Wednesday, May 21, 2014

the best lemon bars in the world - a classic perfected

Lemon Bars are one of those classic desserts you can find in about any of the supermarkets these days. What's different about my lemon bars is they actually taste good. I know, surprising (not the part about my lemon bars tasting good, the part about lemon bars tasting good at all). Sweet without being cloyingly so, buttery without being too rich, and certainly not dense. If I were to use one word to describe these lemon bars it would be, perfect. The dilemma chefs have always had when making lemon bars, was getting a firm enough top, without sacrificing a crispy bottom. With this recipe you won't have to give up any of that. This is the perfect summer dessert, gift, or picnic item for your next special occasion (or just for everyday eating). It's absolute perfection in a bar, so let's get started (before I go off on one of my tangents). By the way, did I tell you that I finally got a twitter account. @chefchowblog #awesome #madcookingskills #i'mnotmadatyou #i'msorry #don'tcry #nowyou'remakingmecry. Why didn't you stop me!

Like many of our recipes we'll start with the butter. You want to cut the butter into small chunks and put it on a plate in the freezer to harden. Whenever you're baking, often times the temperature of your butter will dictate the success of whatever you're making. Recipes that call for melted butter (i.e. cookies) are intended to have a chewy outcome. Desserts that require the butter to be cold (i.e. pies, pastries) mean the end product will one of these three, crispy, crunchy, or flaky (it could even be all three, oh my). The more you chow.

This dough will be very quick to put together so preheat your oven to 325. In a food processor begin by processing your powdered sugar, salt, and granulated sugar. The goal is to get the sugars really fine, however if you pulse for too long the friction from the blades could cause the sugar to burn so be diligent. Once you do that toss in your cold (it doesn't necessarily need to be frozen) butter. Pulse until it looks like the picture, small round pea sized pieces. 

Once you have this, go and add your all-purpose flour and process until the dough clumps together. Pour the mixture into a bowl and knead it for 30 seconds or until a ball comes together. 

Our dough is so buttery we technically don't even need to butter our pan, but just for good measure do so lightly. Press the dough into a 9x9 baking dish. I was debating whether of saying this or not but remember to pat the dough into a single layer that covers the entire bottom of the pan (I don't know who would just leave a ball of dough in the center but at least no one can sue me now). Dock and bake for precisely 35 minutes. I took mine out when it was lightly tan. You absolutely want to turn the oven off if your crust has browned significantly. Remember we still have to bake this again with the lemon curd, oh I didn't tell you, well now you know. 

In fact, while the crust is baking we can get started on the lemon curd. In a saucepot (not sure if that's a real thing) stir together your sugar and egg yolks. Add the butter, salt, and freshly squeezed lemon juice (accept no substitutes) and place it on the stove. Stir it with a spoonula or spatula, constantly, until it thickens and resembles a hollandaise sauce, thick but still pourable. If the curd begins to boil take it off the heat immediately or else it'll curdle. Push it through a strainer. You can add your lemon zest at this point. Finally pour onto the crust. Again, spread it evenly (although I'm not sure any of you wouldn't), you can tilt the pan and shake it to achieve fanciful flatness. 

Bake it for an additional 10 minutes at 300. Let it cool on the counter for 10 minutes and then into the fridge to set and cool. Once they're cool, dusting with powdered sugar. You can get 9 large squares, or a dozen rectangles if you think making a dozen sounds fancier, or even better cut it into 5000 pieces to feed the multitude #christisthelord.

Lemon Bars are one of the best and classic pastry desserts every chef should know how to make. They're fun, easy, and absolutely scrumptious. Because the lemon is so tangy and refreshing and the crust so crunchy and buttery, I think this is the perfect poster boy for a top ten summer desserts count down, you just wait, it'll find it's way onto one. I'd suggest serving these cold, applying extra powdered sugar if necessary. And as always, 



Shortbread Crust
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 

pinch of salt

Lemon Curd
4 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
2 freshly squeezed medium lemons, again the emphasis on the freshly squeezed
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons lemon zest 
pinch of salt
powdered sugar, for dusting

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