Saturday, March 11, 2017

Meyer Lemon Bars

One day while M and I were walking around Trader Joe's, we happened across some bags of Meyer Lemons. I know they're used a lot in baking so I was instantly intrigued by them. M made me promise that if we bought them I had to already have an idea in mind to use them. I didn't, really, but I wanted them anyway. The only thing I knew was lemon bars, so I half-lied and said that I did have an idea.

I ended up deciding to actually make lemon bars so I started doing some research on recipes. I didn't find one that I liked, but I found some recipes from which I liked the separate components. I opted for the following two:

For the shortbread, the ingredients are as follows:
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt plus more
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 to 2 tsp ice water
You basically just pulse the dry ingredients to mix in a food processor before tossing in the cut up butter and pulsing until it becomes pebbly. The water is there in case the dough looks a little too dry. I didn't end up using any water, but I think I might put a little in if I make this again. The dough didn't seem too dry, but a touch of water might have made it a little easier to work with. I also think I'd put in less salt. Since I use coarse sea salt the flavor tends to be a little more intense so less should be needed.

Line a greased 9x13 baking pan with parchment paper, dump in the dough, and press it out to as close to the same thickness as you can all around while making sure to press it into the edges of the pan as well. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20-25 minutes until it's golden. Once done, remove the pan from the oven and set aside to allow it to cool while you make the topping.

The reason I picked this particular topping portion of the recipe is because the author mentions how the slightly higher sugar content makes it so that the top of the filling crystalizes a bit and gets a nice, sugary coating. Often lemon bars come topped with powdered sugar, and this recipe also does, but the crystalized sugar actually adds the right amount of sweetness in my opinion. The ingredients are as follows:
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ⅓ cup fresh squeezed Meyer lemon juice
  • 1 heaping tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
I beat together the eggs, sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest together with our stand mixer using the whisk attachment. I then mixed in the flour and baking powder and let it go until completely incorporated. Pour the mixed topping over the now-cooled shortbread base. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until the topping has set, and the top looks like it's a harder, crystalized shell.

I ended up accidentally lowering the temperature to 300 because the recipe I used for the shortbread base said to do that for baking on the topping, and I baked it at 300 for 25 minutes before raising the temp back up to 350 and baking for another 5 minutes. I think it turned out well, but we'll see how it goes next time when cooked at the proper temperature the whole time.

After the lemon topping finishes baking remove the pan from the oven and let it cool completely before cutting. As you can see from the picture above, the topping isn't smooth like most lemon bars; it has that aforementioned crystalized finish to it that I thought was absolutely amazing. I ended up cutting them into smaller pieces since I wanted to bring them to the office to share. M and I loved them, but there's no way we should have eaten this whole tray.

In the end, everyone loved these lemon bars. The only things I might change in the future are less salt in the shortbread, a little water in the shortbread, and maybe a little more Meyer lemon juice in the topping for a touch more tartness and freshness. Other than that, these were great. The night I baked them the shortbread was a little hard, but after a night of sitting in the Tupperware they softened up and were easier to bite through. It's a shame that Meyer lemons have such a short season, but I'll definitely be on the lookout for these again in the future, and I might try using regular lemons as well as a test since they're more year-round.

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