Friday, April 2, 2010

Ad Hoc At Home Lemon Bars

The other day, when WSH was at Trader Joe's, he called, as is his custom, to ask if I needed anything. I replied, "Yes Darling, could you pick up a lemon for me?" Actually I call him Sweetie, not Darling, but I wanted a lemon was the point. When he arrived home and un-bagged a BAG of lemons, I gave him that look. (We have history here.)  WHAT? He says.  The bag was 20 cents cheaper than a single lemon! And, even I, the anti-clutter maniac, the terribly specific about ingredients cook, had to agree he had a point. I will not, however, EVER yield on my egg stance. When I say large eggs (which all recipes call for) I mean LARGE eggs. Left to his own devices, and given the opportunity, he would bring home double-yolked Jumbos every. single. time. I swear.  I put the eggs in the basket for this one!

So as I flipped through the pages of my Thomas Keller cookbooks, each of which has multiple post-it notes marking pages, looking for a nice Springlike Easter sweet, I saw the lemon bars and knew what our Easter Dessert would be.  And the great thing is, you can make them ahead. So I did.

Starting with the crust:

Flour, Sugar, Vanilla, and Butter. Pretty simple.
Cream the butter and sugar until it's light and fluffy

Then add the vanilla and add the flour by 1/4 cupfuls until just mixed in. It doesn't completely blend, it was a really sandy, dry dough. There were a bunch of confusing directions about shaping it into a rectangle and then wrapping in plastic and refrigerating.

I made it into a rectangle but the dough was so dry (I checked my butter measurement 3 times) when I tried to lift it to wrap it, I was back at square one.  Undaunted by recipe instructions, I utilized all my problem solving skills at hand and decided to form the rectangle in the baking pan and just refrigerate it that way! I surprise myself sometimes...breaking rules like that.

At some point, you take it out and prick the dough with a fork and bake. The book says15-20 min until golden brown but mine took much longer. Breaking rules again, I increased the heat.

The crust must cool to room temperature. Then you squeeze some lemons! 

6 eggs, + 6 egg yolks (large of course) unsalted butter at room temp, sugar and 1 c lemon juice. Put everything except the butter which has been cut into small pieces ( I recommend cutting BEFORE it comes to room temp since i failed to do that) into a double boiler pan or a metal bowl which will fit over a pan of simmering water. This is very similar to the lemon sabayon tart from an earlier post.

Astute readers as you all are will recognize "what's wrong with this picture". I dumped the butter into the mix. Fortunately I re-read the recipe and fished it out. You know what they say about a life of crime? Something like it begins with stealing lifesavers from the drug store?  OK I don't know what they say either but I am going for broke on the rule breaking here. I added a tsp of lemon zest! Not called for in the recipe! The thing is, I have learned enough (pats self on back) to know what's an adaptation and what's a deal breaker. The lemon custard would have never come together with the butter pre-mixed. I'd have to start over. But the zest just added, well, extra zest!

You place the ingredients over the simmering water and whisk, whisk whisk! Until it thickens and holds a shape (not really peaks) when the whisk is lifted. Then begin whisking in the blobs (technical term) of butter until all is mixed together.

Almost done here folks, promise!  You take the lemon mixture and strain it through a fine mesh sieve onto the crust. It requires at least 4 hands. Just so you know. Especially if you are taking pictures.

Once it's all in there, smooth over the top.

Then you allow your helper to lick the spreader.

After that you cut a piece of parchment paper the size of your pan and spray one side with non-stick spray, lay the sprayed side down on the custard, then wrap in plastic wrap and freeze!  Please take notice of the precision cutting on the parchment. There were rulers involved.  Cheers! to Jim.

Now a quick addendum: Parsley Water... yes, you read that correctly. It isn't enough to have infused oils , or vegetable and spice powders, we need flavored cooking water when a stock will overpower the spring veggies. OK I can go with that. This will be my cooking medium for the Asparagus coins (you knew it was coming didn't you) on Sunday.

Here you see 3 c washed dried flat parsley leaves, 1 T honey, 1 tsp canola oil. Missing from the picture is 6 T water chilling in the freezer. Making a long story shorter, you heat a skillet, add the oil, add the honey and carmelize for a few seconds.

Add the parsley and wilt for about 30 seconds, then put it in the chilled water.

Now the whole thing goes in the "Vita Mix" which I don't have because who needs a blender that costs $500? I am sure I will live to eat those words. I had to add more water, it wouldn't puree in my inferior-to-vita mix blender. Anyhoo, you puree and dump it in a sieve and save the water drippings to cook with.  Worth it? Who knows? We will see on Sunday.. stay tuned.  If anyone is tuned in the first place LOL. Comments make me warm and fuzzy so do it if you can. If it fails the first time, just hit submit again.
Potato Pave tomorrow

See you soon.

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