That giant bowl of lemons? Major impulse purchase. Shane rarely has to worry about me coming home with expensive shoes or bags, but there’s no telling what might happen when I’m unleashed in the grocery store, or at the farmer’s market. I don’t know why I thought I needed so many lemons, but once I got them home I was determined not to let a single one go to waste.
I baked a cake with a few of them almost immediately (to be shared here soon) and then the remaining lemons just sat in the bowl on the counter looking pretty for about a week. I couldn’t decide what else to make, so until I came up with a plan, I decided to juice and zest every single remaining lemon. I poured the lemon juice into ice cube trays which went into my freezer along with the huge pile of zest – I think I’m all set for a while!
I was finally inspired by a recipe my friend Leslie shared last week for lemon bars. Not just any old lemon bars, but the most vibrantly colored lemon bars I’ve ever seen. Once I read the recipe it became clear why the bars were so bright – there are 7 egg yolks plus 2 whole eggs in the filling! This recipe differs from other lemon bars I’ve tried in that the filling is cooked on the stove before it is poured onto the crust and baked. This cuts down on the baking time and also ensures that the crust stays crisp. The whole process is really easy, I’d note just one thing – the recipe calls for cooking the filling until it reaches 170 F, but mine never got above 162 or 163 F so I just moved on and it all worked out.
Up until a few years ago I was convinced I didn’t like lemon desserts and it kills me to think of all the delicious things I missed out on. I’m firmly in the lemon lover camp now, though, and these lemon bars are certainly a new favorite here. The filling is beyond delicious – the richest, most creamy lemon curd I’ve ever had. It’s loaded with lemon flavor and neither overly tart nor sweet. The shortbread crust is both tender and crisp, a great base for the curd. I wasn’t able to give away as many of the bars as I wanted, so I had to stick them in my freezer because I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist the temptation. The only problem is now I feel compelled to bake other lemon bar recipes too. For research purposes, of course
from Baking Illustrated
1 1/4 cups (6 1/4 oz) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (2 oz) confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened & cut into 1-inch pieces
7 large egg yolks, plus 2 large eggs
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (7 7/8 oz) sugar
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup lemon zest
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
3 tablespoons heavy cream
To make the crust: Spray a 9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray. Line the pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on opposite sides to lift the bars out after they’ve baked. Spray the aluminum foil with cooking spray.
Add the flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt to the bowl of your food processor. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and process to blend, about 8-10 seconds. Pulse just a few more times, until the mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse meal. Dump the mixture into the prepared baking pan and use the tips of your fingers to press it into an even layer over the bottom of the pan. Refrigerate the crust for 30 minutes.
While the crust is chilling, preheat the oven to 350 F. Bake the crust for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
While the crust bakes, make the filling: In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks and eggs together until combined. Combine the sugar and lemon zest in a small bowl and use your fingertips to rub the zest into the sugar until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the sugar to the egg mixture and whisk to combine. Finally, add the lemon juice and salt and whisk until all ingredients are blended.
Transfer the filling to a medium saucepan and add the butter. Stirring continuously, cook over medium-low heat until the curd thickens slightly and registers 170 F on an instant-read thermometer. Pour the curd through a strainer into a medium heatproof bowl. Add the heavy cream and stir to combine. Pour the filling over the warm crust (this is important – you don’t want to let the crust cool before adding the filling).
Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the filling is shiny and the center jiggles just slightly when shaken. Remove the pan to a wire rack and cool completely. Use the foil to lift the bars out of the pan and cut into squares. Dust with confectioners’ sugar if desired.