Thursday, February 3, 2011

Tartine Lemon Bars on Brown Butter Shortbread

One of the pastry chef's that I worked with in DC gave me the advice to use recipes from good cook books and not the Internet because a good cook book won't let you down.

This sent me to the library to do a bit of research, and I found this gorgeous book called Tartine which is named for Tartine Bakery & Cafe in San Francisco. The beautiful photos alone draw you in, but after reading it cover to cover, I daydream about doing my CIA externship at Tartine....a girl can dream!

I still find and use recipes on the Internet but I am attempting to cook through my stacks of cookbooks and keep the ones that I love and donate the ones I do not.

We have been having seriously cold weather recently; it was -2 last night! Being from the South we have not fully figured out our radiators so it is either boiling hot in our house or freezing cold.

Currently we're in a freezing spell; yesterday I woke up and put on long johns, sweats and a puffer vest in order to make coffee! You know it's bad when while making coffee I glance over and see Remi shivering on his bed. So, I plugged in the heating pad, grabbed the little fuzz butt and curled up on the couch to go through some cook books and warm up.

Anyhow, this cold weather has my mind wandering to the tropics and after having a delicious lemon meringue tart from Bread Alone last week (photo posted at the end of my 1/26 entry) and then seeing these yummy lemon bars in Tartine, a baking project emerged.

The recipe uses a brown butter shortbread which requires you to blind bake the dough while making the filling. I do not own pie weights and I did not have any dry beans on hand so I remembered reading from Rose Levy Beranbaum that copper pennies did a good job. Ones from 1982 or older are best because they are 95% copper, anything older is mostly zinc and only coated in copper. I busted out my penny jar and found lots of old pennies to do the job--even a few from the 1940's--lining my pan with parchment and then foil to hold the pennies.

The key to this recipe is fresh lemons so put in the elbow grease and get to juicing (I am thinking of investing in a simple juicer; Aunt B hooked Dan on fresh squeezed orange juice and it would help in times like these!) I ended up using 6 lemons total to equal one cup of juice.

The final product turned out beautifully. I really enjoy a good lemon bar and I thought that I could convert Dan; these fit the bill for me but Dan is still a key lime boy through and through when it comes to citrus. Mom always used the kind in the box that you find in the supermarket (love you mom!); these are obviously miles better than anything you will find in a box and they are super easy to boot. I took a picture of the bars early this morning and then sent the lot with Dan for his office (otherwise I am liable to eat them all and my hips would not appreciate that!)

Lemon Bars on Brown Butter Shortbread
(Recipe from Tartine Cookbook)

Yield: one 9-by-13-inch baking pan; twelve 3-by-3 1/4-inch bars (I cut them into little 1 x 1 squares so that they would go further; Dan has quite a few folks in his new office. I may start Friday treat days for them to encourage me to step out of my box and try new things.)

For the crust:
--1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar (2 oz/55 g)
--1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (7 1/2 oz/215 g)
--3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature (6 oz/170 g)

*Elisabeth lists 1/2 cup pine nuts (2 oz/55g) as optional. I chose not to add these in favor of something more traditional.

For the filling:
--1/2 cup all-purpose flour (2 1/2 oz/70 g)
--2 1/4 cups sugar (1 pound/455 g)
--1 cup plus 2 tbsp lemon juice (9 oz/28o ml)
--lemon zest, grated from 1 small lemon
--6 large whole eggs + 1 large egg yolk, plus pinch of salt
--confectioners’ sugar for topping

1. Preheat the oven to 350F and butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.

To make the crust:
1. Sift the confectioners’ sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Stir in the flour. Add the butter and pine nuts (if using) and beat on low speed just until a smooth dough forms.

2. Press the dough evenly into the pan and allow it to come up about a 1/2 inch up the sides of the pan. Line the crust with parchment paper and fill with pie weights.

3. Bake the crust until it is a deep golden brown, about 25-35 minutes.

To make the filling:
1. While the crust is baking sift the flour into a mixing bowl and whisk in the sugar until blended. Add the lemon juice and zest and stir to dissolve the sugar.

2. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the whole eggs and egg yolk with the salt. Add the eggs to the lemon juice mixture and whisk until well mixed.

3. Once the crust is ready pour the filling directly into the pan (leave the pan in the oven while you do this to make it easier). Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F. and bake just until the center of the custard is set, about 30 to 40 minutes.

4. Let cool completely on a wire rock, then cover and chill well before cutting. Cut into squares and dust the top with confectioners’ sugar, if desired. They will keep in an airtight container or well covered in the baking dish in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
* Bakers measure things by weight (as I learned in the DC bakery); Elisabeth lists the weight amounts so I included those here. My in-laws gave me a lovely little Oxo Food Scale as part of my Christmas gift (they rock!) and I have been trying to use it in place of my usual cups, tsps. etc. It truly makes a difference and I will try and remember to put these measurements on baking recipes I use on this site.

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