Here are our far-from-perfect-but-nonetheless-delicious lemon bars, ready to be packed off to school and sold at the bake sale, because such is my life.
I promise that the next time I go to Bakeri I will not complain (even to myself, in secret) about the cost of their tiny and delicious lemon squares. Because they are not easy-peasy to create, like baking brownies for example. One actually needs some skill and mental confidence to pull these babies off.
That said, my daughter and I had a marathon baking session last night in order to make the aforementioned pastries for her school bake sale. The proceeds go to the scholarship fund, so the hard work was worth it, even though I secretly wanted to give up several times along the way.
But I was, as usual, playing the role of responsible, all-knowing, nothing-can-stop-us mom, so I zested the hell out of those lemons (a HUGE pain… if anybody knows a short-cut way to create zest, let him come forward), and patiently let my seven year old measure out flour and corn starch and cut frozen butter into cubes and whisk the lemon mixture on the stovetop until it transformed itself into curd.
And then I removed the pan from the oven every three minutes or so, shaking it to see whether or not it had “set” properly. It never did completely solidify, but I finally took it out of the oven when the center was very very slow to move when I tilted the pan. I then left it to cool down to room temperature, slept for 90 minutes, woke up (at 1:30 am, like a crazy person) and put the pan in the fridge to cool for the rest of the night.
This morning, solid-ass lemon squares were my reward. Ready to be cut, sprinkled with powdered sugar, and sent off to school to be purchased by other members of my kid’s school community. Hallelujah.
We sold them all, which is was very gratifying.
Here is the recipe we followed, from the esteemed Melissa Clark at the New York Times. We used a 9 x 13 inch pan, so we increased the ingredients by 50% and cooked the curd/crust combo for about 30 minutes:
Lemon Bars with Olive Oil and Sea Salt
FOR THE CRUST:
1 1⁄4 cups/155 grams all-purpose flour
1⁄4 cup/50 grams granulated sugar
3 tablespoons/25 grams confectioners’ sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1⁄4 teaspoon fine sea salt 10 tablespoons/142 grams
FOR THE CURD:
4 to 6 lemons
1 1⁄2 cups/300 grams sugar
2 large eggs plus 3 yolks
1 1⁄2 teaspoons/5 grams cornstarch
Pinch of fine sea salt
4 tablespoons/57 grams cold butter, cut into cubes
1⁄4 cup/60 milliliters fruity extra- virgin olive oil
Confectioners’ sugar Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling
1. Heat oven to 325 degrees and line a 9-by-9-inch baking pan with enough parchment to hang over two of the sides (to be used as handles later to lift the bars out of the pan).
2. To make the shortbread base, pulse together the flour, granulated sugar, confectioners’ sugar, lemon zest and salt in a food processor, or whisk together in a large bowl. Add butter and pulse (or use two knives or your fingers) to cut the butter into the flour until a crumbly dough forms. Press dough into prepared pan and bake until shortbread is pale golden all over, 30 to 35 minutes.
3. While the shortbread is baking, prepare the lemon curd: Grate 1/2 tablespoon zest from lemons and set aside. Squeeze lemons to yield 3/4 cup juice.
4. In a small saucepan, whisk together lemon juice, sugar, eggs and yolks, cornstarch and fine sea salt over medium heat until boiling and thickened, 2 to 5 minutes. Make sure mixture comes to a boil or the cornstarch won’t activate. But once it boils do not cook for longer than 1 minute or you risk the curd thinning out again. Remove from heat and strain into a bowl. Whisk in butter, olive oil and lemon zest.
5. When the shortbread is ready, take it out of the oven and carefully pour the lemon curd onto the shortbread base; return the pan to the oven. Bake until topping is just set, 10 to 15 minutes more. Allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until cold before cutting into bars. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and flaky sea salt right before serving.