For Christmas we do a family name exchange, all of the adults write down a few things they would like and then we draw names. Usually I get my Grandpa and there is nothing more fun than shopping for an 80 year old man! This year my Aunt Libby had my name and she gave me Baking Illustrated. This is an awesome cook book! Usually I don't like cook books without a picture for every recipe, but this is an exception. The folks at America's Test Kitchen (the authors) go through and explain WHY the recipes are the way they are. It is very informative and gives insight into how ingredients are used. Inside the cook book was a sweet note from my Aunt where she mentioned that she would not mind some lemon bars! This is really funny considering I had just given my roommate a cookbook for Christmas filled with sticky notes of things I wanted her to bake for me! Since her birthday is coming up, I thought I would mail her some! Can lemon bars be mailed? I don't know, I'll let you know how that worked out!
Update - I spoke with my Aunt Libby on Thursday. I mailed the lemon bars on Tuesday morning via USPS flat rate priority mail shipping and she received them on Thursday and she said they were in one piece and delicious! Apparently you can mail lemon bars!!
Anyway, these lemon bars are quite delicious! The lemon curd is perfectly tart without being overpowering and the crust is thick, crunchy, and sweet. This is definitely something to make again! I was not trying to be a brat by listing the measurements in metric, Baking Illustrated lists metric and English measurements and I have a kitchen scale, so I used metric. I find metric to be less clean up because I don't have to wash measuring cups! Definitely pass the lemon curd through the sieve, this step makes the lemon part perfectly smooth and silky, you'll be surprised at how many little chunks there are in the mixture.
Lemon Bars Adapted from Baking Illustrated, page 493 Yield - 12 squares
Crust 6 1/4 ounces flour (1 1/4 cups) 2 ounces powdered sugar (1/2 cup) 1/2 teaspoon salt 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
Spray a 8” square pan with cooking spray and then place two pieces of parchment paper perpendicular to each other in the pan with a lot of over hang. This will assist in pan removal. Spray the parchment paper.
Place the flour, powdered sugar, and salt in a bowl and mix together. Add in the butter and blend with a pastry blender until crumbly. At this point I used my hands to mix it better. Baking Illustrated recommends a food processor, but I don’t have one, mixing by hand worked out fine for me. Press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan as evenly as possible and then refrigerate for 30 minutes. Bake at 350 F for 20 minutes. Lemon Filling 7 large egg yolks 2 whole eggs 7 7/8 ounces sugar (1 cup + 2 tablespoons) 2/3 cup lemon juice (I used 4 1/2 lemons) 1/4 cup finely grated lemon zest pinch of salt 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces 3 tablespoons heavy cream
Start making the filling after you put the crust into the oven, you want to add the warm filling to the warm crust so they adhere properly.
In a medium non-reactive bowl, whisk together the eggs and the yolks until well combined. Add the sugar and whisk again. Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, and salt and whisk some more. Add the mixture to a medium sauce pan along with the butter and stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture starts to thicken and is heated to a temperature of 170 F. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve, pressing with a rubber spatula into a clean bowl. Stir in the heavy cream. Pour into the warm crust and bake for 10-15 minutes until the middle is just a little jiggly. Cool on a wire rack and then cut into bars. Sprinkle powdered sugar on top to serve.