Sunday, June 20, 2010

Easy Lemon Bars

My mom has a huge love for lemon bars. As someone who loves citrus in all applications, the culinary answer to a bar cookie and custard - all combined in one - is undoubtedly a hit.

My mom (okay, me, too) also has a huge love for Ina Garten. These lemon bars come from her cookbook Barefoot Contessa: Parties!, my personal favorite of her six books. I was most surprised by how quickly and easily these came together. Although the crust was a little sticky to assemble, likely because room temperature in the South during the summer is about 10 degrees warmer than normal, it baked up beautifully.

The filling could not be easier to whip up. Dump everything in a bowl and whisk until smooth: no separating of eggs, no sifting of dry ingredients. Seriously: dump and stir. It's that easy.

These lemon bars have an intense citrus flavor, the juice and zest of the lemons packing a dual punch. Serve these bars chilled or at room temperature, with a dusting of powdered sugar, and let your teeth sink in to the filling. This is undoubtedly a summer treat, perfect for any time of day: morning, noon, and night. As Ina would say, "How bad could that be?"

Easy Lemon Bars
Adapted from Ina Garten

I halved this recipe, which originally made about 40 triangles. We used a 7 by 9-inch glass baking dish, but an 8 by 8-inch pan would also do. Feel free to cut the bars as small or as big as you like; I think we ended up with about 16 modestly-sized triangles. These bars keep well in the refrigerator for about a week after you make them (if they last that long).

Yield: 16 triangles (or 8 squares)

For the crust:
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cups flour
A pinch of kosher salt

For the filling:
4 large eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 teaspoons grated lemon zest (3 lemons)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup flour
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or use a hand mixer). Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 7 by 9-inch baking dish, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill.

Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.

For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature.

Cut into triangles and dust with confectioners' sugar.

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