Pucker up, honey. No, no, no, no, no ... this isn't a Valentine's Day post. In fact, when I offered R a piece of these lemon bars, he puckered, grimaced and recoiled after taking an itty-bitty bite.
"You know I don't like these kind of lemon desserts. It's too sour," he said, amidst more grimacing, pushing the plate as far away as his spindly arms could reach.
I rushed over to his side ... to take a bite for myself. They tasted fine last night when I baked them. (But then again, maybe I was too inebriated or too sleepy (or both) to actually discern. I grabbed the fork and cut into the slice.)
"Dude. What are you talking about?" I asked him. "It's fine. Not sour. It just tastes of lemon," I said.
"Well, I can't eat anymore," he said. "It has too much lemon in it. It's too sour."
So you see why this will never pass for a Valentine's dessert in my house.
Perhaps there should be a caveat: these bars are not for non-fans of lemons. It is by no means sour (I swear men exaggerate soooo much more than women) but the taste of lemon is distinct. Eaten with the base (which is buttery like shortbread with toasted almonds to add texture) and the jammy center, it's really good. Fresh and tangy. Creamy.
Lemon and Jam Bars
3 egg yolks
75g (1/3 cup) castor sugar
2 tbsp milk
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (reduce this a little if you're not fond of the tanginess of a lemon)
Zest of 1 lemon
85g butter, cold and cut into cubes
pinch of salt
1/4 cup jam (I used some leftover Ligonberry jam I had but you can use strawberry, raspberry or cranberry )
In a stainless steel/glass or ceramic (non-reactive) saucepan, beat the eggs, yolks, milk, sugar and salt until just incorporated. Add the lemon zest and juice and beat to mix. Add the butter and put the saucepan on the fire (low heat) and heat the mixture, stirring constantly (or else it might curdle), until it thickens and can coat the back of a spoon.
Remove from the heat and continue whisking the curd until it cools somewhat. Cover the surface with clingfilm (so a crust doesn't form on the surface) and let it cool to room temperature.
125 g all purpose flour
50g icing sugar
pinch of salt
130 g butter, cut into cubes
1/4 cup toasted, chopped almonds
Whisk together the flour, sugar, almonds and salt. Add the butter and using your finger tips, rub the butter into the flour mixture until it becomes like coarse breadcrumbs, clumping together here and there.
Press the buttery, crumbly mixture into a parchment-lined square or rectangular baking tray (about 15cm or 6-inch tray with a 5cm or 2-inch rim should be fine).
Bake in a preheated oven (180C) for about 20 mins or until the edges start to brown. Remove the crust from the oven and spread on the layers of jam and curd: jam first and then the curd.
Pop the tray back in the oven and bake for 20 min or so, until the curd has set and springs back a little when touched.
Remove and cool. The curd will still be a little soft when it comes out of the oven but will set further as it cools. Once cooled, chill for at least an hour before serving. A light dusting of icing sugar before serving is the final touch.