Pink Lemonade Bars (Raspberry Lemon Bars)

As a fruity compliment to the decadent Chocolate Cake with Espresso Buttercream that I made for our extended family potluck last month, I made a batch of Pink Lemonade Bars (a.k.a. Raspberry Lemon Bars) just to make sure I had all my bases covered.  And yes, this bar is the more fibrous sister of the Gorgeous Strawberry Blonde Bars I made a couple of years ago.Pink Lemonade Bars (Raspberry Lemon Bars)

Here is the recipe as adapted from Smitten Kitchen:

INGREDIENTS

For the crust:

  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 C (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 C all-purpose flour

For the pink lemonade layer:

  • 1 C raspberries
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 1/4 C freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons’ worth)
  • 1/3 C all-purpose flour
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F and line an 8x8x2-inch baking pan or Pyrex with parchment, letting it extend up two sides. Butter or coat the bottom and sides with a nonstick spray and set the pan aside.
  2. Make the base: In a food processor, pulse together the sugar, zest and salt until combined. Add the butter and pulse until it is evenly dispersed in the dough. Add the flour and pulse the machine until it’s just combined and the mixture is crumbly. Press the dough into the prepared pan and about 1/2-inch up the sides. Don’t worry about making this perfect – no one can tell once the filling is in it.  Bake for 15 minutes, until lightly browned at edges. Let cool on a rack while you prepare the filling. Leave the oven on.
  3. Make the pink lemonade layer: Puree the raspberries in a food processor until they’re as liquefied as they’ll get. You don’t have to wash the food processor in between steps, but just make sure there aren’t any huge chunks of dough in there before adding the raspberries. Run the puree through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing out all the raspberry puree that you can.  Leave the seeds behind. You’ll net about 1/3 cup strained puree, but don’t worry if you have a little less than that.

    Strain Raspberry Puree
    Strain Raspberry Puree
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and lemon juice until smooth. Whisk in 3 tablespoons of raspberry puree. Stir in flour. Pour into cooling crust and return pan to the oven, baking the bars until they’re set (they’ll barely jiggle) and slightly golden at the edges, about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely before cutting into rectangles. (You can speed this up in the fridge.)

    Filling Mixture
    Filling Mixture
  5. I cut these into 16 2×2-inch squares and each one fit snugly in a standard cupcake liner.  Dust with powdered sugar just before serving. You can store these in the fridge in an airtight container for up to a week.

I didn’t get to try these because they were eaten up by our family potluck attendees, but I typically assume running out quickly is a good sign!

Lavender Lemon Bars

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.

Here’s the recipe, as adapted from Studio Cuisine Blog.

Ingredients

Crust:
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp dried lavender
  • pinch of kosher salt
Filling:
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
  • zest of one lemon
  • powdered sugar, for topping

Instructions

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.

Crust - Dry Ingredients
Crust – Dry Ingredients

3. Press crust into buttered (or foil-lined) baking dish, and bake for 18-20 minutes until light brown.

Lavender Shortbread Crust
Lavender Shortbread Crust

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.

Clever Seed Strainer
Clever Seed Strainer

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.

Lavender Lemon Bar
Lavender Lemon Bar

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.

Gorgeous Strawberry Blonde Bars (Strawberry Lemonade Bars)

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!”

Kelley started about a year after I did, and I honestly think it took a while for us to warm up to each other. She’s a girly girl, and I… well… I own Star Wars bedsheets.  But the friendship evolved throughout the last nearly four years and blossomed into professional matrimony.   I parallel parked her car for her regularly, and she reminded me that I really ought to brush my hair in the morning. We talked about everything from workout strategies, to boys, to wine, to dieting, and frequently discussed life’s greatest unanswered questions.

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.

Then, a few weeks ago, she told me she was leaving IMAX.  She had met another company and was moving on, away from me.  I was getting dumped.

Kelley:  “It’ll be okay. It wasn’t going to last forever. You’ll be fine.”
Me:  “Will we still see each other?”
Kelley:  “Yeah, of course we’ll still see each other!
Me: “Okay. I would like that.”

I was devastated.  I will find my true coffee soulmate.  Some day.  I’m a firm believer in that if it’s meant to be, it will happen.

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.

Carlsbad Strawberry Company Strawberries
Carlsbad Strawberry Company Strawberries

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:

Crust
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt

Filling
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.

Instructions

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.

Crust
Crust

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.

Filling - It Looks Like Barf, But I Promise It Isn't
Filling – It Looks Like Barf, But I Promise It Isn’t

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!

Hot Out of the Oven!
Hot Out of the Oven!

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.

"Gorgeous Strawberry Blonde" Bars
“Gorgeous Strawberry Blonde” 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).

Kelley!
Kelley!

I think all approved the out come of the bars.  Miss you, Kelley!

Earl Grey Lemon Bars

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.

Ingredients

Crust:

  • Cooking spray
  • 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

Filling:

  • 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

Directions

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.

Flour, Earl Grey Tea Leaves, Powdered Sugar, Salt
Flour, Earl Grey Tea Leaves, Powdered Sugar, Salt

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.

Earl Grey Tea Steeped in Lemon Juice
Earl Grey Tea Steeped in Lemon Juice

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.

Earl Grey Lemon Bar
Earl Grey Lemon Bar

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!