Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lemon Crumb Bars, Nick Malgieri Style

When I get a new cookbook, I get all exited about what I'm going to cook first. Because the first dish is the one I'm going to think about the next time I think about using that book.

I browsed through the book and found an ideal recipe for my Easter dinner, but then spied a recipe that would be perfect for a potluck I was going to. I had most of the items on hand, with a couple of substitutions. I used lime zest instead of lemon, and I used yuzu juice instead of the lemon juice.

The addition of the crumb topping was interesting. I'm used to seeing lemon bars with just a dusting of powdered sugar on top, but these had a pretty thick layer of crumbs - and I didn't even use all the crumbs. So, looking from the top it was a little bit hard to tell what was underneath. When I make these again (not if, when.) I'll probably use half as many crumbs and let some of the lemon show through.

Lemon Crumb Bars
Adapted from Bake! by Nick Malgieri

1 batch sweet pastry dough
Crumb Topping
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
Lemon Topping
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon lemon zest (I used lime)
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (I used yuzu)
1 1/4 cups sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with racks in the top and bottom third of the oven (not all the way at the bottom, though - that's a little too hot. Line a 9 x 13 pan with buttered foil or parchment paper, and line a baking sheet with parchment.

Roll out the pastry to a little larger than 9x13, and place it in the prepared 9x12 pan, pressing in into the corners. Remove all but 1/2 inch of the dough on the sides of the pan. You need that much lip to contain the filling, but you don't need more than that. Chill the crust while you prepare the crumb topping.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the butter. Let it sit for a few minutes, then break up the clumps with your fingers so you have 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces and sprinkle those on your prepared baking sheet.

Place a piece of parchment on top of the pastry in the 9x13 pan (cut or fold it to fit) and weigh it down with pie weights or dry beans. Bake the crust on the lower rack and the crumbs on the upper rack for 10 minutes.

Move the crumbs to the lower rack. Remove the weights and parchment from the pastry, and place that pan on the upper rack. Bake the crust until it is dry and golden (recipe says 5 more minutes; mine took 10) and bake the crumbs until they are deep golden and firm (recipe said 10-15 minutes, but mine browned very quickly.)

Cool the crust and topping on racks. Meanwhile, move the oven rack to the center position.

While you're waiting for the pastry to cool, make the lemon topping. Whisk the eggs and zest in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the sugar and lemon juice, stirring to melt the sugar as much as possible. Add the sugar-juice mixture to the eggs, and stir gently to combine.

Pour the lemon mixture into the prepared crust, and bake until the topping is set, about 15-20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, scatter crumbs on top, and bake another 5 minutes.

Cool the pan on a rack for 15 minutes before removing the bars using the foil or parchment as a sling. Transfer the bars to a cutting board and let them cool completely before cutting into squares.