Lemon bars with salt and olive oil
Who knew lemon bars would love a little salt and olive oil?
First let me say, I love lemon desserts. In fact, I love a good lemon dessert even more than chocolate. And that is saying a lot. Unfortunately there are a lot of not so great lemon desserts out there. A good lemon dessert has to have a clean fresh lemony flavor and not be overly sweet. So when my friend Sophia sent me this recipe with the comment "These lemon bars are soooooo good!" I had to give them a try. And I agree, these lemon bars are fabulous.
This recipe was created by Melissa Clark and published in New York Times. I'm a big fan of salted desserts, but I would not have imagined salting a lemon bar. Neither would I have thought of using olive oil in lemon bars. All I can say is the salt and olive oil work.
It goes without saying that Meyer lemons make the best lemon desserts. My friend Jenny happened to have just given me a big bag of Meyer lemons about the time Sophia sent me the recipe. It was my destiny to bake these bars!
You want to break out the good stuff for this recipe. Look for a first press, fruity, extra-virgin olive oil.
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A genius trick
Melissa's recipe calls for lining the pan with parchment, leaving paper handles to pull the lemon bars out of the pan in one big slab. This works beautifully. No more sacrificing the first couple bars as you struggle to dig them out of the pan. That also means no more having to eat those first couple of scrunched up bars, because they are too messed up to serve. So you win some and you lose some. Seriously, this is a great technique that you can use for brownies and any bar-type baked good.
- 1¼ cups all purpose flour
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 3 T powdered sugar
- Zest of 1 lemon
- ¼ t fine sea salt
- 10 T unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1 T pieces
- Zest from 1 lemon
- ¾ cup fresh lemon juice (preferably Meyer lemons)
- 1½ cups granulated sugar
- 2 whole eggs
- 3 egg yolks
- 1½ t cornstarch
- Pinch of fine sea salt
- 4 T cold butter, cut into 8 pieces
- ¼ cup good fruity extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 T powdered sugar
- Maldon sea salt
- Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9" x 9" baking pan with a piece of parchment, leaving a good size paper handle on each side of the pan (See photo). These paper "handles" will be used to pull the bars out of the pan.
- Put the first five ingredients in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the chunks of cold butter and continue pulsing until the dough looks like crumbly cornmeal.
- Transfer the dough to the lined baking pan and use your fingers to compress the dough into the bottom of the pan to form a uniform layer. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the crust is golden brown.
- In a small saucepan whisk together lemon juice, sugar, whole eggs, egg yolks, cornstarch and sea salt to combine. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until thickened, about 3-5 minutes. Once the curd comes to a boil cook it one more minute. Do not overcook or the curd will thin out. Remove from the stove and strain into a bowl, pushing the curd through the strainer with a wooden spoon. Whisk in lemon zest, cold butter and olive oil.
- When the shortbread is done, pour the curd into the hot crust and put it back in the oven. Bake until the curd is set, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for two hours, or until ready to serve.
- When you are ready to serve, take the pan out of the oven and using the parchment handles gently lift the pastry out of the pan. Sift the remaining powdered sugar over the top and sprinkle with Maldon salt. Cut into bars and serve.