Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Recipe: When winter in southern California hands you lemons, make lemon bars

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There is an old, twisted, very funky lemon tree in the backyard of Ocean Pilates in Santa Monica, where I go every week to try to improve my physical being at the hands of my wonderful instructor Erin. (There are also two beautiful old fig trees which I raided over the summer to make jam, but that's for another time.) The lemon tree is so strange-looking, and the lemons so oddly shaped, that Erin at first thought they were limes, and then deemed them completely inedible. But patience, patience! Now that it's the end of winter and the lemons are fully ripe, they're sensational. Still very oddly shaped, though. Makes me wonder whether all lemon trees send out these weirdos, and the commercial growers are just very good at sorting.

With Erin's blessing, I've been raiding the lemon tree lately. Lots of lemonade in our house, which makes my kids and husband very happy. I, on the other hand, love lemon desserts above all others, and I'd been craving lemon bars.

This extremely simple recipe comes together in minutes. I love the way the lemon curd develops a tiny meringue-like crust on top. I love the shortness of the crust. Okay, I admit it, I love the whole package.

And yes, I know these are traditionally finished with a dusting of powdered sugar. But who has the patience to go through an extra step when there are lemon bars in front of you, waiting to be eaten? Not I. Never. (Also, I find that the extra sugar on top takes away from the tart surprise of the lemon curd, which, to my mind, is the whole point of lemon bars in the first place.)


Lemon bars in winter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

First, make the crust:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
  • pinch of salt
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Spray a 9x13 baking pan with cooking spray. Press the dough into the pan evenly. Bake the crust for 15 minutes, until it starts to turn golden.

While the crust is baking, make the filling:
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 5/8 cup lemon juice
Beat the eggs in a large bowl until light and frothy. Stir in the sugar. Sift the baking powder and flour over the egg mixture and combine. Add the lemon juice. Whisk until everything is well combined.

Take the crust out of the oven when it's ready. Pour the lemon filling over it and return the pan to the oven. Bake 30 minutes or until the filling is set and no longer jiggly when you shake the pan. Cool completely - refrigerate, even - before cutting into bars. I was impatient, which is why the bar shown in the photo above is less than perfectly cut.


Anonymous said...

I stand corrected!


Erika Kerekes said...

But aren't you glad they turned out to be edible lemons instead of inedible limes? Much more fun this way.

Erika Kerekes said...

Update: When Erin was out of town, someone (another tenant? the landlord? not clear) did some re-landscaping in the yard behind her studio and CUT DOWN THE LEMON TREE. No more lemons. Bye-bye, funky old tree. Sigh.

Unknown said...

I just made these for my Christmas cookie trays and they were SO good! Will definitely make again! Thanks!

Erika Kerekes said...

Lorri, that's great to hear. Now I want to make them too - heading out to my yard to see if the lemons on my tree are yellow yet!

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