Friday, May 2, 2014

Whole Lemon Bars

This is a lemon bar to end all lemon bars.  It's fairly reminiscent of the idea for a Shaker Pie, the classic American dessert developed by the Shaker religious communities of Ohio.  Their recipe calls for slicing whole lemons ultra thin and macerating them in sugar overnight to release their juices and tenderize the skin and pith.

The recipe for these lemon bars is from David Lebovitz.  Rather than slicing the lemons, he makes good use of a food processor to pulverize and combine all the filling ingredients, which include sugar and melted butter to temper the tartness and egg and cornstarch to bind the mixture.  The base is a simple pastry crust.

Upon first bite, I experienced quite a pucker, which is to say these lemon bars are not nuanced in any way.  They are super delicious and quite tart.  They seem to tame down a bit the second day.  And then what I realized when I had another go is they are mellowed a bit if you choose lemons that have a thin skin rather than a thicker one to cut down on some of the bitterness of the pith.  When served to other tasters, they proclaimed them the best lemon bar ever.  So if you're in the mood for a distinctive lemon experience that will light up your taste buds, this is the lemon bar for you.

Bench notes:
- I used my recipe for Almond Tart Dough as the base: Place 1 cup (5 oz) flour, 1/4 cup (3/4 oz) toasted sliced almonds, 3 tablespoons (39 g) sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt in the bowl of a food processor and process to combine.  Add 4 oz (8 tablespoons) cold butter cut into 1/2" pieces and pulse just until the mixture looks like coarse meal.  Add 1 egg yolk and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and process until the dough just starts to clump.  Press evenly into prepared pan.
- Since the recipe incorporates the whole lemon, choose organic or unsprayed.
- David says he used 1 lemon that weighed 6 oz.  That's a pretty big lemon!  I wound up using 2 smaller medium-sized ones to get to 6 oz.  Don't worry about getting the exact weight.
- When you're pureeing the filling, there will be a few tiny bits of lemon remaining, which will add to the texture.
- The cooled bars will keep in an airtight container at room temperature up to three days.  You can also freeze them in airtight packaging up to one month.  Bring to room temperature before serving.
- If you try this recipe with Meyer lemons, you may want to reduce the sugar in the filling.

Whole Lemon Bars
adapted from David Lebovitz

Pastry Crust
1 cup (5 oz) flour
1/4 cup (1 3/4 oz) sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 oz (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Lemon Filling
1 large or 2 small - medium lemons (6 oz)
1 cup (7 oz) sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 eggs @ room temperature
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon (12 g) cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 oz (3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

powdered sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease an 8" square pan and line with parchment with a slight overhang on two sides.

For the pastry crust, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt until combined.  Add the melted butter and vanilla and stir with a fork just until smooth.  Press into the bottom of the pan, distributing the dough as evenly as possible.

Bake the crust until it's golden brown, about 25 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degree F.

For the filling, cut the lemon in half and remove the seeds.  Cut the lemon into smaller chunks and place them in the bowl of a food processor or blender along with the sugar and lemon juice.  Process until the lemon is finely chopped.  Add the eggs, cornstarch, salt and melted butter and blend until almost smooth.

Pour the lemon filling over the hot crust and bake for 25 minutes or just until the filling stops jiggling and is barely set.  Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

Carefully lift and remove the cooled pastry from the pan using the parchment overhang to assist.  Cut the bars into squares or rectangles and sift powdered sugar over the top just before serving.


Kate said...

I usually find lemon bars sweeter than advertised so these will be on my to make list.
I like your almond crust switch up. the usual flour crust could use some jazzing up.
It doesn't climb out of he 50's here for the next week.
These sunny lemon bars will be the brightest part of our week :\

pastry studio said...

Kate, we've had a week of heat wave here. 90 degree weather in San Francisco is a rarity. Hope you warm up soon. These bars will definitely liven things up!

leena said...

Hi dear!

This looks fabulous! I cannot wait to try it! I was wondering why one cup of sugar is 7 oz but 1 C of flour is 5 oz? Should I sift the flour as well? Thanks in advance- will report back with the results!

pastry studio said...

Hello, leena! The interesting thing about weights and measures is that ingredients all vary in their makeup. Sugar is naturally heavier than flour, so 1 cup of each will be very different when weighed on a scale.

No need to sift the flour. Just give the dry ingredients a good stir with a whisk or fork to combine. And if you're using a measuring cup instead of a scale, make sure you give the flour a good fluff with a fork to aerate it before scooping in with your measuring cup. Flour gets very compact when it sits in your cupboard and you don't want to approximate more than 5 oz.

Hope you enjoy these!

Anonymous said...

Oh...these lemon bars look so creamy and great! I will surely give them a try.. :)