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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Lemon Bars

I've always been a huge lemon bar (or square, whichever term you prefer) fan.  They remind me of when I was little and used to go to this one bakery in town with my mom.  I've been wanting to try out the Barefoot Contessa recipe for them for some time but had never gotten around to it.  Finally on Sunday, I realized I just happened to have all of the ingredients on hand and got to baking.  It's a really basic recipe, which is one of my major loves of Ina Garten.  So basic, so tasty.  
I shared them with my neighbors that night and took the rest to school the next day.  After lunch with the other teachers I still had several left and my students were begging me for them.  So at the end of the day I divided them all up so everyone could have a taste.  To quote my student Jennie: "This is what I would call gooooood baking!"

Lemon Bars
~The Barefoot Contessa cookbook

For the Crust:
1/2 lb unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

For the Filling:
6 extra large eggs, room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
2 grated lemon zest (from 4 lemons)
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup flour
confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.  Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed.  Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball.  Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 9 by 13 by 2 inch baking sheet, building up a 1/2 inch edge on all sides.  Chill.

*Self tip-Line the pan with aluminum foil!  It makes it so much easier to remove them from the pan.  

Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned.  Let cool on a wire rack.  Leave the oven on.  

For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour.  Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set.  Let cool to room temperature.  

Cut into triangles and dust with confectioners' sugar.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Raspberry Chocolate French Macarons

For macaroons
  • 6 oz sliced blanched almonds (not slivered; 2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Red or pink food coloring

For chocolate raspberry ganache
  • 3 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (60 to 64% cacao), finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/16 teaspoon raspberry extract (preferably McCormick brand)

Make macaroons:
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Pulse almonds with 1/2 cup confectioners sugar in a food processor until very finely ground, 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer to a bowl. Sift in remaining cup confectioners sugar, stirring to combine.

Beat egg whites with salt in another bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until they just hold soft peaks. Add granulated sugar, a little at a time, beating, then increase speed to high and continue to beat until whites just hold stiff, glossy peaks. Add drops of food coloring to reach desired shade and mix at low speed until evenly combined. Stir almond mixture into meringue with a rubber spatula until completely incorporated. (Meringue will deflate.)

Spoon batter into bag, pressing out excess air, and snip off 1 corner of plastic bag to create a 1/4-inch opening. Twist bag firmly just above batter, then pipe peaked mounds of batter (the size of a chocolate kiss) onto lined sheets about 1 1/2 inches apart. Let cookies stand, uncovered, at room temperature until tops are no longer sticky and a light crust forms, 20 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 300°F.

Bake cookies, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until crisp and edges are just slightly darker, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool completely on sheets on racks, about 30 minutes.

Make ganache while macaroons bake:
Melt chocolate with cream in a metal bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water or in top of a double boiler, stirring until smooth. (Bowl should not touch water.) Remove bowl from heat, then add butter and raspberry extract, stirring until butter is melted. Let stand at room temperature until cooled completely and slightly thickened.

Assemble cookies:
Carefully peel cookies from parchment (they will be fragile). Sandwich a thin layer of ganache (about 1/2 teaspoon) between flat sides of cookies.