Potluck Lemon Bars

Lemon bars are my nemesis. Correction: lemon bars were my nemesis. Let me explain.

I consider myself a slightly better than average baker. I’ve made some pretty mean tarts, cookies, biscotti, panna cotta, and even macarons. Many of my baking attempts have seen a deep inhalation as I pulled the tasty treat out of the oven in anticipation (and hope) that the treat came out OK. Most of the time, it works out.

With lemon bars, it never worked out. Either the crust burned quicker than it should have or the lemon topping remained thin and watery when it should have set. Why? I couldn’t tell you. After 3 failed attempts years ago, I resigned myself to the conclusion that lemon bars were just not my specialty.

This past weekend, some friends came over for a potluck that I planned. I knew other people would be bringing desserts, so I decided to give lemon bars one more go. If I failed, there would be other desserts available, so I wouldn’t have to worry about baking a back up item.

Wouldn’t you know it, they (almost) came out perfectly!

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I stuck to a super simple recipe, and I think these came out great.

Ingredients:

For the crust:
2 cups flour

1/2 cup powdered sugar

2 sticks butter

For the lemon filling:

4 eggs

4 tbsps flour

1 cup sugar

4 lemons’ worth of fresh lemon juice

zest of 1 lemon

To start, I let the butter and eggs come to room temperature. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees, then start making the crust. I put the butter, flour, and powdered sugar in my mixer and mixed for a couple minutes, until both ingredients are well incorporated and smooth in texture.

Spray a 9×13 pan with non-stick spray, and press the crust into the pan, trying to make the dough evenly distributed. Bake for about 18 minutes, until the crust starts to get a little golden in color. Remove from oven and immediately pour the filling over the crust.

While the crust is baking, start working on the filling. Using a mixer, beat together the eggs, sugar, flour, lemon juice, and zest. Mix for longer than you think you should, as this is how the filling will thicken up when baking. I saw some bubbles forming while it mixed, and that was normal. Mix for at least 2 minutes.

Once the filling is over the crust, immediately return the pan to the oven and continue baking for another 22 minutes. To test the bars, wiggle the pan a little bit. If they are done, the filling will remain firm and won’t wiggle along with the pan.
I think my misstep this time was waiting to pour the filling over the crust. Right when the crust was done baking, Dan arrived home with lunch, so I took a short break from baking. I think that letting the crust cool some caused the filling to not stick as well to the crust. Other than that though, these bars came out great, with just the right amount of tart and sweet, and the right consistency.
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I’m so glad I finally found a recipe that works for me. I’ll definitely be making these lemon squares as my go-to summer dessert.

Orange Pistachio Date Biscotti

OK, wow. With the hopes of not sounding too high on myself here, I have to say that I think these are the best biscotti that I’ve ever made. The taste, the texture, and the combination of flavors really make these great.

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The texture was not exactly what you’d expect from a traditionally hard cookie. These biscotti are softer, and don’t need to be dipped in coffee/milk to eat.

Here’s what you need:

6 tbls butter (softened from sitting out on the counter)

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

3 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp almond extract

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

2 eggs

2 cups flour

1 cup chopped dates
1/4 cup chopped pistachios
zest of 1 orange

raw turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix together the butter, sugar, salt, extracts, and baking powder.

 Beat in the eggs and then add the flour in, a little at a time, until the mixture is fully incorporated.

Gently fold in the dates, pistachios, and zest and only mix the batter up a little bit.

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Form the dough into 2 logs on a baking sheet prepared with parchment paper. Make sure the tops of the logs are flat and sprinkle the raw sugar on top. Bake the logs for 25 minutes.

After 25 minutes, remove the logs from the oven, and turn the heat down to 325 degrees.

Then, even though it seems strange and certainly isn’t the usual way I make biscotti, spray the logs with a spray bottle full of water. Don’t drench the logs, but do make sure to fully cover them with the water.

Wait 5 minutes, then cut the logs into biscotti. Lay them with a cut side down on the pan, and bake another 15 minutes. Then, flip each cookie and bake for a final 15 minutes. When they are a little golden, they are done.

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Remove the biscotti from the oven and place them on a baking rack to cool. Once cooled, immediately put them in an airtight container so they won’t get stale.

The date-orange-pistachio combination really is wonderful. I invite you to give this recipe a try, substituting your favorite dried fruits for the dates. I will definitely be using this base recipe and changing out the mixed in fruit, nuts, and even types of extract.

Where Did I Go?

You may have noticed that blog posts have sparse as of late. What happened?

Well, my old site, neversettled, on Posterous went away on May 1, so I had to move my blog. As you have found, I’m now on wordpress. Unfortunately, my old blog name was taken, so now it’s neversettling. I actually think I like this name better. It’s active, it’s saying I’m still going, not slowing down, and always trying to make things better. Whether I’m doing a craft, cooking dinner, or baking, I’m never settling –  always looking ahead to what’s the next bigger, better thing.

I hope you’ll follow me here, as you did on my old blog.To make sure you don’t miss a post, sign up to receive emails which will deliver each post directly to your inbox.

I promise lots of new domestic ideas in the near future.