Friday, January 25, 2013
Whole Lemon Bars
January is official start date of citrus season at our house and our lovely Meyer lemon and Valencia oranges are at full capacity right now. This past week I took my morning workout outside and plucked a huge bucket of oranges and lemons off the trees. While picking the oranges from the tree, I heard a woman's voice from behind my house asking if she could have some oranges. (There's street parking for the apartments that are located behind my house.) I said sure, here let me give you some and then I proceeded to hand her maybe about 15 to 20 oranges. She was happily delighted that I was giving her some free fruit, and I didn't care because I had already picked a bucket. Then I said wait, let me go get you a bag to carry them all. She was like you're too kind and asked me if I liked avocados. I said oh my goodness- for the past week I have been eating avocados and toast like it's my best friend - it's one of my pregnancy cravings right now. She offered to bring me a bag of avocados for my generosity, and I said that sounds like a sweet deal. I thanked her and couldn't believe my luck for being outside at the right moment.
Even though it was a total bizarre and friendly exchange - it was really nice to have the favor returned and I didn't anticipate it. I could have stingy and not given her any oranges, but since we had more oranges than we can eat and drink - it was just nice to be friendly....just because you never know. Now, I didn't have to pick a bucket of lemons to make this recipe and only needed one. After my morning workout, I quickly prepared these scrumptious whole lemon bars all in one bowl - the bowl of the food processor. They are not as tart as my go-to classic lemon bars, but they have a perfect balance of sweet and tart.
A scrumptious sweet treat to enjoy this citrus season.
Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
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For the Crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks, plus extra for greasing pan
For the Filling:
*1 small-to-medium-sized lemon
1 1/3 cups sugar
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar for garnishment
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and make sure the rack is placed in the middle of the oven. Line a 8-inch or 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper. Put one sheet along the bottom and up the sides in one direction and then place a second piece to cover the bottom and the other sides. Lightly butter or spray the paper and set the pan aside.
In the bowl of the food processor, combine the flour, sugar and salt. Add the butter, and pulse until the mixture is sandy and will stick together when pinched. Place the dough crumbs into the prepared baking pan and press evenly across the bottom and about 1/2 inch up the sides. Prick the crust all over with a fork and bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned. If the crust should bubble up, gently prick the area with a fork. Leave the oven on.
Prepare the filling in the food processor. Slice lemon in half, and if the white part of the skin is more than 1/4 inch thick- slice the lemons. If not, remove the skin from half of the lemon or the bitterness of pith can overwhelm the bars. To remove the skin, place the lemon cut-side-down on the cutting board, and remove the skin and pith from the entire half in downward cuts and remove. The second half, even if just as thick, can be used as is. Cut into slices.
Remove any seeds from the lemon slices and toss the lemon - flesh and peel - in the bowl of your food processor. Add the sugar, and run the machine until the lemon is thoroughly pureed, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the butter and run until the mixture is smooth, scraping down the sides of the food processor as needed. Add the eggs, cornstarch and salt and pulse until fully combined.
Pour the lemon mixture over the crust and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the filling is set. You can check if the middle jiggles slightly, then they are finished baking - if they are jiggling alot - bake for another 5 minutes or until the top has slightly browned.
Let the bars cool completely on rack or in the fridge. Gently lift the parchment paper and place on cutting board. Slice into squares and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
*Cooking notes: If you use Meyer lemons, which tend to have a thinner skin - they have the perfect balance of tart and fragrance. Reduce the sugar to 1 cup and use the lemon as is. No need to remove the skin. You can also double the recipe and bake in a 9x13 pan as well. I highly suggest doubling the recipe, because these lemon bars will disappear fast.
Yield: 16 bars
Review: Smack-tastic! Make these whole lemon bars now, and make a double batch because you'll find yourself wanting a whole pan to yourself. Luckily, I shared with some friends but I already find myself wanting to make another batch because they were the perfect after dinner dessert. Plus, The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook is absolutely AWESOME...it's my go-to cookbook at the moment. I bought it for myself as an early birthday gift and there are TONS of recipes that are phenomenal. I absolutely love all of Deb's stories/recipes and all of her food photos makes your mouth water for everything in the cookbook. I might be cooking my way through her cookbook for the next month or two!
Whole Lemon Bars