24 November 2007

Lemon Squares and Key Lime Bars

Lemon Squares and Key Lime Bars (with title)
There isn't much of a story to these bars. I saw the lemon bar in Lemon(i)Café in Boracay. I fantasized about it. I made some. I made "Key Lime" Bars for variety. They were excellent. The lemon square recipe is from The Baker's Companion (brought to you by King Arthur flour) with a few adjustments. I have to say that I didn't truly use Key Limes. In fact I may not even have used a Lime. I bought green lemons that my parents assured me were limes. I cut one up and hello, it was all yellow inside. So this recipe was delicious, but not what I had in mind, obviously. For my readers overseas, I hope to GOD you have the appropriate citrus fruits where you are. I cannot keep track of what grows where at any given time (obviously we do not usually think about such things here on the islands, except for some fruits like mangoes, avocados and strawberries).

Lemon Squares (adapted from The Baker's Companion)

  • 1-1/2 cups (175g) all-purpose flour

  • 1/4 cup (30g) confectioner's sugar

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup or 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces and chilled

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Line an 8"x8", 9"x9", or 7"x11" pan with aluminum foil that is slightly longer than your pan, so you have overhangs to lift the bars out with. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and sugar and whisk to combine. Scatter the butter over the flour mixture and using a pastry blender (what I used), your fingers, or a mixer with the paddle attachment, work in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press the crumbs into the prepared pan, making sure it is roughly an equal thickness throughout (I made the mistake of not paying attention to the sides and corners, so the crust was much thicker there). Bake the crust for 20 minutes or until light brown. Cool on a rack. Don't be concerned if it cracks or is imperfect. Don't turn off the oven.
  • 4 large eggs

  • 1-1/4 cups (250g) granulated sugar

  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest (from 2 large lemons)

  • 1/2 cup (120mL) lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)

  • 1/4 cup (30g) all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • confectioner's sugar for dusting

In a medium bowl, rub the lemon zest into the sugar with your fingers; it'll turn pale yellow. Beat in the eggs, then the lemon juice. Sift the flour and salt over the surface and stir them in. Pour the topping over the hot crust and continue baking for 25 minutes or until the top appears set (it won't slosh around). Dust with confectioner's sugar before slicing into 16 squares and serving.

Key Lime Bars
  • 5 oz (140g) animal crackers or Marie biscuits

  • 3 tablespoons (38g) packed brown sugar

  • pinch of table salt

  • 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons or 55g) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Line an 8"x8" pan with aluminum foil that is slightly longer than your pan, so you have overhangs to lift the bars out with. Place the crackers in a plastic food bag but don't close it; instead twist the top loosely to avoid the crackers falling out. Smash the contents with a rolling pin or similarly heavy object until fine crumbs remain. Whisk in the salt and brown sugar to combine, then toss in the melted butter with a spatula until all the crumbs are moistened. Alternatively, in a food processor, pulse the crackers until fine crumbs remain (10 1-second pulses), then add the sugar and salt and pulse again (10 1-second pulses), then drizzle the butter over and pulse unti evenly moistened (10 1-second pulses). Press the crumbs firmly and evenly into the pan, taking care not to make the sides thicker than the center. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until deep golden brown. Cool on a rack. Don't turn off the oven.
  • 2 oz (60g) cream cheese, at room temperature

  • 1 tablespoon grated lime zest, minced

  • pinch of table salt

  • 1 14-oz (400mL) can sweetened condensed milk

  • 1 egg yolk

  • 2 drops green food coloring (optional)

  • 1/2 cup (120mL) fresh Key Lime or lime juice

In a medium bowl, stir the cream cheese, lime zest, and salt together until smooth and creamy. Add the condensed milk and whisk vigorously until no lumps of cream cheese remain. Whisk in the egg yolk and food coloring (if desired). Whisk the lime juice in gently. The mixture will thicken slightly. Pour into the crust and thwack on the counter to even out (use a spatula to reach the corners if needed). Bake until set and the edges start to pull away from the sides, 15-20 minutes. Cool for 2 hours at room temperature, then chill until serving (at least 2 hours). Cut into 16 squares.

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