center will only jiggle slightly, if at all.

Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a rack until pan is barely warm to the touch. Transfer to the refrigerator and cool for two hours.

Remove the pan from the fridge, loosen the foil and use the foil to lift the cookie from the pan to a cutting board. Carefully cut the bars into sixteen cookies. If desired, sift some confectioner's sugar (about 1 teaspoon) over the cooled and cut cookies before serving.

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