July 12, 2012

Lemon Bars

silky, lucious lemon bars

I’m still trying to figure out if I’m more of a sweet tooth or salty fan. You would think I’d have that figured out by now. The thing is I’m pretty sure I like both equally. There are times when I down right crave a bag of salt & vinegar chips. Then again, there are also days when nothing else will do but a heaping scoop of Bluebell Banana Split Ice Cream. (Have you had this flavor of ice cream? No? Do your self a favor and go to your nearest grocery store and buy some NOW. It’s life changing).

crumbly buttery dough

The days that I do crave sweets, I’m often torn between satisfying myself with something chocolate or fruity. Do I want a dessert that’s more rich and substantial or do I want something lighter and perhaps a little tart? That’s often my predicament. Decisions like this make for quite the stress filled life, I know.

flattened dough

Of course, there is no doubt that I will always welcome, with wide, open arms- and mouth for that matter- any chocolate based dessert. Whether it’s a light as air soufflé, a creamy, dense pudding, a slice of cake stacked high with chocolate frosting, the vessel doesn’t make much difference- chances are if it’s nestled or oozing with chocolate, I’ll eat it, enjoy it and ask for seconds.

juiced fresh citrus

A funny thing happens in the summer time though. When I face that life altering moment, where a choice must be made between the chocolate mousse or key lime pie, I tend to favor the fruits during this time of year. Maybe it’s because the flavors seem more refreshing to the palette or lighter and less damaging to the waistline, even though we all know that a slice of cherry pie can pack in just as many calories as a piece of chocolate torte. Fruity desserts provide the illusion of a more guilt-free indulgence- and that’s ok with me.

smooth custard, buttery crust

So when it’s 115º outside, as it is right now in Phoenix, you can rest assured knowing that I’m whipping up something like these Lemon Bars as opposed to fudge brownies when my sweet tooth is commandeering my attention. Never mind the 2 sticks of butter or the 6 extra-large eggs, these Lemon Bars feel like a light and delicate ending to a summer’s eve meal. If it feels guiltless, then there’s no harm done, right? Perhaps that’s not the right mantra to live by during bathing suit season…

the perfect summer dessert

Lemon Bars 
Recipe Courtesy of The Barefoot Contessa 

8 oz or 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1/8 tsp salt

6 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
2 tbsp grated lemon zest (from about 4-6 lemons)
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup flour
Powdered sugar, for dusting

1. To make the crust, cream the butter and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for about 2-3 minutes. In a small bowl, combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture until the dough just comes together. Dump the dough onto a well-floured surface or pastry board and form into a ball. With floured hands, flatten the dough and press into a 9 x 13-inch pan, making sure to build the crust up ½-inch along the edges on all sides. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

2. While the crust is chilling, preheat the oven to 350º. Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes or until very lightly browned. Set aside to cool.

3. To make the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice until slightly frothy. Whisk in the flour until combined. Pour the filling over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature. Cut into squares, rectangles or triangles (whichever you prefer), dust with powdered sugar and enjoy!

Makes about 2 dozen squares- depends on how big you cut them!

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