Monday, October 29, 2007

lemon / key lime bars

Lemon Bars

I live in a strange place. A place with a spectacular landscape, a brilliant array of things to do...and so many Range Rovers that you can't walk from the parking lot to your office without tripping over one. (Seriously, if Range Rover Guy across the hall doesn't stop parking on the sidewalk....) Yes, in most respects, this place is a world apart from where I grew up. On any given day -- whether at work or at the grocery store -- you see women wearing diamonds the size of doorknobs and carrying purses that cost more than the average person's weekly income.

Sometimes this all just seems crazy. Where are all the combines that clog up traffic? Or the Super Wal-Marts and Dollar Tree stores? Not here, that's for sure. But that's OK. The new people and places are exciting, and I can count on all those familiar things from back home still being there when I return.

Thankfully, some things don't change. Like my father's love of rock-hard cookies (which he dunks in water) and lemon meringue pie. Unfortunately for him, I don't particularly enjoy making either of those items...except on special just-for-dad occasions. So when his birthday rolled around last week, I was delighted to mail off an edible gift. Lemon meringue pie would surely have arrived at his doorstep as lemon meringue mush, so I opted to send lemon bars instead. And since mom's birthday was last month and she swoons over all things key lime, I mailed off a variation for her, too. Citrus celebration in a box!

[Postscript: Everyone decided that these bars were just too sweet, so I'll have to keep searching for a standby recipe.]

Lemon / Key Lime Bars
A recipe from Mary at alpineberry
I adapted the lemon bars to fit a 13" x 9" dish, but I apparently didn't do the world's greatest job because my bars turned out a little too runny (which made them annoyingly unphotogenic at 5:00 a.m. when I was trying to take the picture). The key lime bars in an 8" x 8" faired better, so those are the proportions I've included below.

1 cup flour
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/2 inch pieces

2 eggs
1 cup superfine or baker's sugar*
2 tablespoons flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon/key lime zest
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon/key lime juice**

To make the crust:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and line an 8" x 8" pan with parchment paper. (If you've never done this before, it should look like this. The parchment only needs to hang over two sides so you can easily remove the bars.)

Combine flour, confectioners' sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add butter and pulse until the mixture is pebbly. Press evenly into the bottom of your prepared pan and bake until lightly golden, about 18-20 minutes. Set aside.

To make the filling:
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, flour, and salt. Whisk in zest and juice until well combined. Pour over crust (it doesn't matter if the crust is still hot) and bake until filling is just set, about 15-18 minutes. Cool completely before serving. Dust with confectioners' sugar if desired.

* Regular granulated sugar would probably make the bars grainy

** Do not use bottled lemon juice (unless maybe it is Meyer lemon juice). Seriously. It doesn't take that long to squeeze a few lemons by hand and there is a huge difference in taste (FYI, you'll be able to squeeze out more juice if you warm them in a microwave for about 10 seconds first). I did, however, use bottled Nellie & Joe's key lime juice because key limes are tiny and I have not yet received this cool juicer for Christmas. I don't know if I've ever even had anything made with freshly squeezed key lime since it's never my dessert of choice, so I can't tell you if there is a difference.


  1. Your descriptive words in this post were lush!!! I could just see those women with diamond as big as doorknobs. I really wanted to know more about where they come from and what living means to them. Is it all as purposeless as it is portrayed in the Great Gatsby?

  2. Well, diamonds are diamonds -- I don't know that they can have any spectacular purpose. I wouldn't describe the people here as being Gatsby-esque, though. There are a few who are the stereotypical ultra-rich, but the vast majority are very, very nice and many of them could pass for your average next door neighbor for everything but the size of their bank account.