Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Dare to dream in citrus - Lemon Lime Bars

Truth is, I have never took a liking to citrus-based flavor when I was younger, particularly lemon, orange and lime. After all, chocolate, apple, berries and vanilla provide some greatest plethora of combinations that one can happily sink themselves into. What changes? Well, maybe because I am getting older. Or maybe, just maybe, the demand to bake goods with citrus fruits, thanks to both my 80 something grandmothers had me re-think citrus.

Granted I never really develop a hankering for citrus-based dessert even till now. However, I cannot stop myself from taking more than a tasting bite of the end products. Similar to the lemon layer cake I bake for my nana's 86th birthday (yeah, the girl is going strong even at 86) and jars after jars of lemon curds I have made, the tastebuds have somehow begin to appreciate the contrast of acidity from the citrus aligning itself to appear in almost a near perfect harmony with the sugar. Yes, I think I am getting old.

Nevertheless, the thought of baking lemon bars had me dream in citrus last nite. One of nana's many favorite treats is lemon bars. We used to buy them from the bakery just for her and never will I understand at the time why will someone wants lemon in their sweets. Perhaps, after living for 86 years, the old matriach really knows what she is doing. Lemon bars it is then.

Lemon Bars Recipe (Adapted from Joy of Baking)

Shortbread Crust:

1/2 cup (1 stick) (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup (30 grams) confectioner's (powdered or icing) sugar
1 cup (130 grams) all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
Lemon Filling:
1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup (80 ml) fresh lemon and lime juice (approximately one large lemon and one large lime)
1 tablespoons (5 grams) grated lemon zest*
2 tablespoons (25 grams) all purpose flour
Confectioner's (powdered or icing) sugar
*Lemon Zest - The yellow outer rind of the lemon that contains the fruit's flavor and perfume. 
TIP:  Always remove the zest first before halving and squeezing the lemon.  Use a fine strainer to remove the seeds and pulp from the juice.
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350F (176C). Grease an 8x8 pan.
Step 2: Prepare all the ingredients for the shortcrust pastry- butter, flour, salt and powdered sugar.
Step 3: Cream the butter till light and fluffy.
Step 4: Add in the powdered sugar and continue to beat with hand mixer till light and fluffy.

Step 5: Next, beat in the flour till the flour is well incorporated.

You will see the dough comes into lumps like picture above. Do not worry. You are doing fine. Just gather the dough with a spatula.
Step 6: Place dough on prepared pan and press dough evenly onto pan to form the base.

Step 7: Smooth dough with the back of your measuring cups to ensure even thickness all around


This is how the base crust should look like after smoothing out. The marks were left behind by my measuring cup but it really doesn't matter.

Step 8: Bake for 18-20 minutes until dough is slightly golden brown on the edges. Set aside on a wire rack to cool. Meanwhile, start making the lemon-lime filling.


Step 9: In a bowl, beat egg and sugar till light.

Step 10: Add in lemon-lime juice and lemon zest. Mix well


Step 11: Add in flour and mix on low till flour is well incorporated. It should take less than a minute. Do not overbeat

Step 12: Pour lemon-lime mix onto crust.
Step 13: Bake in oven for 17-20 minutes till lemon-lime filing is just set (not jiggly). Mine takes the full 20 mins to bake.
Step 14: Place pan onto a wire rack and let cool completely.

Step 15: Once completely cool, slice into 16 bars and dust with more powdered sugar on top. Serve at room temperature. Store remaining lemon bars in the refrigerator for 3 days.

Note: This is a very simple recipe. It takes me less than an hour to put this dessert together minus the cooling time. Best served chilled.

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