Monday, May 25, 2015

Super-Easy Lemon Bars

A while back I reviewed Christina Tosi's book, Milk Bar Life on my book blog. Shortly after that, I wrote about the ranch dip mix in the book.

But that ranch dip is something served at the Milk Bar restaurant, rather than one of Tosi's at-home recipes ... so I felt that the dip might not be the best example of the sorts of recipes in Milk Bar Life.

This recipe for lemon bars might give you a better feel for the book.

I liked these bars, but I think that bars with lemon curd have a slight edge over these, just because lemon curd is so danged good.

On the other hand, I'm thinking of toying with the recipe a bit. I don't normally start my recipes with cake mixes, but sometimes a shortcut is a good thing, and this could be the perfect thing to make if you've got an office potluck and no time for anything more complicated.

For more reading, check out my review of Milk Bar Life and the recipe for Ranch Dip Mix.

Lemon Bars
Adapted from Milk Bar Life by Christina Tosi

For the crust:
1 (15-ounce) box lemon cake mix
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg

For the filling:
1/3 cup crust mix
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Zest and juice from 2 lemons

Heat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9x13 pan with baking spray.

To make the crust:
Mix the cake mix, butter and egg in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until it is well mixed. It will be dense.

Scoop out and reserve 1/3 cup of this mixture and dump the rest of it into the 9x13 pan. Press it firmly and evenly onto the bottom of the pan. You can use your fingers, or the bottom of a measuring cup, or a pastry roller, which is what I used.

To make the filling:
Return the 1/3 cup of crust mix to the stand mixer bowl and add the cream cheese. Mix with the paddle attachment until it is well combined. Add the powdered sugar, salt, lemon zest and lemon juice. Mix until well combined and smooth.

Transfer the filling to the pan and use a spatula (an offset pastry spatula works well) to make a smooth, even layer.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until the top has puffed slightly and is golden brown and beginning to crack. (Mine took a bit longer to get any brown at all, and it never cracked. Use your judgement.)

Let the pan cool completely on a rack. You can cut the bars in the pan, or remove the whole thing and cut on a board - your choice.

Dust with powdered sugar, if desired.