I mentioned before that I don't like to try new recipes for my holiday baking because of the risk factor in something not turning out when I need it to. I've gambled on a few new recipes this holiday baking season and for the most part, they've turned out fine. However, I have had 2 1/2 failures so far. In addition to my not-so-creamy-nor-dreamy fudge failure, these lemon bars can be chalked up in the failure column (I'll explain the "1/2" failure in a future post). I knew I shouldn't have been experimenting, especially since I already have a lemon bar recipe I already like. But I had extra lemons to use up and this one used more lemon juice than my normal recipe so I thought I would just try it and see.
Where did this go wrong? Let me count the ways. First, the crust didn't turn out. I baked it for 15 minutes like the recipe said but it wasn't golden yet or even "not raw" so I left it in for another 5 minutes. Still wasn't really done but I took it out anyway, thinking maybe once it baked some more after the topping was put on, it'd be okay. Second, the topping. I should know by now that when something calls for 1/2 cup of lemon juice, it's going to be, well, lemony. As in tart. As in way too tart and lip-puckering for me to really enjoy. Once I put the topping on, I baked this another extra 5 minutes more than the recipe said to but it wasn't really browned on top. I thought maybe it wasn't supposed to be. I was wrong. After I let it cool and sprinkled the powdered sugar on top, the moistness in the top kept absorbing the powdered sugar. Not a good sign. The crust was almost soggy and was too thin for the tart lemon topping. Major failure.
It's probably good for me to have a failure once in awhile. Humility is good for the soul and there's nothing more humbling than having a basic recipe fail on you. I also tend to learn more from mistakes than failures. My lessons learned here would've been to follow my instinct and bake the bottom crust longer than the recipe says to until I was satisfied with how "golden brown" it was, bake it in a smaller pan to get a thicker crust, cut back on the lemon juice and bake it longer as a whole so the top layer isn't so soggy and greedily sucking up all the powdered sugar into it.
My only regret is this failure came at a bad time as I was baking it for some goodie bag giveaways for friends at church. Their bags were a little lighter than usual this year as by the time my baking came to an end, I didn't have time to rectify the mistakes and make another batch of lemon bars. Oops.
1 cup unbleached flour
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
½ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, not yet to room temperature, cut into pieces
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup fresh lemon juice (2-3 lemons)
1 ½ tablespoons fresh, finely grated lemon zest (1-2 lemons)
3 tablespoons unbleached flour
Big pinch of salt
1. Line a 9” x 9” baking pan with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Dust with flour and tap out the excess. Preheat the oven to 350⁰F.
2. For the crust: sift the flour, confectioners’ sugar, and salt into a bowl. Add the butter and mix into the flour, cutting in with 2 knives or a pastry blender.
3. Pat the mixture evenly in the prepared baking pan and bake for 15 minutes or until golden. Allow the crust to cool while you make the filling.
4. Filling: beat the eggs until frothy. Slowly add the granulated sugar, until just combined. Beat in the lemon juice and zest and combine well.
5. Measure the flour and salt and then sift together directly into the filling mixture. Mix gently until they are incorporated into the lemon mixture. Pour the filling over the baked crust and bake for 15 minutes or until the top is set. It should have tiny bubbles on the surface and the edges should be brown and slightly pulling away from the sides.
6. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack for 1 hour. Cut just before serving.