Greetings Pickle -
Even though Pretzel and Peanut are only 2 and 9 months old respectively, I am already very worried about the teen years and the hatred they are bound to feel for me! Daily, I wonder to myself - how can I curry enough favour to keep the teen hatred at the 'mild' setting? One of my preventative strategies, cribbed from my Nana, is to always have a jarful of homemade cookies on my counter. Surely eleven years of homemade cookies will earn me a place in their hearts, no matter what an embarrassing dork I actually am. Right? Right???
This full jar policy led me to the folks who are having a great time over at the Cookie Carnival. Each month, they pick a new cookie recipe. How fun is that? I know - as much fun as a carnival! It was dreamed up by the talented and amusing Kate over at The Clean Plate Club, and this month's recipe and round-up are courtesy of the sweet baking machine called Holly over at Phe/MOM/enon.
I have to admit that the Toasted Almond Lemon Bars chosen for this first month didn't fit neatly into my cookie jar, so that was a little sad from the get-go. I have to admit also that I'm not even a giant lemon bar fan, although I know this puts me in the minority in the world. But they are from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book , and as you know I loved the recipe for Pretzel's birthday cake which came from the same source. And they did scream Spring. So I dug in!
The unique thing about this recipe is that it features ground, toasted almonds right in the crust and almond extract in the filling. I LOVE almond flavoured things. These, though, were a little too subtle in the almond department IMHO. If I make them again, I'll definitely up the almond content. However, where they were perfectly subtle was in the lemon department. They weren't all sour and puckery like too many of those lemon bars that use peel. I took some to a job, and the boss was very vocal about not liking lemon squares because they're too tart. And then she ate three. So I am now an office favourite, thanks to the bars. Who could ask for more?
Actually, I could - because Pretzel gave me a giant sticky hug after the lemon bar he got for dessert tonight. And then, before I noticed, 9-month-old Peanut grabbed a huge hunk of crust and chowed down on that with little hums of satisfaction. And then Columbo the dog licked the crumbs up with apparent doggy glee. Ahhhhh. Another deposit into my Anti-Teen-Hatred Account.
Toasted Almond Lemon Bars
From The Sweet Melissa Baking Book by Melissa Murphy
For the Crust:
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup sliced blanched almonds, lightly toasted
1/2 teaspoon salt
20 Tablespoons (2 1/2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
For the Lemon Filling:
4 large eggs
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 7 lemons)
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar for sprinkling
To Toast the Almonds:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the almonds in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly golden and you can smell them. Remove to a wire rack to cool.
Before You Start:
Position a rack in the center of your oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9 x 13 - inch pan with nonstick vegetable cooking spray. Make a parchment "sling" by cutting two pieces of parchment paper, measuring 16 1/2 inches long by 12 inches wide (you can also use aluminum foil). Place one piece across the length, and the other across the width of the pan, with the excess hanging over the edges. You will use this sling later to lift the finished bar from the pan. Spray the sling with the cooking spray.
To Make the Crust:
1. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse the flour, sugar, almonds, and salt to combine. Add the cold butter in pieces and pulse until the dough comes together in a ball.
2. Turn the dough out into the prepared pan and press evenly into the bottom and 1 1/4 inches up the sides. (This crust, once it is baked, needs to act as a liner in which to pour the liquidy lemon filling. So be sure to do a good job of pressing the dough up the sides - no cracks!). Cover the dough with a piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil, and fill with pie weights ( you can use dried beans or uncooked rice as pie weights as well). Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly golden. Carefully remove the pie weights and the liner and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, or until the whole crust is golden. Remove to a wire rack to cool.
To Make the Filling:
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until smooth. Add the almond extract and flour, and whisk until smooth. Add the lemon juice, and whisk to combine.
To Complete the Bars:
1. Pour the lemon filling into the prepared crust. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the filling is firm and lightly golden. Remove to a wire rack to cool.
2. When cool use the parchment sling to lift the entire bar from the pan and onto a cutting board. Slice into twelve 3 x 3 1/2 - inch bars. Remove from the pan and, using a small sifter, dust with the confectioners' sugar.