Lemon Ginger bars!

When Amy gave us her preferences for her custom-made cookie, I immediately latched onto her choices of lemon and ginger. I am a huge fan of ginger and I think ginger and lemon go together well. I wanted to give the traditional lemon bar a spicy twist, so I attempted to make a lemon-ginger bar.

Most recipes only have the lemon curd sitting atop the crust, but I wanted it to have more ginger in palpable chunks, so I added a crumb topping that has candied ginger in it, for extra zip.

This recipe is based on David Lebovitz’s lemon bar recipe but I made quite a few changes, both in adding ginger, but also subtracting some sugar, making some lemon switches, etc.

Although I didn’t win our in-house baking showdown, I was really thrilled with how these turned out. I don’t normally go for lemon bars when I see them, but I really enjoyed these. And, Jess, you’d better watch your back– I’m coming for you when we have our next Baking Deathmatch.

Lemon-Ginger Bars (adapted from David Lebovitz)

Crust:
1 cup flour
1/4 cup minus 1 tbsp granulated sugar
8 tbsp melted unsalted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger

Lemon Topping:
1 lemon, organic or unsprayed (approx 6 oz.)
1 cup minus 2 tbsp granulated sugar
3 tbsp freshly squeezed Meyer Lemon juice
3 large eggs, room temperature
4 tsp corn starch
1/4 tsp salt
3 tsp melted unsalted butter
1 segment Meyer lemon (peeled, so it’s just the pulp)

Crumb topping:
1 cup flour
1/3 c. dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. chopped crystallized ginger
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
6 tbsp melted butter
1 tbsp cold butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line an 8-inch square pan with foil, smoothing it out as best you can, so that the foil extends over the edges of the pan.

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, 1/4 cup minus 1 tsp granulated sugar, 1/4 tsp salt, 8 tbsp melted butter, 1/4 c. ginger, and vanilla, stirring until just smooth. It’ll be a kind of crumbly ball– don’t worry. Smooth the batter into the bottom of the pan, using your hands or a spatula to get it as level as possible.

Bake the crust for 25 minutes, or until it’s deep golden brown. While the crust is baking, get started on the topping. Lebovitz’s recipe requires a whole lemon, so it has a slightly bitter taste, but that is due to the rind (the white part of the lemon). I wanted to temper the bitterness ever so slightly by using Meyer Lemon juice, which is sweeter than regular lemon, and adding a segment of Meyer Lemon to the mix.

Before cutting the organic lemon into chunks, cut the two nubby ends off the top and bottom, close enough so that when you cut it, you see the beginning of the pulp, rather than the rind. You’ll remove a good portion of excess bitter rind that way. Cut the rest of the lemon into pieces, removing the seeds.

Place the lemon pieces into a food processor along with the sugar, Meyer Lemon juice and Meyer Lemon segment. Run the food processor until the lemon is broken up. Add the eggs, corn starch, salt, and 3 tbsp melted butter, and blend until almost smooth.

When the crust comes out of the oven, reduce the heat of the oven to 300 degrees F. Pour the filling over the hot crust and bake for 17-18 minutes to set the filling enough so it can support the crumb topping.

While the filling is cooking, combine all of the topping ingredients into a medium bowl, with the exception of the cold butter. Don’t worry if the topping is chunky– do not overmix it, but instead it should have the consistency of chunky, damp sand. Add in the cold butter and break it up into chunky pieces with a spatula, adding more texture to the topping.

Once the filling is set, take the pan out carefully and raise the temperature back to 350 degrees F. Gently add the topping, taking care not to break the filling. You’ll have more topping than you need; I picked out the chunks of sugar/flour/butter covered ginger and made sure there was a large proportion of it in the topping, and discarded the excess once the bars were completely covered.

Slide the bars back into the oven for 40 minutes or until the topping is golden brown. Take the bars out of the oven and let them cool completely before cutting, or better yet, once they’re room temperature, refrigerate them prior to cutting for more precise cuts.

Lemony, gingery goodness!

Mango Lime Bars: A New Recipe!

Hello there, gorgeous.

Last week was tough: traveling, a stressful presentation, and lots of personal and work life hassles. I needed a stress reliever. And what better way to relieve stress than workshopping a new recipe?

(Okay, okay. A massage, cocktails, a good book, dinner with friends, and spending time with Alison and a geriatric Siamese are all better. But I digress.)

I was all out of inspiration. Naturally, I turned to my partner in crime: “I want to bake something. I need ideas.”  Alison: “How about a bar cookie? You haven’t made one of those in a while.” Me: “Yeah, I was thinking of a bar cookie, too. What kind?” Alison: “Maybe something seasonal?” You can see who the brain is in this establishment. I settled on mangoes, which  are just coming into season and have been fantastic at our local grocery store.

The first step in creating a new recipe is research. I look for other people’s approaches, and figure out what I think could work and what I want to change. Turns out, there isn’t much out there on mangoes in baked products. I worried. This might mean mangoes weren’t suitable for bar cookies. I wanted to try them anyway, though, so I persevered. First, I adapted recipes from several Smitten Kitchen bar recipes and a mango shortbread recipe from allrecipes.

I decided to include lime and macadamia nuts in the recipe, to complement the flavor of the mangoes.

My first attempt with these bars went pretty well. Surprisingly well, actually, since I had no idea how the mango filling would work out.

 

Turns out, they were pretty tasty! I learned several valuable lessons, however:

  1. More mangoes per “cookie” would be better.
  2. The lime flavor emerges in the second day.
  3. The crust was too sandy. Do over!
  4.  Larger pieces of macadamia nuts burn if left unincorporated.
  5. A glass pan is not ideal for this endeavor.

Back to the drawing board. On Monday night, I drew some inspiration from my favorite baking book, The Good Cookie. I kept some elements the same, and added others.

I baked, chilled, and hoped.

Fantastic! These bars were a great, fun twist on a more traditional fruit-based bar. The lime and macadamia nuts were great complements to the mango. As before, I found the flavor of the lime really emerged on the second day.

Ingredients

Crust
1/2 cup macadamia nuts
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
zest of 1 lime
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup white sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla

Filling
4 mangoes, sliced
1/2 of a lime’s juice
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
4 tsp cornstarch

Topping
1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
6 tbsp melted butter

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×9 pan (unless, like me, you use silicone).

Crust

  1. In a food processor, pulse the macadamia nuts with 1/2 cup of the flour until well-blended.
  2. Add the remaining dry ingredients and pulse to blend.
  3. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is blended and coarse, like cornmeal.
  4. Whisk the egg and vanilla. Add both to the dry ingredients and pulse until the dough clumps together in a ball.
  5. Scrape out the batter and press into a prepared pan. The dough will be a bit sticky.

Filling

  1. Combine sliced mangoes, the juice from half of a lime, brown sugar, and cornstarch in a bowl. The mixture will be slightly wet, but if there is excess liquid, add more cornstarch.
  2. Spread mangoes evenly on top of the batter in the prepared pan. There will be several layers of mango.

Topping

  1. Stir dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl.
  2. Pour melted butter and stir until incorporated.
  3. Sprinkle mixture on top of the mangoes in pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes. If the top browns before the bars are done, cover the pan with some foil to prevent burning. Cool to room temperature, then chill overnight before cutting into 16 squares.

Apple-pear dessert bars

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I have had an exhausting and emotionally draining few weeks, so I turned to baking this weekend to cheer myself up. Baking is the perfect recovery activity: it allows me to focus on something that is both time and attention consuming and unrelated to work and personal life. Plus, I get to eat afterwards. I may have eaten too much this weekend, however. I am now on sugar detox.

These apple-pear bars were my best product. The recipe is from The Good Cookie, with a couple very small changes. I am producing it in sections, since there are several different steps.

Apple-pear dessert bars

Crust

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I always use unbleached, but either is fine)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2-3 teaspoons ice water (I used 1.5—start with 1 and add more if necessary)
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions for crust:

  1. Position rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease the bottom of a 9-inch square pan.
  2. Place flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process until blended. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 6 seconds.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk egg yolk, 1 tsp water, and vanilla. With the food processor running, add the yolk mixture through the opening and process until the dough begins to come together in large clumps, 15-20 seconds (add more water as needed, but be careful to keep dough crumbly—this makes the crust nice and flaky).
  4. Scrape the dough into the prepared pan and press the dough evenly into the bottom of the pan. Bake 20-25 minutes.
  5. Cool completely before adding other pieces of the recipe. Leave the oven on at same temperature for later baking.

**NOTE: If using a dark pan, bake at a lower temperature (@325 degrees) and at the lower end of the time range. The crust should be slightly browning around the edges, and fairly light in the middle.

Filling

  • 2 Granny Smith apples
  • 1 pear
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons frozen juice concentrate
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons pear brandy
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown butter

Instructions for filling:

  1. Peel and core the apples and pear, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and place in a medium bowl. Add lemon juice, apple concentrate, cornstarch, and pear brandy and toss to combine.
  2. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add the sugar and cook, stirring constantly until any lumps of sugar are broken up.
  3. Add the apple mixture and bring to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes, or until the apples are softened on the outside but still crunchy on the inside. Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside to cool.

Topping

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Instructions for topping:

  1. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, sugars, cinnamon, and salt until well blended.
  2. Add the melted butter and mix with a fork, stirring until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated and mixture is uniformly moistened.

Sour cream mixture

  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cups chopped raisins

Instructions for sour cream mixture:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk the egg until blended.
  2. Whisk in the sour cream, cinnamon, salt, and raisins.

Assembly:

  1. Pour the sour cream mixture into the cooled apple and pear mixture, and stir to combine.
  2. Spread evenly over the crust.
  3. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the filling. Press down lightly with your hand.
  4. Bake the bars for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden brown and set (again, you may need a lower temperature and less time for a dark pan—I kept my oven at 325 and baked for 30 minutes).
  5. Cool the bars completely in the pan, set on a wire rack. This may take a few hours. Be patient, because they will not retain their shape until completely cooled (even then, they will remain soft, but they should take on a bar shape if handled carefully).
  6. Cut the bars into 16 squares. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

Voila! They do take some time investment, but they are worth it.

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