Friday, March 29, 2013

Lemon bars

"You should eat delicious things while you can still eat them, go to wonderful places while you still can … and not have evenings where you say to yourself, "What am I doing here? Why am I here? I am bored witless!""
Nora Ephron
I didn't know much about Nora Ephron before she passed away. I'd seen When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, and You've Got Mail, but knew very little about Nora herself. When Harry Met Sally is one of my favorite movies of all time. I'm one of those people who talk and text during movies. Yes, I know I'm annoying, you hate me, whatever, I don't do it in theaters so chill out. But I never tire of that movie and my attention never crumbles no matter how many times I've seen it.

Have you read I Feel Bad About My Neck? I sped through it this past fall. It'd been my first book I read for fun in months. I found out that I loved Nora's writing AND her philosophy on food and life. She's wise and funny as hell.

This could be the motto of Sudacakes:
"I don't think any day is worth living without thinking about what you're going to eat next at all times."
Nora inspires me and makes me laugh. I want to spend the afternoon rereading my favorite parts of I Feel Bad About My Neck.
"You do get to a certain point in life where you have to realistically, I think, understand that the days are getting shorter, and you can't put things off thinking you'll get to them someday. If you really want to do them, you better do them. There are simply too many people getting sick, and sooner or later you will. So I'm very much a believer in knowing what it is that you love doing so you can do a great deal of it."
I don't want to waste my precious life doing what I'm not passionate about.

I love food. I love to make and write and read about food.

On that note, I put off essay work to make lemon bars. Lemons are lovely. I adore the zing, tartness, and buttery base of lemon bars any day, everyday. Their lightness and fruitiness has me forcefully stopping myself from eating a whole batch. I'm so weak for tart sweets.

Recipe behind the cut. . .

Whole Lemon Bars
from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Note: I followed the recipe exactly, but I would recommend two things if you prefer lemon bars to be more tart.
  • Reduce the sugar content of the filling from 265 grams to 200 grams.
  • Add the juice of an additional lemon if you prefer tarter lemon bars like me. 


For the crust:
  • 1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup (65 grams) sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon table salt
  • ½ cup (115 grams or 1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks, plus extra for greasing pan

For the filling:
  • 1 small-to-medium-sized lemon (about 4½ ounces or 130 grams, or about 3 inches long)
  • 1½ cups (265 grams) sugar
  • ½ cup (115 grams or 1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons (15 grams) cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon table salt

  1. Place a rack in middle of the oven and preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cut two 12- inch lengths of parchment paper, and trim each to fit the bottom of an 8- inch square baking pan. Press the first sheet into the bottom and up the sides of your pan in one direction, then use the second sheet to line the rest of the pan, running it perpendicular to the first sheet. Lightly butter exposed parts of parchment or coat them with a nonstick cooking spray. Set the pan aside.
  2. Make the crust. Blend the flour, sugar, and salt together in the work bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is powdery, but if firmly pinched, will hold the pinched shape. Turn the dough crumbs into the prepared baking pan and press the dough evenly across the bottom and about ½ inch up the sides. Prick the dough all over with a fork and bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Should any parts bubble up, gently prick them again with a fork. Leave the oven on.
  3. Make your filling. Cut your lemon in half, and here's where I need us all to be, briefly, quite fussy.

    Is the white part of the skin especially thick?
    If the widest part of the white is ¼ inch thick or less, continue on to the next step; your lemon is good to go. If any part of it is thicker than ¼ inch, however, I find it safest to remove the skin from half the lemon or the bitterness of the pith can overwhelm the bars. To remove the skin, place half the lemon cut-side-down on the cutting board, and remove the skin and pith from the entire half in downward cuts and discard it. The second half, even if just as thick, can be used as is.
  4. Cut your lemon halves into thin rings and discard any seeds. Toss the lemon rounds Рlemon flesh and peel Рin the bowl of your food processor, add the sugar, and run the machine until the lemon is thoroughly pur̩ed, about 2 minutes. Add the butter and again run the machine until the mixture is smooth, scraping down the sides of the work bowl as needed. Add the eggs, cornstarch, and salt and pulse the machine in short bursts until the mixture is evenly combined.
  5. Pour the lemon mixture over the crust and bake it for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the filling is set. You can test this by bumping the pan a little; it should only jiggle slightly. In my oven, I find that the point at which the filling is set is also when the lemon bars start to get very light brown on top.
  6. Let the pan cool completely on rack or in the fridge. Gently cut around the outside of the parchment paper to make sure no sides have stuck, then gently use the parchment "sling" to transfer bars from pan to cutting board. Cut into 16 squares.

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