Lemon bars are the perfect winter fooooood!!! >< I ate half of them!!!! They are like lemon pie but without all the floooooff! And they’re easy. And when you have a cup of Meyer lemon juice sitting all fragrant on your kitchen counter, wanting to be showcased in a simple frame, bars are the answer, yo.
See, living in zone 5 (ie; subarctic Canada with the shorty-short growing season) means that some seeds show up in their ripe receptacles at the exact wrong time for sprouting them. Meyer lemons being like, totally one of those problems. They show up at the grocers, bright yellow and smooth-skinned, in the middle of the snow-times and I’m like “WUH, welp let’s try anyway,” and last year I coaxed a small population of seedlings to inch-high status but lack of sunlight meant they never really grew up and then they got a mould or something. And then I figured I needed a new tack.
Since I’m definitely not going to babysit tiny lemon trees through winter (probably needing fancy grow-lights and reflective boxes and who knows), I’m trying a bit of a deep-freeze approach this year. Juiced the lemons, candied their skins, and carefully froze the seeds… and this spring will be the time of truth. I have it on good googled authority that low temperatures can do the preservation trick, and while I’ll grant that I can’t cryovac them and keep them at a supercool -18℃ hugged by Norwegian permafrost, I’m sure my freezer door is fine-just-fine. The milk powder and lime leaves will provide moral support. Mmmhmm. Technology.
Meanwhiles, throwing together lemon bars is a nice way to bring a bit of colour to winter eating, and there’s something satisfying about making an iridescent gelled lake out of lemons and sugar.
Meyer Lemon Bars
Makes about 16 2-inch squares
for the Crust:
- 130 grams / 1 cup all purpose flour
- 30 grams / 1/4 cup icing sugar
- 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
- zest of one lemon
- 1 stick / 113 grams cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
for the Custard:
- 4 large eggs
- 200 grams / 1 cup white sugar
- pinch of salt
- zest of two lemons, washed in hot water and dried
- 250 grams / 1 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice (or ¾ cup / 187 grams regular lemon juice)
- icing sugar, for garnishing (optional)
Preheat oven to 350℉. Butter a 9×9 baking dish and line with foil or parchment paper.
For the crust, sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl and work in the cold butter with your fingers until a crumbly dough forms. Alternately, pulse the dry ingredients in a food processor a couple times, then add the butter and pulse until dough forms. Press into a flat layer on the bottom of the prepared pan.
Chill pan in freezer for 15 minutes (optional but nice). Bake until golden brown and very slightly puffed, about 15 – 20 minutes (check often and rotate often). Let cool on a rack.
To make the custard, whisk together the sugar, eggs, zest and salt in a medium non-reactive saucepan ’til combined, then whisk in the lemon juice. Heat on low until mixture is warm and smooth, stirring always and gently with a whisk. Increase heat the medium and cook, (still calmly stirring), until curd thickens, maybe bubbles a bit and steams, and reads 170℉ on a thermometer.
Right away, strain the curd onto the prepared crust, tap and jiggle the pan to smooth the top, and cover the pan with aluminum foil. Lower heat to 325℉ and bake until filling is set and the edges are just slightly browned, about 15 minutes. (the middle will still have a Hint of Wobble, as Nigella Lawson puts it). Set on rack to cool.
When completely cool, carefully unwrap the foil / parchment paper from the sides and trim off the outer 1/4″ (cooks treat!). Cut the remaining perfect square into 16 squares (or go crazy and trapezoidal like I did, it doesn’t matter) and dust with icing sugar if using. Kept chilled and in an airtight container, they will be good for a week. Probably won’t last that long, though.