Whole Lemon Meringue Pie Bars

July 3, 2020

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So here we are, just moments away from Independence Day. Certainly not the 4th of July for this year that I imagined last year. Not that the Husband and I have made a habit out of heading off to big fireworks displays on the 4th, but still…Needless to say, we’ll be spending this one right here at home. Where we have been. For oh – months and months. Perhaps years at this point. 2020 has certainly made months seems like they go on for years. Facing the tedium of yet another social distanced holiday, I thought it might be nice to make the Husband a little treat. Now I’ve told you how he absolutely loves any fruit based dessert and of the many fruit desserts out there, lemon bars hold a special place in his heart. So I was absolutely delighted when I saw that Smitten Kitchen – one of my favorite blogs – had just shared a recipe for Whole Lemon Meringue Pie Bars. Clearly, it was just meant to be!

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And the whole lemon thing is true. Yup – you actually use a WHOLE lemon in this recipe. Well – you take the seeds out and remove the stem, but otherwise the whole thing – skin and all.

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I was afraid that the whole lemon might have caused the lemon filling to be bitter, so I kind of held my breath a bit when the Husband took his first bite. Hooray! Not bitter at all. I think using the whole lemon actually gave it a much more – well lemony taste. I mean these bars actually tasted perfectly sour and tart and also sweet. But just the right amount of sweet. Sometimes when I’ve gotten lemon bars, they taste very, very cloyingly sweet with only a slight hint of lemon. Like maybe someone had only waved a lemon over the mix. That is certainly not what the Husband is hoping for in a lemon bar. He wants that pucker up sour citrus zing of a real lemon. Let me tell you, these bars definitely delivered in that regard.

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And although I have made lemon bars before, I had never added the meringue layer on top. With these Lemon Meringue Pie Bars the sweet marshmallowy toasted meringue works to perfectly balance the lip puckering intensity of that velvety lemon filling. Both the Husband and I were very well pleased.

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I don’t know what you’ll be getting up to this 4th of July, but I do know that no matter what it is, these Whole Lemon Meringue Pie Bars will make it better. Make yourself a batch today!

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Whole Lemon Meringue Pie Bars

  • Servings: 12 - 16 bars depending how you slice them
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe from: Smitten Kitchen who sourced it from Susan Spungen’s Open Kitchen 

Ingredients:

For the crust:

  • 9 whole graham cracker sheets (1 sleeve), broken into pieces or 1 1/2 cups (150 grams) crumbs
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
  • Large pinch of salt
  • 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes

For the filling:

  • 1 whole (preferably organic) lemon, any variety (see Note below in filling directions), scrubbed
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 8 Tablespoons (4 ounces or 115 grams) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)
  • Pinch of salt

For the meringue:

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

Make the crust:

Heat your oven to 350°F [180°C]. Line an 8-by-8-inch [20-by-20-cm] baking pan with two pieces of parchment trimmed to fit, going in both directions, with some extra hanging over the edge so that you can easily remove the bars later.

Place the graham crackers, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process until the fine crumbs form. Add the cold butter and pulse until the cold butter blends into the crumbs. It should look and feel like wet sand. Transfer to the prepared pan and mix it up with your hands to make sure the butter is well distributed. Press into the pan, going up the sides a bit, and bake for 10 minutes, or until just golden. Let cool while you make the filling.

Make the filling:

Note on lemons: Deb Perelmen of Smitten Kitchen advises that you can use any variety of lemon but that you want to stick to a smaller lemon weighing approximately 4 – 4.5 ounces and that you do not want the skin to be too thick. The pith (white bit) should not be over 1/4 inch. If you feel the lemon you have is a bit too thick skinned, simply remove half of the skin from the lemon before proceeding.

Trim the stem end of the whole lemon and cut it into thin slices. Remove any seeds. Add to a food processor or blender jar (preferably a high speed blender) along with the lemon juice, egg yolks, butter, sugar, vanilla and salt and blend until very smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Pour over the crust (it’s ok if it’s still warm) and bake for 30 minutes, or until it is bubbling and browning around the edges. It won’t look at all set, and might even look like a total mess (unevenly browned or bubbly), but it will set up as it cools. Place on a cooling rack. After about 10 minutes, run a small, sharp knife around the edges. Cool completely, then chill until cold (you can speed this up in the freezer). When completely chilled, carefully remove the parchment and, using a spatula, transfer to a small baking sheet.

Make the meringue:

An hour or so before serving, make the topping. Combine the egg whites, sugar, vanilla, and salt in the metal bowl of a stand mixer and set over a pan of simmering water. Keep the mixture moving, using a whisk or the whisk attachment, until the sugar is completely melted and it’s hot to the touch (or 160°F). Transfer to a stand mixer and beat on high speed until glossy and very stiff, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to the top of the lemon bars, smooth out, and use a large serving fork to create a pattern in the meringue, or the back of a spoon or offset spatula to make swirls.

Finish the bars:

When you’re ready to finish, use a kitchen torch or your oven’s broiler to brown the meringue. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Use a knife dipped into hot water to cut bars into 12 to 16 squares, depending on how large you want them.

Enjoy!

Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Whole Lemon Meringue Pie Bars:

OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale

Cuisinart Pro-Classic Food Processor

Thermapen Instant Read Thermometer by Thermoworks

Breville Fresh & Furious Blender

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

Sondiko Butane Torch

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook– This recipe is not in this cookbook, however a ton of other great ones are!

Smitten Kitchen Everyday: Another awesome cookbook by Deb Perelman

 

 


Luscious Lemon Squares for my Valentine

February 14, 2012

So, today is Valentine’s Day. And I know for a lot of folks, Valentine’s Day just wouldn’t be complete without chocolate…lots of chocolate. Now, Don’t get me wrong, I like chocolate, but for me it’s all about cupcakes (hint, hint, hint!) I would really like some cupcakes right about now!

Perhaps one (or two, or so...) like this....

However, I wasn’t trying to make Valentine’s Day goodies for me. I was making something for my sweetie. That being said, some folks might consider my fellow’s dessert cravings a bit odd. He will walk right  by most chocolate confections with no more than a passing glance. ( What in the world?!!) However, any fruit dessert will undoubtedly catch his eye from a country mile away. And one of his favourite of all fruit desserts is the elusive lemon bar. I say elusive because I have tried on several occasions to make these little devils and had never gotten it quite right. I either didn’t like the soggy crust, or the filling was too sweet or too tart or the wrong consistency all together! You can imagine how happy I was when I saw that one of my all-time favourite blogs, Once Upon a Chef, had a Lemon Square recipe posted. I have made many of the recipes that Jenn has posted on her fantastic, tried and true blog and have never been disappointed. Everything has turned out incredibly tasty. So, what was left to do but make these Luscious Lemon Squares. And luscious is exactly what they were.

The crust was amazing, a crisp buttery shortbread that was well able to stand up to the delicious filling which was just the right ratio of tart to sweet. They were beautifully topped with just a sprinkling of powdered sugar. I am not even a lemon dessert fan and I couldn’t resist eating them. My sweetie was dazzled both with the dessert and my baking prowess. So if you happen to have one of those chocolate indifferent Valentines (again…What the what!), give these luscious little treats a try. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Luscious Lemon Bars

recipe from Once Upon a Chef

yield: 16 – 2″ squares

Ingredients

For the crust:

  • ¾ cup all purpose flour
  • ¼ cup corn starch
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar (plus more to decorate finished bars)
  • ½ cup cold unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into ½-inch pieces

For Lemon Topping:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 5 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (you’ll need between 2 and 3 lemons)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest (from about 1 lemon, be sure to zest before juicing)
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour

Directions:

Make the Crust

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cover a 9-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil. Push foil neatly into corners and up sides of the pan, using two pieces if necessary to ensure that foil overlaps all edges (the overhang will help removal from pan). Spray foiled pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Place the flour, corn starch, salt and confectioners’ sugar in a bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment and mix for a few seconds. Add the butter and mix to blend, until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds. Sprinkle mixture into prepared pan and press firmly with your fingers into an even layer over the entire bottom, building up a thin ½-inch edge around the sides (this keeps filling from spilling beneath crust). Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Bake the crust until lightly golden, about 15-20 minutes.

Make the Topping

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and flour.

As soon as the base is baked, give lemon mixture a quick final stir and then pour over top. Immediately return the pan to the oven and bake another 20-25 minutes, or until the topping is set and firm. Let cool on a rack to room temperature, or at least 30 minutes, then cover and chill in refrigerator until ready to cut (it will be much easier to cut when cold).

To cut, use the foil overhang to lift baked square out of pan and onto cutting board. Loosen the foil from the edges of the crust (use a knife to separate crust and foil if necessary). Using a sharp knife, trim the edges off, then cut into 2-inch squares. Use a fine sieve to dust squares with confectioners’ sugar. Store finished lemon squares covered in refrigerator and serve chilled.

Enjoy!


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