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Classic Lemon Bars

Classic Lemon Bars

This is the lemon bar of your childhood..tender, buttery, melt in your mouth crust, lemony bur sweet filling, and topped with a snowfall of powdered sugar.  I love them and if I were being nostalgic or feeding a room full of kids, this is the bar ncookie I would make.  But we all grow up, our taste change, we get a little bolder and crave a twist to childhood favorites.  Luckily I found a “grown-up” version, Alice Medrich’s Lemon Bars to bake.  A crisp, buttery crust and filling with enough lemon to make your tastebuds pucker up, so good.

There is absolutely no reason you can’t have both! If you’re feeling like a kid bake this version, if you’re feeling hipster-ish and sassy, bake Alice’s version, Lemon Bars with attitude.

When I am in a hurry I will make the crust for these bars in my food processor.  Put flour and powdered sugar in FP bowl.  Pulse to combine.  Add butter (if you use unsalted butter add a pinch of salt) and pulse until it looks like powdery, loose crumbs. It should not come together.  Pour the mixture into an 8×8 pan and press evenly.  Don’t worry, it won’t look like dough, but will bake into a tender lovely crust.

While the crust is baking, prepare the filling. I have used just lemons, a combination of lemons and limes (2/3:1/3), Meyer lemons and oranges. Experiment!

Imperative to pour the filling on a hot crust which helps set the filling.  The filling will keep baking after it comes out so a slight center jiggle is ok when you take it out of the oven.

 

Classic Lemon Bars

Ingredients

    Classic Lemon Bars from the SF Chronicle
  • Shortbread crust
    1 cup flour
    1/4 cup powdered sugar
    1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
    Filling:
    1 cup sugar
    2 T flour
    1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    2 T lemon juice
    2 teaspoon lemon zest, finely grated
    2 large eggs

Instructions

    Adjust the rack in the lower third of oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 or 9 inch square pan.
    To make crust: Briefly blend the flour and sugar in a medium bowl to combine. Cut in butter until the mixture resembles oatmeal. Using your fingertips, press the mixture into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 15 minutes or until pale golden.
    To make filling: Whisk flour, sugar and baking powder together. Blend eggs, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a medium bowl. Add the dry ingredients and blend until thoroughly combined. Pour filling over partially baked crust and bake 25 minutes. Cool, sprinkle powdered sugar over top and cut into bars.
    Options: Can add additional 1/2 T lemon juice or substitute 1/3 of juice with orange or lime juice and zest. Cut down on baking time ( 25 minutes to 15-20 minutes depending on pan size.)
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Want A Bakehouse Pecan BLONDIE – CALL ME

Want A Bakehouse Pecan BLONDIE – CALL ME

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel…Cookie #11 and it’s a good one. Bakehouse Pecan Blondies from Zingerman’s Bakehouse Cookbook.

Ipso Fatto posted her review of these delicious Pecan Blondies which then began the usual dance in my head I like to call the Cookbook Tango.  Like mental Pong, do I or don’t I, should I or shouldn’t I?  Really, I don’t need another cookbook… but it looks so good. Well, I could “kick the tires” so to speak beforehand, try some of the recipes, see if I like it.  Okay, I’m gonna be tough and really scrutinize the book before getting it. Yes. Yes. Yes.

Who am I kidding, it took one recipe and I caved.

In my defense, Bakehouse Pecan Blondies are absolutely fabulous and justifies my quick surrender.  Why?  You take pecans, toast them in butter and salt, then toss them in a simple sugar-water caramel.  Once the pecan-sugar mixture cools and hardens it literally turns into pecan crack. Chop it up and fold the pieces into the blondie batter and shazam, deliciousness is born!  Pecan praline the zinger in Zingerman’s blondies.

The batter is simple and comes together quickly-melted butter, eggs, brown sugar (you can use dark brown sugar for the Muscovado brown sugar) and flour.  Fold the pecans in, bake, dunzo.  It’s not as dense as a brownie and not as airy as a cake.  It’s just right.

Let’s get busy baking!

This is a beautiful book, filled with great stories about the bakery and the folks that are or have been a part of Zingerman’s tradition.  This is not cutting edge, new wave fou-fou food, more like all-American homey food, desserts and artisanal bread done really well and with love. Photos for most recipes are included and informative crib notes on the side.  The recipes are organized well and include both volume and metric weight measurements (yay!). Definitely making more treats out of this book soon!

 

Want A Bakehouse Pecan BLONDIE – CALL ME

Ingredients

    Praline
  • 2 Tbs (57gm) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup (115gm) pecan pieces
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 Tbs (27gm) water
  • 1/2 cup (115gm) granulated sugar
  • Blondies
  • 1 cup + 3 Tbs (230gm) packed Muscovado brown sugar
  • 1 cup (230gm) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1-1/2 cups (200gm) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Instructions

    For the praline
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees, spray a 9x9 square baking pan with non-stick cooking spray
  • Brown the butter: Haven't done that? Serious Eats step by step is really good
  • When butter is browned, remove from heat and add pecan pieces, salt and vanilla and toss to coat nuts.
  • Toast the pecan mixture on a sheet pan at 325 degrees for approximately 12 minutes until they are toasty brown. Start checking at 8 minutes. Set aside.
  • Caramelize the sugar: Stir together sugar and water in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat without stirring until it is caramelized to a rich reddish-brown. Careful not to burn or go to dark, it will take on a bitter taste. Immediately add the pecans and stir to combine and then spread pecans evenly in the prepared 9x9 pan. The praline will start to harden so work quickly and spread as thin as you can. Set aside to cool. Once cooled, remove pecans from pan and chop into small irregular pieces, 1/4-1/2 inch size. The praline can be made ahead and stored in a cool, dry spot.
    Blondies!
  • The easy part of this recipe
  • In a small bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Stir to combine and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk the brown sugar, melted butter, eggs and vanilla. Whisk until mixture is homogenous and thick.
  • Add dry ingredients to butter-sugar mixture and stir to until it is homogenous. Add the chopped pralines, stir to combine.
  • Pour batter into prepared 9x9 pan, spread evenly and bake for approximately 45 minutes until puffed in the middle and golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.
  • Cut into rectangles and serve with ice cold milk, coffee, tea..just about anything and wait for the smiles.
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Mui-road trip to Ann Arbor from Minneapolis is on the bucket list!

 

Happy New Year!  Bouchon’s Gougeres

Happy New Year! Bouchon’s Gougeres

Happy Gougere! What?!  Too cheesy? I had writer’s block when I sat down to compose this post.  Staring at my screen, fingers poised on the keyboard, sipping a glass of wine and munching on these cheese puffs I had just pulled out of the oven, I […]

Bouchon’s Shortbread  Cookie

Bouchon’s Shortbread Cookie

This month’s Food52 Baking Club pick is Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery Book. A gorgeous, very heavy (a workout just lugging it around) opus on all things delicious. My copy has languished on a shelf for quite some time but this gave me a reason to […]

Salted Chocolate Chip Tahini Cookies Revisited

Salted Chocolate Chip Tahini Cookies Revisited

I reserved some of the  Salted Chocolate Chip Tahini Cookie dough to bake knowing I would be going to Monday morning coffee with the moms. Who can resist freshly baked cookies?  Having scooped out all my dough on the first day, I had cookies ready to bake in the fridge.  I came home from the gym (New Year’s Resolution number 1), turned on the oven, plopped the little doughboys on a sheet and popped them in the oven.  Easy peasy-freshly baked cookies in a jiffy.  I had lined the cookie sheet with a Silpat and whoa, what a difference.  This latest batch was much more reminiscent of a Mrs. Field’s cholate chip cookie (who remembers those, lol), a bit denser, definitely softer and lacking that lightness and crispy edge from the first day.

The moral of the story: If you like crisp and light, bake on parchment and after 12 hours of chilling.  If you like a classic chewy cookie, bake on Silpat and chill the dough for longer.  The next time I bake these I will test my theory again.

Cookie on the left baked after 12 hours of chilling time and on parchment.  The cookie on the right after 48 hours in the fridge and baked on a Silpat mat.

But do bake these cookies, they are absolutely scrumptious!