Thursday, September 18, 2008

17. Lemon Bars

Date Cooked: September 9th, 2008
Page: 817
Rating: A

My first attempt at baking from the book didn’t turn out to well. So I was a little nervous going into this recipe. But I was also excited after seeing a few recipes around for Lemon Bars on other blogs. They didn’t sound that hard but any time I see a recipe for any type of dough I freeze up with anxiety, so few ingredients yet so many ways to make it fail. As other people have pointed out, baking is more about science than cooking is. The manner in which the ingredients work together is very important. When making Biscotti I had no real understanding of this. Going into the lemon bars I was acutely aware of the possibility for failure. So with a little fear I began.

The first step was to make the crust. Carefully I measured out the dry ingredients and double checked the quantities and pulsed them together into the food processor. At this point I decided I may invest in a new food processor. The first time I pressed pulse a small cloud of flour puffed out from the lid. The processor I have is designed so that when you are slicing vegetables with it you can jettison (I love that word) them out the side into a bowl instead of keeping them in the processor bowl. Great for large quantities but I’ll admit a feature I have never used. So anyway, every time I hit pulse I would get a little of the flour mix everywhere. I struggled to get the lid gate to form a better seal but this just wasn’t working to well. I finally gave up and resigned myself to spending more time cleaning up.

Once the dry ingredients were mixed I added the butter. I cut the stick up into smaller pieces and distributed them throughout the dry ingredients before a couple more pulses to mix. This is where I am sure experience in baking comes in handy. Every baking recipe uses the descriptor, coarse meal, to describe when to stop mixing. I couldn’t tell if I had reached that point. So I did what anyone should do. I stuck my hands into the mix. I had turned off and unplugged the processor before doing this of course. You can learn from a lot of mistakes but I try to limit learning from personal safety mistakes. I don’t know how to describe the dough other than it felt right. It was smooth and fluffy and felt pretty much like the dry ingredients but would compress easily into form due to the butter. I work it just a little since I had read many stories about overworked dough. I dumped the mixture into the pan and compressed it to form a firm crust, then into the fridge for 30 minutes to chill before 20 minutes in the oven to turn it a golden brown. It never reached golden brown and this concerned me. I figured I would leave it just a little longer and then take it out regardless.

While the crust was chilling and baking I was getting the filling made. This was pretty simple other than the time it took to juice and zest the lemons. The zester I have is pretty basic and definitely not very sharp. It took a fair bit of work to obtain a ¼ cup of zest and for all the effort I was rewarded with some zested knuckles (don’t worry, I wasn’t adding that to the recipe). Juicing was much easier. We have an electric citrus juicer that was given as a wedding gift six years ago and we used it a fair bit in the early days. It made very quick work of the lemons. I ended up putting the pulpy juice through a fine mesh strainer but next time I don’t think I will since you strain it later in the process. Plus the added pulp could only provide more flavor.

The ingredients were all mixed together and then put on the stovetop to cook until thickened. It says to stir constantly until it begins to thicken and reaches a suitable internal temperature. The ‘Best’ book says about 5 minutes after almost 10 minutes of constant stirring it wasn’t really thickening. I turned away from the stove for 10 seconds, just 10 seconds, and it immediately clumped. I aggressively stirred it to smooth it out and removed it from the heat. At this point you strain it before pouring it over the hot crust. Then it goes into the oven for about 10-15 minutes. Oh wait… I forgot to add the cream to the lemon filling. I was pissed while my wife calmly informs me to just take it out, scrape the filling off and mix the cream and re-pour. Can you do that? I figured why not, my wife is usually right as she often reminds me. So I carefully remove the filling, add the cream and give it a quick fold into the mixture and spread it back over the crust. Back in the oven and I cross my fingers.

You know what? Katt was right. It turned out fine. And these were also the best lemon bars I have ever tasted. The filling was tart and full of lemon flavor but still sweet and it set beautifully. The crust was firm and had a texture almost like a cookie. It wasn’t rock hard like my last baking experiment and it held together beautifully. It didn’t crumble when being bitten, it snapped gently. Okay I was proud of myself. I will be making these again.

Rating: These tasted awesome and turned out beautifully. They deserve nothing less than an A


  1. Wooo-hooo!!!! That looks delicious!! And since I am not much into sweet things, lemon bars has always been my favorite dessert. Or...snacks. :)

  2. A fine outcome...I'm in Agincourt...flip one over will ya?

  3. I love lemon bars. I have the New Best Recipe book. Why have I not made these? I have no idea.

    Good job!

  4. Awesome! They sound great. I'm not much of a baker but I'm inspired to give it a whirl.

  5. I have been craving lemon bars, and now I know where to go when I have some time to make them!

  6. They sound delicious - even if you were uncertain about the process.

  7. WOW! Beautiful lemon bars!!! They look delicious.

  8. I LOVE the name of your blog...that's what I should have gone with! But I guess you had already picked it, oh well. Your food looks better than mediocre, except the peas. There's not much you can do about those, more butter possibly?

  9. Those lemon bars are nice and thick and they look really good!


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