The light is changing, the days are longer, I just left my job. I am unburdened, and somehow, by some cruel plot twist, I am uninspired like I have never been before. I don't know what to cook. Not for this space here, not for dinner, not for breakfast, I don't even know what I want to eat most days. I fumble around behind the lens like it is my first time picking up a camera, though it has been nearly a year since my food photography journey began. As I sit here typing, the backspace key is my best friend. I can't seem to coherently jot down my thoughts; the words I desperately want to find escape me. Like all things, this will pass, but goddamn, it sucks right now.
Self pity aside, let's talk about these lemon bars, which by some miracle, made it out of the fray. They are a last nod to the departing winter before saying an enthusiastic "goodbye!" to winter citrus/squash/roots and "hello!" to all the greens spring has to offer. They are tart, bright, and not weighed down by too much sugar. Just the way lemon bars should be.
Like most sweet things, lemon bars are usually a little too sweet for my taste. Here I adapted a recipe from the queen herself, Ina Garten, however I cut down on the sugar to tame the sweetness but also used some meyer lemon juice to keep them from being too acidic. Unfortunately, instead of being presented as dessert for a lovely back patio dinner party where the weather is pristine and all my guests are sipping on wine over their meticulously put together place settings while my husband entertains them (I mean seriously, don't we all secretly want her life?), I chucked them into a tupperware and had Phillip take them to work. One day, Ina, one day.
You can of course tailor them to your tastes like I did. Go wild with the sugar if you like it that way, maybe even sub some of the lemon juice for blood orange juice, anything your heart desires. And while you're making these delicious lemon bars, I'll be on my way to the farmer's market to hopefully find the inspiration which has been eluding me lately. Wish me luck and see you soon ;).
Loosely adapted from Ina Garten
Depending on the types of lemons you're using and your preference for sweetness, adjust the amount of sugar accordingly. I use a mixture of regular lemon and meyer lemon juice at a 2:1 ratio, and I also prefer a more tart lemon bar, so I used the lesser amount.
Yields about 16 medium or 25 small sized lemon bars.
For the crust:
1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
For the filling:
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (I use a mixture of regular and meyer lemons)
1 tbsp freshly grated lemon zest
1 & 1/2 to 2 cups (300 to 400 grams) granulated sugar, see note above
4 extra large eggs
1/2 cup (63 grams) all-purpose flour, sifted
1/4 cup confectioners sugar for dusting
Grease a 10x10 inch (or 9x13 inch for slightly thinner bars) baking pan with a thin layer of butter then line with parchment paper, making sure to get all sides. Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Whisk together flour and salt. Add the dry ingredients in two additions, each time mixing on low until just combined, about 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer dough to baking pan and press it down into one even layer, I find that a small offset spatula really helps here. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Once the dough is chilled, place in oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until the edges are slightly golden. Remove from oven, but keep it turned on, and let crust cool for at least 15 minutes.
While the crust is cooling, Whisk together lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar, eggs, and flour in a large mixing bowl until smooth and no lumps remain. Pour filling over crust, and if there are any air bubbles, lightly tap the pan against the counter to remove them. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the filling is just set. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature. Dust a thin layer of powdered sugar on top, slice, and enjoy.