Lemon Bars

There are certain things I associate with certain people. When I think of my mom I think of irises, and white handmade pottery and lemon bars. My mom loves lemon bars. 

Even more so, I have a strong emotional tie to lemon bars. One of my friends was in the hospital, and we bought her some lemon bars, she was very, very ill and never really ate food, only picked at it. I remember watching her pick at the lemon bar, and wanting her to just EAT IT ALREADY. 

Perhaps it's surprising, considering how strongly I feel about lemon bars, that I'd never made them until a few weeks ago, but life works in funny ways, and I finally found the perfect recipe. The one that sang to me. 
The one that seemed just right. 

Lemon Bars on Brown Butter Shortbread
from Tartine


1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsalted butter
pine nuts (optional) 1/2 cup


1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup + 2 tbsp lemon juice
grated zest of 1 lemon
6 large whole eggs
1 large egg yolk
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 9x13 inch baking pan. 

To make crust, sift the confectioners' sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the flour and stir to mix. Add the butter and pine nuts (if using) and beat on low speed until a smooth dough forms. 
Transfer the dough to the prepared pan and press evenly into the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of the pan. It should be about 1/4 inch thick. To help even out the crust use the flat bottom of any type of cup, pressing down firmly. Line the crust with parchment paper and fill with pie weights. Bake the crust until it colors evenly to a deep golden brown, 25 to 35 minutes. Rotate pan 180 degrees if the crust appears to baking unevenly. 

While crust is baking, make the filling: Sift the flour into a mixing bowl. Add sugar and whisk until blended. Add the lemon juice and zest and stir to dissolve the sugar. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the whole eggs and egg yolk with the salt. Add the eggs to the lemon mixture and whisk until mixed. 

When the crust is ready, pull out the oven rack holding the crust and pour the filling directly into the hot pan. (It's easiest to pour the custard into the pan if the pan is in the oven.) If the crust has come out of the oven and cooled before you have finished making the filling, put it back in for a few minutes so that it is hot when the custard is poured into it. Reduce oven temperature to 300 F and bake just until the center of the custard is no longer wobbly, 30 to 40 minutes. 

Let cool completely on a wire rack, then cover and chill well before cutting. using a sharp knife, cut into 12 squares, or as desired. If you like, dust the tops of the squares with confectioners' sugar. They will keep in an airtight container or well covered in the baking dish in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. 

Maria's Lovey's Food and Wine's Brownies OR the Simplest Brownies Imaginable

Our family friends Maria and Paul are pretty cool people. They moved into a house down the street a few years ago and I watch their house when they're traveling. Maria used to work for a catering company and she has an incredible cookbook collection. She's also an awesome cook, and on Labor Day she and Paul had a party. For dessert they had watermelon and brownies and ice cream. I've never been a hardcore brownie eater, but these brownies.... I melted with delight, they're scrumptious. These brownies are, as my dad would say, all that and a bag of chips. Seriously. 
Maria promised me that the recipe was the simplest thing imaginable and  gave it to me. She also left me with the very important instruction BEAT WITH A WOODEN SPOON, she said she wasn't sure why but those were the directions in the recipe and she's always followed them. I'll tell you why to beat with a wooden spoon. It increases DELICIOUSNESS. 

Maria's Lovey's Brownies from Food and Wine March 1990

8 oz. unsalted butter
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
2 cups sugar
4 eggs at room temp
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, grease (or line with foil and spray) a 13x9x2 pan.

Melt butter and chopped chocolate in microwave (about 1 1/2 minutes), stir to finish melting chocolate
Add sugar and stir with WOODEN SPOON* until mixed.
Beat in eggs one at a time until mixture is shiny and each egg is incorporated
Add vanilla, flour and salt. Add nuts. 

Bake for 30 minutes and cool completely in pan before cutting. The brownies will be moist and soft in the inside and crusty on top. 

* (Maria's note) Use only a wooden spoon to mix ingredients- don't know why but those were the directions and I have always done it.