Life has handed me a lot of lemons lately, both the delicious, yellow kind and those not so good lemons that disrupt your life. As they say though, it’s all about what you do with those lemons and on a recent weekend I decided to put some of my lovely lemons to good use. I cracked open one of my newest cookbooks, The Smitten Kitchen cookbook, written by one of my favourite food bloggers, Deb Perelman.
I’ve been following her fabulous blog, The Smitten Kitchen, for some time now and I’ve made quite a few of her recipes over the years. What I love about her recipes is that they are perfect for the average home cook. It’s not just about the recipes though, it’s her writing that keeps me coming back over and over again. So when I received an invitation from Random House Canada to attend a blogger brunch in celebration of the launch of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, I accepted it immediately. As expected, Deb was warm, friendly and willing to share her stories with the bloggers in attendance. We were all hanging on to every word, as she described her kitchen and what it was like to write, test and photograph all of her recipes. She is one of the inspirations behind my blog and I’m sure she has given countless others the push they needed too.
After munching on delicious treats cooked up by the amazing Random House staff, we had some one-on-one time with Deb. I was telling her how obsessed my family was with all things lemon and she immediately grabbed her cookbook, flipped to the Whole Lemon Bars recipe and said, “You HAVE to try this, they are so delicious.” Of course, she was absolutely right! This is now my favourite lemon bar recipe as it has the perfect balance sweetness and tartness. I love that I get to use a whole lemon, skin and all (minus the seeds of course!).
Are you a fan of The Smitten Kitchen blog? Well, I’m happy to share that I have one copy of the The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook to give away! Scroll down below the Whole Lemon Bars recipe for details on how to enter. By the way, you HAVE to make these lemon bars. Like right now. Go.
Deb Perelman’s Whole Lemon Bars
Recipe reprinted with permission from The Smitten Kitchen cookbook by Deb Perelman. Copyright 2012 by Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.
For the crust:
1 cup/125 g all purpose flour
1/3 cup/65 g sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons/115 g or 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into chunks, plus extra for greasing pan
For the filling:
1 small-to-medium lemon (about 4 1/2 ounces or 130 g, or about 3 inches long)
1 1/3 cup/265 g sugar
8 tablespoons/115 g or 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into chunks
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1. Place a rack in middle of the oven and preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Cut two 12- inch lengths of parchment paper, and trim each to fit the bottom of an 8- inch square baking pan. Press the first sheet into the bottom and up the sides of your pan in one direction, then use the second sheet to line the rest of the pan, running it perpendicular to the first sheet. Lightly butter exposed parts of parchment or coat them with a nonstick cooking spray. Set the pan aside.
2. Make the crust: Blend the flour, sugar, and salt together in the work bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is powdery, but if firmly pinched, will hold the pinched shape. Turn the dough crumbs into the prepared baking pan and press the dough evenly across the bottom and about ½ inch up the sides. Prick the dough all over with a fork and bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Should any parts bubble up, gently prick them again with a fork. Leave the oven on.
3. Make your filling: Cut your lemon in half, and here’s where I need us all to be, briefly, quite fussy.
Is the white part of the skin especially thick?
If the widest part of the white is ¼ inch thick or less, continue on to the next step; your lemon is good to go. If any part of it is thicker than ¼ inch, however, I find it safest to remove the skin from half the lemon or the bitterness of the pith can overwhelm the bars. To remove the skin, place half the lemon cut-side-down on the cutting board, and remove the skin and pith from the entire half in downward cuts and discard it. The second half, even if just as thick, can be used as is.
4. Cut your lemon halves into thin rings and discard any seeds. Toss the lemon rounds – lemon flesh and peel – in the bowl of your food processor, add the sugar, and run the machine until the lemon is thoroughly puréed, about 2 minutes. Add the butter and again run the machine until the mixture is smooth, scraping down the sides of the work bowl as needed. Add the eggs, cornstarch, and salt and pulse the machine in short bursts until the mixture is evenly combined.
5. Pour the lemon mixture over the crust and bake it for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the filling is set. You can test this by bumping the pan a little; it should only jiggle slightly. In my oven, I find that the point at which the filling is set is also when the lemon bars start to get very light brown on top.
6. Let the pan cool completely on rack or in the fridge. Gently cut around the outside of the parchment paper to make sure no sides have stuck, then gently use the parchment “sling” to transfer bars from pan to cutting board. Cut into 16 squares.
Sandy’s notes: I dusted them with icing sugar, to make them look fancier. I wish I had better photos of the lemon bars but my family ate them all up so quickly! I thought these were THE best lemon bars I’ve ever had. The balance of lemony goodness, salt and sugar was perfect. I wouldn’t change a thing about this recipe. Enjoy!
CONTEST: Win a copy of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman
I’m giving away a copy of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman! You must be a resident of Canada to win. If you win, the cookbook will be shipped directly to your home.
Option 1: Leave a comment on this blog post and tell me what your favourite recipe is from the Smitten Kitchen blog (http://smittenkitchen.com/) P.S. Don’t forget to include your Twitter, Facebook or blog site address so I know how to reach you!
Option 2: Follow me on Twitter @savvari and tweet the following:
I want to win a copy of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook from @savvari #cookbook #contest
You can enter once a day using each option! Canadian residents only.
Hurry! Contest closes on Tuesday April 30 at 5 pm EST. Good luck!
And the winner is…. Leora Heilbronn @leoraheilbronn – congrats!!