Friday, May 6, 2011

When life hands you lemons....

David Lebovitz has become something of a legend these days. He is a super chef extraordinaire turned super author extraordinaire and he now lives 'the sweet life in Paris', which incidentally is the name of a book he has written. Ever since I first came across his website, I have been eying a coupling of recipes of his and wanting to make it and one of them is his 'Whole Lemon Bars'. Choosing a recipe that I would want to make out of the millions on any food website is relatively easy for me. The fact that I live way out in the country and have no access whatsoever to ANYTHING fancy, including cooking chocolate, mint extract or even fresh cream on most days eliminates MOST recipes. And the whole lemon bars were one of the simpler ones on David Lebovitz's site.

You start with the crust in this case, but first things first. Preheat the oven to 180º C. Take an 8" square pan and either cover the insides with foil so that you can lift off the lemon bars neatly once it's done or you can just butter up the dish and leave it as it is.

(The dish was so pretty, I had to allow it its moment in the sun! Also, at my house, we use spoons instead of knifes to portion desserts and we usually eat directly from the dish, which means that it does not need to be cut into bars before serving or storing. I am aware that this is hardly model behavior and I urge you do not be this way!)

The cast of characters is thus: Flour, sugar, unsalted melted butter, salt and vanilla extract.

Mix and stir until it is well combined and then using your fingers or a spatula, smooth the dough onto the bottom of your baking dish.

'Bake the crust for 25 minutes until it becomes a deep golden brown', is what David Lebovitz says, but definitely do not use 'until a burnt smell emanates' as a sign to turn off the oven like I did.

In the mean time, proceed to make the lemon topping. 

At this juncture, I feel compelled to say something. Practically speaking, I don't know what the difference between a lemon and a lime is. In India, we get something which we alternately use the name lemon and lime for and it makes no difference to anyone here. But sometimes it does make it difficult to gauge the requirements for a non Indian recipe and substitute accordingly. That is why I faltered when I saw that the recipe called for 'whole' lemons to be chopped up and added in the topping mixture. I definitely didn't want whole lemon bars that were way too bitter or sour from using a whole lime instead of a whole lemon. So I just used the rind and the juice of it, rather than the whole thing.

Other than that, the process is the same. Blend the eggs, cornstarch, salt, lemon juice, lemon rind and melted butter.

Do not be alarmed if you find that the mixture is too liquidy. It will set on baking.

I have to say that my left arm is so daft that it can hardly do anything, much less take stellar photographs of what I am cooking whilst cooking with my right hand. It is as dysfunctional as my left brain, which is weird because the left brain is intended to work better for staunchly right handed people like me. But my left brain doesn't work, my left hand is spazzy and my left foot is a size smaller than my right one. (My left eye is also smaller and sometimes when I don't sleep enough it gets really tiny and creepy. That's the only time I like how my eyes look though!) Now that I have made a full confession of my debilitations, I feel peaceful enough to get back to the recipe. So shall we?

When the crust is baked and out of the oven, pour the lemon filling on top of the crust.

Reduce the heat to 150º C and bake for 25 minutes until the lemon topping stops jiggling and is barely set. Remove from the oven and cool completely before you cut into squares or begin scarfing it down as is.

I found that the flavour is much better when it cools, but unfortunately, I had finished eating most of the lemon bars before it even reached 80º C. DO NOT repeat above mentioned behaviour. You will live to regret it if you do. 

And David says that the bars will keep for a month frozen or for 3 days in an airtight container at room temperature. But I will not be able to validate that unfortunately - the bars lasted 3 hours in my house. 

Here is the link to the actual recipe on David's website. I meditated over pasting it here and then linking it to his site for about 3 hours but then I decided against it because it seemed quite redundant to do that, especially since I wasn't planning to adapt the recipe even 'slightly' just for the sake of it (Hello! It's a David Lebovitz recipe!)  

Also, you should definitely go check out his site as often as possible and stay as long as possible because.... IT. IS. AWESOME. It's the closest I can get to actually going to Paris and that's good enough reason for me. 

Enjoy maadi. (as they say in Bangalore, where I just came from.)


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