Saturday, May 7, 2016

Lemon Bars









For the past few months, I've been wondering whether to get a food processor. Do I actually need one or can I use a decent substitute? When I made a cheesecake, the recipe called for a food processor and I used a hand mixer instead, with not-so-great results. But I was never sure if it was because I didn't use a food processor or if I did something else wrong that led to the middle not setting completely.



This recipe also calls for a food processor, so I was a bit hesitant to try it because I didn't want to have another disaster on my hands. However, my desire for sweet, succulent lemon bars overcame any misgivings I had and I went full in, and substituted the processor for a stand mixer and low and behold, they turned out fantastic.

The debate rages on.



Two weeks ago, I started a new, full-time job. During my last week "off" I knew I had to get in some baking time because that time would be severely cut once I started working in an office again.

I had all these grand plans to make a five-layer cake, which turned into a three-layer cake, which turned into a pie which turned into bars. It's funny; even though I had plenty of time to make a cake for the ages, all I wanted, in the end, was something simple. Something comforting.



My husband urged me to take a trip during my last week before I started work. First Vancouver was batted around, then New York and Montreal and then Paris—one of my favourite cities which I last visited three years ago. I looked up last-minute flights and was nearly set to go. Hours could be spent reading in Shakespeare & Co. or strolling around Montmartre or picking up old issues of Vogue along La Seine.



I decided to stay home. I went for long walks with the pug, spent hours at the ROM with my mom; visited my mom back in Mississauga and finished up my 12-season-long Grey's Anatomy marathon.

Oh yeah, and I baked these squares. #NoRegrets.



Lemon Bars
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes 16 bars

Crust:

- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 tsp table salt
- 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into chunks, plus extra for greasing pan

Filling:

- 1 small-to-medium-sized lemon
- 1 1/3 cups sugar
- 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into chunks
- 4 large eggs
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 1/4 tsp table salt



1. Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut two 12-inch lengths of parchment paper, and trim each to fit the bottom of an 8-inch square baking pan. Press the first sheet into the bottom and up the sides of your pan in one direction, then use the second sheet to line the rest of the pan, running it perpendicular to the first sheet. Lightly butter exposed parts of the parchment or coat them with a nonstick cooking spray. Set pan aside.

2. Make the crust:

Blend the flour, sugar, and salt together in the work bowl of a food processor. (Note: I used a stand mixer.) Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is powdery, but if firmly pinched, will hold the pinched shape. (Note: mine didn't come out that powdery, it was more doughy, but it still turned out fine in the end.) Turn the dough crumbs into the prepared baking pan and press the dough evenly across the bottom and about 1/2 inch up the sides. Prick the dough all over with a fork and bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Should any parts bubble up, gently prick them again with a fork. Leave the oven on.

3. Make the filling:

Cut the lemon in half and make sure the white part of the skin is 1/4 inch thick or less. If it's thicker, remove the the skin. Cut the lemon halves into thin rings and discard any seeds. Toss the lemon rounds - lemon flesh and peel - in the bowl of your food processor, add the sugar, and run the machine until the lemon is thoroughly puréed, about 2 minutes. Add the butter and again run the machine until the mixture is smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the eggs, cornstarch, and salt and pulse the machine in short bursts until the mixture is evenly combined.

Pour the lemon mixture over the crust and bake it for 35-40 minutes, or until the filling is set. You can test this by bumping the pan a little; it should only jiggle slightly. They may slightly brown on top too.

Let the pan cool completely on a rack or in the fridge. Gently cut around the outside of the parchment paper to make sure no sides have stuck, then gently use the parchment "sling" to transfer bars from pan to cutting board. Cut into 16 squares.

Optional: dust the squares with icing sugar before you cut them.

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