It was almost nice enough to eat dinner outdoors last night... almost. We're not quite there, but I'm starting to believe that it will eventually happen. Our dinner (indoors) was Lobster Tails with Clarified Butter, a Salad of Blood Oranges and Spring Greens, Mushroom and Cognac Risotto, and Lemon Bars for dessert. We're in a celebratory mood. Our daughter, Claire, will be turning 21 tomorrow -- can that be possible? More on the birthday cake later this week. The Mushroom and Cognac Risotto I made (recipe HERE) is one of my favorites. There's no taking photos when this risotto is done cooking. I sit down and savor it immediately!
Lemon Bars, on the other hand, have a longer shelf-life than just-cooked risotto; except when they taste this good. They seemed to disappear during the photo shoot, and the powdered sugar around my mouth was a dead giveaway as to where they had gone. The Lemon Bars, from Rose Levy Beranbaum's book, Rose's Christmas Cookies, do exactly what they should... they deliver a punch of tart lemon on top of a delicate shortbread base.
+ an adapted recipe
• 2 tablespoons powdered (confectioners') sugar
• 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
• 10 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cubed
• 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (dip & sweep method)
LEMON CURD TOPPING
• 4 large egg yolks
• 3/4 cup granulated sugar
• 3 fluid ounces lemon juice, freshly squeezed
• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
• Pinch of salt
• 2 teaspoons lemon zest, finely grated
• Powdered (confectioners') sugar for dusting
TO MAKE THE SHORTBREAD
1. Line the bottom and two sides of an 8-inch by 8-inch by 2-inch pan with an 8-inch by 16-inch strip of aluminum foil. Set aside.
2. In a food processor with the metal blade, process the sugars until very fine. Add the butter and pulse until the sugar disappears. Add the flour and pulse until there are a lot of little moist crumbly pieces and no dry flour particles remain.
3. Turn out the mixture onto a large sheet of plastic wrap. Wrap up and press dough together. Remove the dough from the plastic, and knead it gently until it holds together.
4. Preheat the oven to 325˚F.
5. Press the dough evenly into the prepared pan. Use a fork to pierce the dough all over.
6. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for about 30 to 40 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned and the top is pale golden (do not brown).
7. While the shortbread crust is baking, prepare the lemon curd.
TO MAKE THE LEMON CURD
1. Place a strainer over a medium-size bowl and keep near the cooktop.
2. In a heavy, non-aluminum saucepan, beat the egg yolks and sugar with a wooden spoon until well blended. Stir in the lemon juice, butter, and salt. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, for about 6 minutes, until thickened and it thickly coats a wooden spoon but is still liquid enough to pour. The mixture will become opaque and begin to take on a yellow color on the back of a wooden spoon. It must not be allowed to boil or it will curdle. If steaming occurs, remove the pan briefly from the heat, stirring constantly to prevent boiling.
3. When the curd has thickened, pour at once into the strainer. Press it through the strainer with the back of a spoon and discard any residue. Stir in the lemon zest.
TO MAKE THE LEMON BARS
1. When the shortbread has finished baking, remove it from the oven and lower the temperature to 300°F. Spread the lemon curd evenly over the top of the shortbread and return it to the oven for 10 minutes.
2. Remove from the oven and place pan on a cooling rack to cool completely. Once cooled, refrigerate shortbread (still in the pan) for at least 30 minutes.
3. Loosen the lemon bars from the pan by running a sharp knife around the edges. Gently pull up on the aluminum foil to release from the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Dust generously with powdered (confectioners') sugar and cut into squares.
TAKE a LOOK: