I love picnics. They are easy to throw together and always fun. This past weekend I met up with my sister and her friend at Ravinia for a concert. Rodrigo y Gabriela are self taught guitar playing geniuses, mixing classical flamenco music with heavy metal and rock, and the concert was intense. The weather was gorgeous, the stars were out, and the music was beautiful. We set out a blanket and a few chairs, popped a few bottles of wine and settled in. I had picked up a French baguette earlier that day and made salami/pesto/roasted pepper sandwiches and some roasted potatoes, while my sister brought some prosciutto, Brie and crackers. For dessert I brought some grapes and lemon bars.
I've never tried making lemon bars before, but I remembered seeing them over at Technicolor Kitchen, and they looked lovely and perfect for a picnic. Plus I had everything on hand, so that morning I rolled up my sleeves (figuratively speaking...I never buy long sleeve tops so I never actually need to roll anything up) and got to work. They didn't turn out as cute as hers, but they were delicious!
Tangy Lemon Lime Bars
via Technicolor Kitchen
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
finely grated zest of 1 lime and 1 lemon
1/4 cup strained freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup strained freshly squeezed lemon juice
powdered sugar for dusting, optional
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9" baking pan aluminum foil leaving an overhang on two opposite sides. Lightly butter the foil.
- In a medium bowl, combine melted butter with sugar, vanilla and salt. Add flour and mix until just incorporated. Press dough evenly over bottom of pan.
- Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until crust is fully baked, well-browned at the edges and golden brown in the center.
- While crust is baking, stir together sugar and flour in the same bowl you used for the crust (why get more dishes dirty?) until well-mixed. Whisk in eggs. Stir in zest and juices.
- When crust is ready, reduce heat to 300°F, slide rack with pan out and pour filling onto hot crust.
- Bake 20 to 25 minutes longer, or until topping no longer jiggles when pan is tapped.
- Remove from oven to a wire rack to cool completely. Lift up foil liner and transfer bars to a cutting board. If surface is covered with a thin layer of moist foam (not unusual), blot surface gently with a paper towel to absorb excess moisture; repeat with a fresh piece of paper towel if necessary.
- Using a long, sharp knife, cut bars into 16 or 24 daintier bars and sift powdered sugar over bars, if desired. Stored in an airtight container, bars can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
Today, my sister and I took the leftover bars to my parents house and my mom told us a story. When she was a young college student in Russia, ingredients were very hard to come by. One day she found herself with a bunch of lemons, so she whipped up something very similar to these lemon bars: a simple dessert with a shortbread type crust and a lemon custard topping. She packed it all up and went to visit a friend. Her friend, who was never a great cook and was always broke and therefore hungry, was so incredibly happy and thankful for the sweet treat that she ate most of it right there on the spot. The woman became great friends with my mom, she was the maid of honor at my parent's wedding, and the thoughtful pie gift made such a great impression on her that from that day on whenever my mom would visit her, she'd look expectantly into my mom's hands and ask if there was lemon pie in there somewhere. It is now many many years later, she still lives in Russia, while we've been in the states for almost twenty years, but they still talk once or twice a year. The reason this story came up was that my mom happened to have gotten a call from her friend just that morning, and just a few hours later, lo and behold...lemon bars! What a coincidence! And since she couldn't share the dessert with her friend, my mom ate two pieces: one for herself and one for her friend :)