Lovely lemon bars you will LOVE!
I adore lemon bars. My mother used to make them for us when we were kids. I loved having them in my lunch bag. I loved the powdered sugar on top and the buttery crust on the bottom. I loved the fact that it was a rectangle. (The graphic designer in me at an early age.) And I loved licking the last bit of powdered sugar off of the Saran wrap.
When we moved into our NYC apartment six years ago, my friend Leslie and her husband Rainer came to visit. Leslie and I went to high school together in Webster Groves, Missouri. And now we both live here. Her last name started with Pa and mine started with Pi so our lockers were right next to one another for our four years at Nerinx Hall. The nuns liked that type of organization.
Leslie brought the cookbook from Tartine, the famous pastry shop in San Francisco, as a housewarming gift. It is a beautiful book filled with the richest recipes for sweet and savory specialties. We’re talking mucho butter. She wrote on the opening page, “…when things get a little crazy living in crowded New York … just remember to enjoy one of the desserts in this book – and you will return to a mellow state as “DESSERTS” is actually “STRESSED” in reverse!”
Now I really don’t like to cook with a lot of butter. I consider myself a clean and healthy cook, which I really am. (Do I sound like I’m trying to justify myself here? Yes I am!)
But you see, every once in while, you can splurge. And this is a recipe to splurge on. This is a heightened, no, magnified version of my mother’s lemon bars. An adult lemon bar. A sinful lemon bar. These have the richest, buttery crust with the addition of pine nuts for a surprising delightful crunch. The lemon filling is so so lemony. No fooling around here. This is one serious, OMG lemon bar.
LEMON BARS ON BROWN BUTTER SHORTBREAD – makes 12 bars – from the Tartine cookbook
CRUST FOR LEMON BARS
½ cup of confectioner’s sugar
1½ cups of all-purpose flour
¾ cup of unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup of pine nuts (optional)
FILLING FOR LEMON BARS
½ cup of all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cups of sugar
1 cup + 2 tbs. of lemon juice
Lemon zest, grated from 1 lemon
6 large whole eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 pinch of salt
confectioner’s sugar for topping (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.
MAKE THE CRUST
Sift the confectioner’s sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the flour and stir to mix. Add the butter, and pine nuts (if using) and beat on low speed. Beat just until a smooth dough forms.
Transfer the dough to the prepared pan and press evenly into the bottom and ½ inch up the sides of the pan. It should be about ¼ inch thick. Even out the crust by using the flat bottom of any type of cup, pressing down firmly. Line the crust with parchment paper and fill with pie weights, dry rice or peas. Bake for 25 – 35 minutes. Make sure the color is a deep golden brown color. Rotate the pan if the crust appears to be baking unevenly.
MAKE THE FILLING
While baking the crust, make the filling. Sift the flour into a mixing bowl. Add the sugar and whisk until blended. Add the lemon juice and zest and stir to dissolve sugar. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and egg yolk with the salt. (This breaks down the protein.) Add the eggs to the lemon juice mixture and whisk until well mixed.
When the crust is ready, pull out the oven rack that is holding the baked crust. Remove the weights and put pan back on the oven rack. Pour the filling directly into the hot pan – it is easiest to do so when the pan can slide right back into the oven.
If the crust has come out of the oven and cooled down before you have finished making the filling, put it back in for a few minutes so that it is hot when the custard is poured into it.
Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes just until the center of the custard is no longer wobbly.
Let cool completely on a wire rack, then cover and chill well before cutting. Use a sharp knife and cut it into 12 squares. You can serve with confectioner’s sugar dusted on top of the squares. They will keep in an airtight container or well covered in the baking dish in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. I have also wrapped each one individually in plastic wrap and carefully placed 4 of them in a large Ziploc bag and frozen them to serve at a later date. Thaw in the refrigerator and touch up the powdered sugar and serve. No one will know you made them weeks ago.