I made these bars so long ago, I can’t even remember what for. I do remember finding the inspiration for them from trying a lavender lemon bar from the bakery case at Surfas when Kelley and I went there a year or two ago. Jennifer got me a sachet of dried lavender last Christmas and I think that’s what prompted me finally get in gear and make them. I’m sure Jenn meant it to be used for other things, but alas, my world revolves around whatever I can eat.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 8×8 baking dish and set aside.
2. To make the crust, cream together softened butter and sugars at medium speed until light and fluffy. Stop mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add flour, lavender, and salt. Mix at low speed until just combined.
3. Press crust into buttered (or foil-lined) baking dish, and bake for 18-20 minutes until light brown.
4. While crust is baking, make your filling. Whisk together eggs and sugar in a medium-sized bowl until smooth. Add flour, lemon juice, and lemon zest, and whisk until fully combined.
5. Remove crust from oven, and pour filling over warm crust. Place lemon bars back in oven and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes until crust is firm to the touch.
6. Cut bars into squares and dust with powdered sugar before serving.
7. Lemon bars will last sealed in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days.
Ta-da! I’ve had a few floral-inspired desserts before, and there’s definitely a fine line between having that floral essence and…something that tastes like soap. This recipe nicely manages to avoid the latter, but still had that nice lavender smell to it. With the dried lavender in the crust, you didn’t get any of the dried lavender texture in your mouth either.
This is a tale of love and loss, fulfillment and heartbreak, happiness and anguish. This is a tale about my first love…at work.
You meet a lot of people in the workplace. If you’re lucky, you’ll figure out who the batshit crazy people are right away and keep your distance. If you’re luckier, you’ll make a friend or two. And if you’re REALLY lucky, you will find a work spouse. Coworkers come and go in our lives but you will never forget your first work spouse.
Oh the fond memories. One of my all-time favorite Kelley stories was when a Chinese filmmaker flew in to the US for a meeting with some of our other coworkers. He sat in our common area and saw Kelley working while he waited for his colleagues. During dinner, he leaned over to one of our coworkers and said, “So I must ask you – WHO is that gorgeous strawberry blonde that works in your office? She looks like a model or an actress!”
It all started over morning coffee. Kelley and I casually complained to each other about how terrible the office coffee was at the time. Neither of us were coffee snobs, but the communal office coffee literally tasted like aluminum sludge. No amount of sugar or creamer could save it. A couple of years ago, Kelley and I started buying and brewing our own coffee. Most of my mornings as of late would start with the instant message “can you go now?”, meaning it was time to rendezvous in the office pantry. Morning coffee quickly became coffee and breakfast, which then occasionally turned into drinks after work and weekend outings. I was in a committed relationship that was martial work bliss.
Naturally, as a little goodbye sendoff, I had to make a batch of “Gorgeous Strawberry Blonde” bars. Kelley had actually sent me a similar recipe from Smitten Kitchen a couple of years ago for Pink Lemonade Bars, but they used raspberries instead of strawberries. I had to go down to San Diego for a work trip the day before her last day, so I picked up a few cartons of fresh strawberries from the Carlsbad Strawberry Company farm on the drive back up. They had BEAUTIFUL and extremely sweet strawberries to choose from.
I tweaked Smitten Kitchen’s recipe a bit to make up for the additional liquid that strawberries tend to produce (versus the not-as-juicy raspberries), and didn’t use the lemon zest in the crust that Smitten Kitchen’s recipe called for. Here’s my take:
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup fresh lemon juice (pulp is fine)*
zest of 1 medium lemon
1/2 cup pureed strawberries (about 3/4 cup hulled berries)**
1 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
*If you want it to be less tart, use slightly less lemon juice and more strawberry puree, but make sure you end up with the same total amount of liquid or the bars won’t set after you bake them.
**Hulling the berries is really important – you only want the sweet, red part of the strawberry and none of that white bitter center.
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan, or line with nonstick foil or parchment paper.
2. Make the crust. In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter, until smooth and fluffy. Working at a low speed with a stand mixer (I used a pastry blender in this case), gradually beat in flour and salt until mixture is crumbly. Pour into prepared pan and press firmly into an even layer. Bake for about 18 minutes, until set at the edges.
3. While the crust bakes, make the filling. In a blender or the bowl of a food processor, combine the lemon juice, lemon zest, strawberry puree, sugar and eggs and process until smooth. Add in flour, baking powder and salt, then pulse until smooth.
4. Gently pour the filling over the hot crust when it has finished baking. Return pan to oven and bake for about 25 minutes, until the filling is set. A light colored “crust” will form on top from the sugar in the custard – nothing a little sprinkling of powdered sugar can’t hide!
5. Sprinkle the bars with some powdered sugar. Cool completely before slicing and use a sharp damp knife to ensure clean slices. Store bars in the refrigerator. Makes about 28 2-inch square bars.
Kelley turned about as red as her bars when she opened the box on her last day and read the sign that had her infamous Kelley-isms (as seen below).
I think all approved the out come of the bars. Miss you, Kelley!
I know I recently complained about the New Year Resolutioners that crowd my gym every January, and I’m glad to finally be able to say it’s become a little more normal. Now that I can finally work out relatively in peace, I’ve been trying to figure out some ways to mix up my routine because it’s becoming… well… routine. One can only do weights and cardio on a treadmill or elliptical so many times in one week.
I like to intersperse my regular workouts with group exercise classes and have tried almost every single one 24 Hour Fitness has to offer. I’ve tried Zumba and kick-boxing, but all of the stomping around was really hard on my knees. I am also terrible at Zumba. I’m not a quitter when it comes to exercise, but I tried spin once with a coworker, got through 20 minutes of class, mouthed “I can’t feel my crotch!” to each other, and walked out together. Who the hell does spin class? I mean, are your lady parts made out of leather? How do you deal with that? Should I have lined the seat of my pants with bubble wrap? Now I understand why men don’t do spin.
Pilates and yoga are fine, as is this Nike-sponsored “athletic training” class that my gym offers. But still over a year later, nothing beats The Bar Method in my book despite my self-induced embarassing first experience. It really is my favorite workout class, but I can’t justify the steep per-class pricepoint for something I’d want to do at least 4 times a week. However, I just bought the complete set of DVDs, so we’ll see how that goes.
On the topic of breaking routines, I’ve been writing way too many updates about cookies lately, which basically means I’ve been making too many cookies. Sadly I have a few more cookie posts backlogged on top of a couple more holiday posts! Yikes! So, in the spirit of mixing things up, here’s an update on an Earl Grey Lemon Bar I made last month. I came across the recipe in the June 2012 issue of Cooking Light magazine, and have been saving it for an occasion such as… nothing. I guess I made these just for fun.
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup powdered sugar
2 Earl Grey tea bags, divided
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. To prepare crust, line an 8-inch square metal baking pan with foil that extends 2 inches beyond sides; coat foil with cooking spray. Weigh or lightly spoon 1 1/4 cups flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, 1/3 cup powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon tea leaves from 1 tea bag (discard remaining tea in bag), and salt in a bowl; cut in butter with a pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Press into bottom of prepared pan. Bake at 350° for 19 minutes or until lightly browned.
2. To prepare filling, place juice in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH for 30 seconds. Add remaining 1 tea bag to juice; cover and steep 10 minutes. Squeeze juice from tea bag into bowl; discard tea bag. Combine granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, and baking powder in a bowl. Add rind and eggs to juice; stir with a whisk until combined. Add sugar mixture to juice mixture; stir with a whisk until well combined.
3. Remove crust from oven; pour filling onto hot crust. Bake at 350° for 23 minutes or until set. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Remove from pan by lifting foil. Remove foil, and cut into 16 bars. Sprinkle bars with powdered sugar.
The Earl Grey cut some of the tartness of the lemon bar, and gave it a great scent. I think the crust was a little softer than what I personally would prefer. If I made these again, I would probably incorporate the Earl Grey tea leaves into a firmer lemon bar crust!
I went on a baking marathon last week in preparation for two events – a surprise Sho-Yu baby shower for Crystal and Dave, and a potluck dinner for my best friend Leslie’s birthday. I’ll delve deeper into the former in my next post, but treats for this post were made with the latter in mind. If my vice is sugar, Leslie’s is salt. I decided on a dessert that incorporated the savory and remembered the rice crispy treats that one of Shirley’s friend’s made for her Super Bowl Party a few weeks ago. When I asked her where she got the recipe from, and she said Smitten Kitchen. I should have known!
I ended up burning the butter the first go-around while trying to get a photo of the browned butter. Everything had to be done really quickly before the ingredients burned or cooled too quickly, so alas there are not many pictures for this post.
Happy Birthday to my dearest friend of over 20 years! ♥
Six of us got together at Leslie and Tri’s new house for dinner, but we each brought enough food to feed twelve. Tony made 16+ ounce steaks, and everyone else brought sides. Leslie had never tried my Apple Pie Cookies, so I whipped up a batch of those to go with the rice crispy treats, as well as what I had made for the shower. And Jason made a huge vat of his famous Sangria to make sure the birthday girl had a lot of fun. I also came to the conclusion that aside from Corgis which I’ve always loved, not ALL dogs are evil. Leslie and Tri’s very sweet dog has instilled hope! I still think 90% of them are blood-thirsty biting bastards.
As an aside, I had a bit of a revelation this past week. With the obsessive frequency with which I work out, I wondered aloud at work as to how it could be possible that I was gaining weight. After a few minutes of thinking about what I had been doing differently the last couple of weeks, it hit me: I need to stop finishing all of my food… and then finishing everyone else’s.
True story. Time to start exercising some control!
As for the rice crispy treats, they’re pretty easy to make as long as you’re patient with browning the butter. They have the perfect balance of sweet and savory, making them really addicting! Yum!
I never took photos of the Key Lime Bars with Pistachio Graham Cracker Crust and Blueberry Compote that I had made back in May, and had been wanting to make them again and correctly… and with photos. One of my coworker-friends threw out her back last week and had been in a lot of pain the last few days. I remembered when I brought some of them in to work, she had really taken a liking to them so I thought this was the perfect thing to help cheer her up!