Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Ina Garten's Lemon Bars

Lemon Bars from The Barefoot Contessa - made November 23, 2013 from Desserted Planet
There's no faster way to use up lemons than to make lemon bars, preferably a recipe that uses the zest and the juice.  Sometimes the zest is the best part of the lemon so I like adding them to lemon desserts whether the recipe calls for it or not. This is the 4th dessert I made for my friend's fundraiser efforts and unfortunately the one that turned out the least well.

It's usually hard to go wrong with lemon bars so I thought I was only taking a small risk by trying this new recipe from the Barefoot Contessa.  Unfortunately, I should've paid closer attention to the proportion of ingredients before I started mixing them together.  The crust part was okay, albeit a bit thicker than I normally prefer in a shortbread crust but that was okay.  It was the filling that got to me.  3 cups of sugar?  Eek. That's a lot of sugar in a lemon bar filling. At first I was worried it would make it too sweet, despite the generous 1 cup of lemon juice the filling also called for.
When this was baking, it seemed my worst fears were justified because the top got really dark, probably because of the high sugar content.  I left it in the oven as long as I dared before it got too dark.  It's hard to burn lemon bars and I didn't want to add that possibility to my list of baking failures.  Turns out my fears of burning were for nothing as were my fears of too much sugar making this too sweet.  Sadly, I had the opposite results.  While the corners and edges appeared done and the filling was firm (almost too firm) the middle was a bit goopy. And far from being too sweet, the lemon bar had so much lemon juice that it was too sour and had a bitter aftertaste.  I think the sourness was partially due to it not being baked long enough. I inadvertently messed it up even further because I was in a hurry when I made these and glazed them quickly with a royal icing glaze in the hopes that it would lighten up the dark top.  But the glaze ended up not setting as much as I had hoped and instead absorbed into the goopiness of the filling. So I had to sprinkle powdered sugar over the goopy glaze over the goopy filling to try and salvage them. Sigh.  Lemon bar fail. Next time I'm sticking with my tried and true recipe.
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened (8 ounces or 1 cup)
½ cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
⅛ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

6 large eggs at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (4 to 6 lemons)
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (8 lemons)
1 cup all-purpose flour
Powdered sugar, for dusting
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9×13 pan with foil and lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy in the bowl of an electric mixer. Combine the flour and salt and with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Add vanilla. Gather the dough into a ball and press gently and evenly into the 9×13 pan. Chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
  3. Bake the crust for 18 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on, set to 350 degrees.
  4. For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 minutes, until the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature.
  5. Cut into triangles or squares and dust with powdered sugar.

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