Friday, December 18, 2009

Lemon Bar Fail

I have to start out by thanking C Fierce for that wonderful introduction. I can’t remember beating her up because I wore her shirt, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. It sure sounds like me.

So the goal here over at The Sisters Fierce is to write about cooking and baking adventures. I hate to do this, but I have no choice: I’m going to begin with a failure.
Here’s the thing. I can tell you why this happened. I was on a roll. I mean, a real roll. I was turning out perfectly moist pumpkin cake, ginger sandwich cookies with a lemon cream cheese filling, those flavors sang together. I made pizza dough that cooked up crisp like a cracker. I was on FIRE. This is why it happened: it was my turn to fail.
I should have known with the way my day began: I bid on a piece of art online and I lost, bummer. Once I got to work I realized I left my cell phone at home-that always makes me feel a little bit anxious, a little bit stranded. My growling stomach reminded me that I also left my English muffin in the toaster. The day dragged on.
What tricked me into thinking I was together enough to bake that evening? What led me to think that after 8 hours of My Job that I would have energy left for Ye Olde Kitchen Aide and oven?
It was the lemons that called to me, “J Fierce, we’re on sale, a whole bag of us for $1.99. We’re not regular lemons, we’re meyer lemons… don’t leave us here all alone …” and then my mind starts reeling. What should I make with those gorgeous things, the color of a baby chick, bright and cheery? The fragrance is nothing like your typical lemon, they’re almost floraly. Already made a pie, made some ice cream, made scones… It was their request, really. How could I resist?
“We’d be so good in a classic lemon bars recipe, just try it.” The little golden eggs kept stepping up their game, reminding me of their status as the love child of a lemon and a mandarin orange, sweeter and so fragrant. “You probably won’t have this chance next week,” they told me, playing on their notoriously short season. As if they had to do all that work -I would have taken them home with me anyway.
There was a recipe online I had been eying - an update on Ina Garten’s classic lemon bars. It was beautiful. But of course what isn’t beautiful from the Smitten Kitchen? In between commercials (because it was a good tv night) I beat the butter, then I separate the eggs, I make and bake the shortcake crust.
But I should know better. I do know better. I just didn’t listen to myself. The part of me that said, man, this bowl is really full. The filling is too runny. And there is too much of it. Just take some out. I can’t take some out. I followed the recipe to a T. See how it overflows in the pan? You should take some out. No, there’s no leavening, it’ll be fine. I even measured the pan.
It was already late when I realized there was no way I would get my (please don’t hate me) normal 9 1/2 hours of sleep (C Fierce is convinced I’ve had mono since age 13). I figured, eh, what’s wrong with an 11pm bedtime… I can hack it.
I didn’t do myself any favors by painting my left hand’s nails (OPI’s Miami Beet) in between those commercial breaks, either. It turned me into a one-armed baker trying to make a masterpiece on my first showing. After 35 minutes in the oven, I put tinfoil on top to stop the scabby mess from getting any darker. But the curd was still jiggly. I’m not talking “mildly set,” I’m talking “this is questionable for those who have compromised immune systems as I’m sure they shouldn’t be eating raw egg.” That sucker sat in the oven for over two hours before I finally gave up and went to bed.
Of course I sampled the outer edge before I turned in. And once you got underneath the scab top and past the burnt shortbread crust… my god that thing was gorgeous. Canary yellow. Flavor like magic.
And you know what I did when I got off work the next day? Bought another bag of those beauts. I’m going to try this with a different pan this time and see how far it will take me.
Original recipe here (and I won’t even make notes because mine was such a disaster):


  1. aren't you supposed to make lemonade in this situation?

  2. Darn. Wish you lived closer so I could give you a bag of those yummy meyer lemons from the tree hanging over my driveway! I've been giving them away all week long to make sure they don't go to waste. I think you need to try this one again. On a better day. At least post the darn recipe so I can try it. And give me some hints so that mine won't flop. Please???

  3. I so understand the call of the meyer lemon. They are so beautiful! Hope your second batch turned out better!

    Kathee (Lori's California neighbor)

  4. Update!!! I made these again with much success-this time, I listened to myself and only used half the filling. It set up perfectly, and I heated the remaining portion on the stove to make a curd for scones and such.

    Recipe I used, adapted from Ina Garten
    For the crust:
    1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
    1/2 cup granulated sugar
    2 cups flour
    1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
    For the filling:
    6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
    2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
    2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (4 to 6 lemons) (meyers please)
    1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (use those beautiful meyers if you can get your hands on some)
    1 cup flour
    Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

    For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill.

    Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.

    For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature.

    Cut into triangles and dust with confectioners' sugar.