Recently, my editor at Creative Loafing asked me if I could put together a recipe containing mostly pictures for their upcoming photography issue. I’m a sport, so I said “Sure!”. Then, I got the bright idea that I would do a recipe that was presented using ONLY pictures. That’s right, no words allowed. I decided to make these lemon bars, because I love, love, love them. And, since today is officially the first day of Spring, sharing bright, sunny, citrusy lemon bars couldn’t be more perfectly timed. What was I thinking!?!?
Three solid days and five hundred photographs later, I was pulling my hair out, wondering what kind of idiot was I to even attempt this! Yes, that’s right. Five. Hundred. Photographs. At the same time I was trying to actually prepare and bake these lemon bars. And, not just shooting the photos either, but reviewing, organizing and editing them as well. Oh yes, and also grouping them into cohesive little photo vignettes, so that they would make sense in my photo “recipe”.
Of course, with this recipe timing is everything, so I was rushing around like a madwoman trying to set up and snap shots before my ingredients got too warm, too cool, too thick, too thin and the light got too bright, too dim, too far north and too far south.
By the time I was finished, I couldn’t have given a $*#& about those lemon bars! All I was in the mood for was a big bottle of Advil with a Valium chaser!
After this little debacle exercise I’m convinced that I must be either a total masochist or just plain crazy!
But hey, the work is done, so I’ll let you decide if it was worth it. Does the “recipe” make sense to you? Could you actually make these lemon bars just by looking at the pictures? I’ve gone ahead and printed the actual recipe at the end of this post just in case you would like to make them and I’ve failed miserably in my efforts.
Let me know what you think in the comments. I’m going to go pour myself a tall, stiff drink! Oy!
adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum
For the Shortbread Crust:
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
For the Lemon Curd:
4 large egg yolks
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 fluid ounces lemon juice, freshly squeezed
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 tablespoons powdered sugar for dusting (0.5 ounce = 14 grams)
To make the Shortbread Crust:
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the powdered and granulated sugars. Add the butter and cream together with the sugars, using an electric mixer, until light and fluffy. Mix in the flour until just incorporated. It should still be a little crumbly, but will stick together if you pinch it with your fingers.
Line the bottom and two sides of an 8-inch by 8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving about a 2-inch overhang on each side. Pat the dough evenly into the prepared pan with your fingers.
Bake in the center rack of a preheated 325°F oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned and the top is pale golden.
While the shortbread is baking, prepare the Lemon Curd topping.
To make the Lemon Curd:
Have a small strainer, suspended over a bowl, ready near the stove.
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, beat the egg yolks and sugar with a wooden spoon or whisk until well blended. Stir in the lemon juice, butter, and salt. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, for about 6 minutes, until thickened. The curd should thickly coat the back of the wooden spoon, but still be thin enough to pour. A candy thermometer will read approximately 196°F. when it is ready. Be careful not to boil the curd mixture or it will curdle.
When the curd has thickened sufficiently, immediately pour it into the strainer. Press it with the back of a spoon until only the coarse residue remains. Discard the residue. Stir in the lemon zest.
When the shortbread is baked, remove it from the oven to cool a bit and lower the oven temperature to 300°F. Pour the strained lemon curd on top of the shortbread crust and bake for 10 minutes.
Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Then, refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to set the lemon curd before cutting into bars. Place the powdered sugar in a strainer or sifter and sprinkle a thick, even coating on top of the curd.
Run a small metal spatula between the sides of the pan and the pastry on the 2 sides without the aluminum foil. Use the foil overhang to lift out the lemon curd/shortbread onto a cutting surface. Use a long, sharp knife to cut the shortbread into small bars. Wipe the blade of the knife after each cut.
The powdered sugar will start to be absorbed into the lemon curd after a few hours, but it can be reapplied right before serving.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 3 days, in the fridge for 2 weeks, or in the refrigerator freezer for 3 months.
Makes 24 1-inch by 2-inch bars.