Something I love about living in California is the number of fruit trees. You will find oranges, lemons, limes, and figs casually hanging above many local yards. Recently, one of William’s coworkers brought us a few, fresh lemons. The timing was convenient, seeing as I had been craving lemon bars for awhile.
It’s interesting how the mind works. I follow the New York Times on Facebook and they had just posted a link to a lemon bar recipe. I will not lie, that recipe influenced not only my cravings but also this recipe! We pretty much followed the NYT to a tee, so if you’d like to see their video, it is linked here. I will admit that this is one of the only times when I do not approve the use of added salt. For some reason I can’t handle salt on lemony things that should be sweet, sugary, and tart! I want that tartness and that sweetness! We took the extra salt out, but added a savory note with a garnish of fresh rosemary. You might try adding rosemary-infused olive oil as well, if you’d like to balance out the sweetness, but I am not convinced that salt will do that here.
The crust is a buttery, melt-in-your-mouth, shortbread dough (very similar to the pâte brisée that I use with the tomato tart). We followed her recipe anyway, and it worked fine!
I hope you all enjoy this as much as we did! (It can be stored on a platter for several days in the refrigerator, though the yolky flavor will come out more with each passing day.)
for the crust
10 tablespoons cold, salted butter
1 1/4 cups 00″ flour (you can use AP flour here as well)
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon white sugar
2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
for the curd
5 lemons (for 1 tablespoon zest and 3/4 cup lemon juice)
1 1/2 cups white sugar
3 egg yolks
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons salted butter
1/4 cup olive oil or rosemary-infused olive oil
First, make the dough for the crust. I recommend chopping the butter into cubes and placing it in the freezer, especially if you are planning on using a food processor to mix the dough. The benefit to using the machine is that it allows you to thoroughly mix the butter in while it is still cold, which bakes into the buttery, flaky layers that you ideally want in a shortbread crust. If you do not have one, don’t fret! You can still make this by hand, but I would let the butter soften up a bit before you begin, as it will make the mixing much less time consuming!
Combine the butter, flour, sugars, lemon zest, and salt all into the food processor!
Pulse it until a crumbly dough forms. Depending on the type of butter you use, I’ve found that the dough can come out somewhat dry. It should not feel like a powder, it should be a bit damp and should easily come together when compacted. If this is not the case, you can add in ice-cold water, one teaspoon at a time! Keep checking the consistency after each teaspoon to get the right dough: not wet (just damp), but not a dry flour, and easy to press together into one mass!
Next, prepare the pan for baking. Cut out a rectangle of parchment paper to hang inside of a 9″ x 9″ pan. This is SO important because it will make the process of removing the bars 1,000x easier!! Preheat the oven to 325°F. Press the dough into the prepared pan.
Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the edges are a golden brown color!
While the crust is baking, you can prepare the olive oil, lemon curd! Wash the lemons and grate them for 1 tablespoon of zest. Cut them in half and juice them for 3/4 cup lemon juice! You might need to strain out the seeds.
Measure out the rest of the ingredients, so that you are prepared to combine them quickly. Making the curd is a temperamental process, but certainly doable!
Whisk the lemon juice (not zest), eggs, sugar, and cornstarch in a pot over medium heat. The cornstarch will not activate until the liquid boils, so you need to make sure you are patient here and get it to a boiling point and it begins to thicken. After you notice the bubbles from boiling, immediately take the mixture off of heat. Do not leave it on too long here. Melissa Clark at the NYT explains that curdling can happen to the eggs if you leave it boiling for too long, and that will not be salvageable. Strain this thick mixture into a large bowl to get out any missed seeds or weird dark parts from the eggs (which I hate).
Into the large bowl, add the butter and whisk until it is melted. Add in the lemon zest and the olive oil and whisk it all together!
Pour the lemon curd over the crust, and jiggle it around until it is even.
Bake again for another 10 minutes (just until the top is set). Put the bars into the refrigerator until they are completely cooled. This can take a few hours.
Once they are cooled, pull them out of the pan using the parchment paper as handles.
Cut them into small squares (we did a 5 x 4 to make twenty servings).
Sift powdered sugar onto the top and garnish with rosemary for a savory twist!