Friday, February 4, 2011

Lemon Bars

Lemon Bars

Today our household woke up with sore throats ... not a good start to a day, but we counted our blessings in the fact that Daddy was home with us and we could both rest and take shifts with the kiddos -surviving our day with a bit more ease.  I don't remember the last time I had a nap in the middle of my day and today I was reminded of how WONDERFUL they are! Granted, it was on the couch while the boys took turns jumping on me, laying on my lap for a few moments, Cole whispering Whats wrong with Mommy?? and hearing Toy Story 3 in the background -but nevertheless, my eyes were closed!!  

In the hopes of not letting our sore throats get the best of us, we continued on with our Valentine's Day countdown ... today we had a love note for Daddy ...  baked goods with lemon are amongst Jeremy's favorite things, so today we decided to make him lemon bars.

The note ...

Reading it aloud with Daddy

Braydon finding the juicer in his mailbag ... one of the clues for today's baking activity

I was completely impressed with Braydon.  I had no idea how observant he had been in the past when I have juiced lemons and oranges.  Braydon grabbed the lemon, put it in the juicer, brought it to the sink and attempted to juice the lemon.  Who knew he had the slightest idea as to what this tool was and what he was supposed to do with it??!

He gave it a good effort, but considering the lemons weren't sliced in half, nothing was going to happen for him ...

While it was early in our day, I figured we would all have the most energy now instead of later, so we started on our lemon bars before the day got ahead of us.  There are many ways to make lemon bars ... some using pre made lemon curd, some using bottled lemon juice and some that don't use lemon zest.  For the sake of making these lemon bars extra tart and fresh, we made these bars as fresh as can be.  

The crust is the first part of making the lemon bars.  In a large bowl, stir together 3/4 c flour, 1/4 c powdered sugar, and 1/8 tsp salt.  Once these ingredients have been mixed up, use a pastry blender or mixer to cut in about 6 tbsp of butter that has been cut into 3/4 inch pieces.  Cut the butter into the flour mixture until coarse crumbs begin to form.  Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of a prepared pan, making sure to press the mixture about an inch up the sides of the pan.  

Bake the crust for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees.  

Once baked, reduce the oven temp to 325 degrees and set the crust aside.

Now it is time to make the filling.  What you are going to make is a homemade lemon curd- it is a thick, smooth butter sauce the can be spread onto muffins, cakes or bread- or as we are doing today, a filling for our lemon bars.  Jeremy LOVES this filling in his ebelsksivers too!  I actually doubled this recipe, so rather than making 16 bars in an 8 x 8 pan, I used a 9 x 13 pan.  I will continue to give you the ratio ingredients for a single batch, although my pictures represent my doubled batch.  

To make the lemon filling, some prep needs to be done.  Juice 5 lemons.  If you don't have a juicer, use lemon juice ... about 3/4 c of juice is needed.

I always prefer using lemons for the obvious reasons of freshness and they seem to have a more authentic tart taste, rather than an artificial lemon flavor.

Cut all the lemons in halves to make your juicing process more efficient.

I used a glass to catch all the juice, and began to juice my lemons in half pieces.

I LOVE this picture of Cole, bless his heart ... he wanted to help me juice the lemons, but he was straining SO hard that I decided to give him a hand.

There we go, a more natural task for him- placing the lemons in the juicer for me!

Now that our lemons have all been juiced, set it aside ... remember, I juiced 10 lemons because I am doubling my batch, so don't be alarmed when your 5 lemons don't give you this much juice!!

You will need a good amount of eggs for this next step.  In a saucepan crack 3 eggs ...

Then in a separate bowl, crack 3 more eggs, only keeping the yolk.

Then add these yolks to the saucepan with the other eggs.

Pour in your lemon juice and 1 c of sugar.

Over medium heat, whisk these ingredients in the saucepan until the sugar is completely dissolved.  While the sugar is dissolving, begin grating your lemons to get your lemon zest.  

Keep the lemon zest (rind) on the side for adding to the saucepan in a few moments.

By now, the sugar should be dissolved.  Once this has happened, add 6 tbsp butter, cut into 3/4 inch pieces.  Using a whisk, stir constantly until the butter melts and the mixture becomes thick.

To test the consistency of the sauce, dip a spoon into the saucepan to see if the mixture coats the back of the spoon.  If you whisk constantly, in about 12 minutes, the mixture will begin to form into lemon curd. It is a long time to whisk, but with the heat and the constant stirring, it will thicken. 

When the lemon curd has formed, add the 2 tsp lemon zest you already grated to the saucepan. 

Mix the lemon zest well into the lemon curd and then remove from the stove to cool for about 10 minutes.

Your lemon curd should resemble this texture and consistency.

Now pour the lemon curd into the baked crust and bake for 25 minutes at 325 degrees.

You are looking for the lemon curd to set in the center and bake just enough without burning the filling.  Keep an eye on it so that you don't let it bake too long- but if you take it out too early, the filling won't set and when you go to cut the bars, they will fall apart.

Let the lemon bars cool for about 30 minutes.  If you are going to serve right away, top with powdered sugar.  If you are waiting to serve, refrigerate and then top with the powdered sugar, as the sugar will become absorbed over time.

Cut into squares and enjoy ... Daddy so enjoyed his love note and treat for the day ... I wonder what love note we will find tomorrow!!

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