Lemon Bars with a Chocolate Twist

I've been making my lemon bars for ages now. I think I first posted about them four years ago when I started writing this blog as part of a grad school project. Now, I am well-versed in all things digital communications and I've been baking and sharing my baked goods ever since.

Lemon bars are one of my favorite things to eat, err, bake. The basic lemon bar recipe has a shortbread base and a very simple custard "filling", which makes the recipe infinitely adaptable to additional flavors and ingredients.

What can make a Lemon Bar even more decadent and wonderful? Why, chocolate of course. A simple ganache adds panache (ha!) to an already wonderful treat.

Lemon Chocolate Bars
Ingredients for shortbread
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup confectioners (powdered) sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 cup butter or shortening

Ingredients for filling

1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tbsp cornstarch

Ingredients for ganache
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate
1/3 cup heavy cream

Pre-heat oven to 350 deg F. In a bowl, using either your fingers or an electric mixer on the lowest setting, mix together all the ingredients for the shortbread until the mixture comes together as large crumbs. Place the mixture in a 9x9 pan and press into the pan, making as even as a base as possible. Bake for 15 mins, then remove to cool.

While the crust is cooling, prepare the ganache and filling. For the ganache, heat the heavy cream until just under boiling and pour over the chocolate chips. Mix until chips have melted and the ganache is smooth. Set aside to cool completely. For the lemon filling, using an electric mixer, beat together the sugar, eggs and lemon zest until a light and lemony color. Add the lemon juice and beat well. Using a spatula, fold in the cornstarch.

When the shortbread is only slightly warm, spread the ganache over the shortbread as evenly as possible. Carefully pour over the ganache the lemon mixture - don't worry if some of the ganache combines with the mixture, it'll even out during baking.

Bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees F or until the filling is relatively firm. There might be a light brown crust on top - you can cover your baking dish with foil to avoid it. Cool completely before cutting and serving with a dusting of powdered sugar. Decadent is an understatement when you bite into this.


Chocolate Chips!

I might have written about Chocolate Chip Cookies before, but I made a batch recently that reminded me why I love that little cookie so much. With cold milk - it's the best treat a kid, err, I mean a grown-up could have!

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Walnuts

1 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F. Cream the shortening and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition - don't forget to scrape the side of the bowl! Add dry ingredients and mix well, but don't over mix. Fold in chocolate chips and walnuts.

Place large spoonfuls of the cookie dough mixture onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes until lightly golden, remove, cool and enjoy!


Apples and Spices and Pie Crust, oh my!

While writing posts about the baking I've been doing has been few and far between these past few months, I have been baking. There was the baby shower cupcakes, the birthday cake, blackberries galore and much, much more. For some reason, putting fingers to keyboard didn't really appeal to me, but then after the "Storm of the Century" (well, here in New York City) the one way I was able to make sense of the mess that was left after Sandy passed through was by baking. The moment I put on my apron and sorted out a recipe in my head, I could momentarily push aside the anxiety rising inside me and a state of calm purpose replaced it. One of the best American comfort baked goods out there, I think, is Apple Pie. Being that I had some slowly shriveling apples and motivation, a free-form Spiced Apple Tart was born!

Free-Form Apple Tart

2/3 cup of cubed chilled butter
2 cups flour
Pinch of Salt
1/3 cup of ice-water

(I used a food processor for this, because it works so well to keep the crust flaky, but you can use a pastry cutter, two knives or whatever works for you.)

In your food processor, add the flour, pinch of salt and pulse once. Then add the butter cubes and pulse until  the mixture resembles small crumbs. Slowly add the ice-water to the mixture - not all of it, but just enough until the dough begins to form a ball. Remove dough from processor bowl and form into a flattened disc. Wrap with plastic wrap and chill for about 30 mins.

5 apples, peeled, and cut into 1/8 pieces (avoid any sour apples for this recipe)
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup of spiced apple wine (or any spirit you fancy)

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and let marinate for 30 mins to an hour.

AssemblyFlour a clean surface and roll out your pie dough in a large, circular shape. Keep it to 1/4 inch thickness - you want a thicker crust for this kind of tart.

Place dough on a baking sheet.

Drain the apples from the marinating liquid (reserve the liquid for a quick caramel glaze) and arrange in a circular mound in the center of the crust, leaving about two inches of crust free.

Fold the remaining crust over the apples, making sure to seal any cracks that might appear. Make a simple egg wash (whole egg + 2 TBSP water + some beating = egg wash) and brush all over the crust.

Bake at 425 for 45 mins. Remove and add the glaze (see recipe below)

Caramel Apple Glaze
Reserved liquid from apple marinade
3 TBSP butter

In a small sauce pan, heat the liquid until bubbling, add the butter and stir until the mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from heat and set aside until use.

You can have your pie with sour cream, whipped cream, or with some fresh berries like I did.