Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Pucker Up : Lemon Bars


Lemon bars are virtually unknown in France. As in, when you bring up the subject of a lemon bar, translating it awkwardly into "barre au citron" or the even less descriptive "gateau au citron", an American lemon bar is the last thing that comes to mind. Usually, French friends will think you're talking about buttery lemon cookies, or a cookie flavored with tasty candied lemon zest.

And then, you add the magic words: 'It's like a tarte au citron, except it has a thicker crust.' There it is: the look of sheer happiness appears, complete with big eyes and a tell-tale "Mmmm!". You see, the tarte au citron is a nation-wide favorite, and lemon curd recipes range from Pierre Hermé's ultra-buttery version to the extra-tart, extra-delicious ones you'll find in use at most traditional cafés and bistros. Lemon bars are like the perfect mini lemon tart for those in love with the crust-curd pairing: creamy tanginess, balanced by a crunchy shortbread on the bottom. Le paradis.

Lemon bars, in my opinion, are a perfect summer treat. A small 4th of July get-together with friends was the perfect occasion to give my French guests a proper introduction to the beauties that are lemon bars. Originally from Cook's Illustrated / America's Test Kitchen, this recipe yields lemon bars that are a vibrant yellow, and (almost) too pretty to eat. Almost, obviously, because who wouldn't eat bright, spunky lemon bars?

As predicted, the lemon bars were a success. I would make these every day if I could, and eat them all day long alongside glasses filled with cold lemonade. Then again, that would mean having to bring pounds of lemon bars and gallons of lemonade to my next internship...starting tomorrow. And I'm not sure my future colleagues would appreciate being left out--lemon bars are, after all, le paradis in small bites. 

P.S.: New internship = less time online and in the kitchen = less posting and commenting, but I'll do my best to keep up with everything!

Lemon Bars
makes 16

1 1/4 c. flour
1/2 c. confectioners sugar
1/2 TS salt
12 TB butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened
7 egg yolks
2 whole eggs
1 c. + 2 TB granulated sugar
2/3 c. fresh lemon juice (from about 4 lemons)
1/4 c. lemon zest (from about 4 lemons)
3 TB heavy cream

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 350. Line a 9" square baking pan with two pieces of aluminum foil at right angles . Lightly coat foil with vegetable oil or cooking spray.

Mix together flour, confectioners sugar and salt. Using a  food processor incorporate 8 tbsp. of the butter until the mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse cornmeal.

Sprinkle the mixture inot the prepared pan and press firmly into an even layer. Bake until the crust starts to brown slightly, about 20 minutes.

While crust is baking, wisk together egg yolks and whole eggs in a medium non-reactive saucepan.

Whisk in granulated sugar until combined, then whisk in lemon juice, lemon zest, and a pinch of salt.

Add remaining 4 tbsp of butter and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens slightly and registers 170 degrees (F) on an instant-read thermometer, about 5 minutes.

Strain the mixture immediately into a non-reactive bowl and stir in cream. Pour the warm curd over the hot crust. Bake until the filing is shiny and opaque and the center jiggles slightly when shaken, 10 to 15 minutes.

Let cool completely on a wire rack, about 2 hours, before removing from the pan using foil and cutting into squares.

Dust with confectioners sugar just before serving.

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lovelylenfo said...
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Eleni said...

ooh, those look so good! lemon bars would be perfect for the terrible humidity lately.

Paris Pastry said...

Yum, yum, yum! I know these are meant for Summer, but I could eat them all year around.

Chef Dennis said...

those are gorgeous lemon bars...I agree the perfect summer dessert..so refreshing!

Mary said...

I love lemon desserts and sweet treats. These look especially delicious and I'm sure I would enjoy them. I hope you've had a great day. Blessings...Mary

ArchaeologyAnna said...

I love Lemon Bars! Perfect July treat!

grace said...

the fact that there are so many of our favorite desserts about which other countries know nothing surprises me--i'm naive like that. it makes me wonder about everything these countries have that i've never seen or tasted!
gorgeous work, lucie!

Barbara said...

Lemon bars are a family favorite! Each recipe seems to be a little different and I try them all!

I love them tart and yours looks as though it is! Just looking at it makes me smile. Delicious, Lucie!

LyB said...

I agree, lemon bars are the perfect summer treat and I just don't make them often enough! And I have to admit, I like the square format better than a pie as it's more fun to eat with your hands. ;)

Dixie Caviar said...

My former boss had an incredible recipe for lemon bars that she adapted for wintertime using tangelos. Oh my goodness, they are a brilliant reddish-orange color, and deliciously sweet.

Let me know if you ever want the recipe and I'll send it over.

Y said...

Mmm delicious! I love lemon bars. And even better for hot days : lemon ice-box pie.