17-42: Luscious Lemon Bars

17-42: Luscious Lemon Bars were the second of my holiday baking batches this year (XMAS 16), and one that I’ve baked in the past, given my rather bold notes. I think I was on a cheesecake kick, and thought these would be easier than making an actual cake. “BAD DO NOT MAKE” doesn’t exactly bode well for a recipe–why make it again?

Here’s why: sometimes it’s important to try again, even when the first experience wasn’t exactly a positive one. The first time I made these lemon bars was my junior year of college, so about 10-12 years ago. I had just moved into my first off-campus apartment with my friend, and we had a full kitchen, something I hadn’t had access to for a few years while living away from home in the dorms.

I remember making these in that kitchen (yes, I dragged these books with me all the way out to Colorado and back) and struggling with this recipe. Out of that frustration (and failure) came the note. I’ve learned a lot since then (culinarily and otherwise), so I think it’s time to figure out if it was the recipe or it was me.

I feel like you can really sense my initial frustration with this recipe given the amount of ingredient spillage on the card. I think part of my original failure with this recipe might have been lack of proper equipment, but also partially not accounting properly for high altitude baking. I don’t struggle with that now living in California, but it’s something to keep in mind, especially because these recipes don’t account for any of that.

Ingredients. I used fresh lemons this time–I believe last time I used bottled lemon juice. I couldn’t find much evidence of major scientific differences between the two, but there’s definitely a taste difference when using the fresh stuff.

I was a little short on coconut, but most of the people who tried these remarked that they enjoyed that they weren’t “too coconutty”, so perhaps consider going a bit easy on it even if you don’t double the recipe like I did.

Slicing up the butter makes it a bit easier for the food processor to distribute it evenly.

This wasn’t quite as crumbly as I expected–a bit more flour and a few more pulses fixes that.

Much better–the other one was more like a pie crust than a crumbly bar bottom.

I came up a bit short on the bottom crumble–that’s probably due to the pans being a bit larger than 9×13″. I thoroughly covered these pans with spray oil before baking–it’ll make it easier to get these bars back out in later (another mistake from before that I’m trying to rectify).

While the crumble bottom baked, I worked on mixing the filling in the stand mixer.

I remember these looking a bit pale the last time–I’ll admit I spiked this batch with a bit of yellow food coloring to give them a brighter color.

Bottom crumble after baking. There’s a few dark spots where it was a bit thin, but otherwise I think it’ll work. I hadn’t mentioned until now–I doubled this recipe so that I could give all of my recipients a few bars each.

Juicing lemons is WAY easier with a citrus squeezer. Whether you decide to go with bottled lemon juice or real lemons, it’s about 2 tbsp lemon juice per lemon.

Confession time: the last time I made these, I thought they were a bit pale-looking, so this time I spiked them with a bit of yellow food coloring.  It made them look much brighter, which I think makes them taste a bit better–we eat with our eyes before our stomachs a lot of the time.

Spreading the mixed, smooth filling out on each of the crumble bottoms.

My oven happens to fit both of these pans side by side, which helps with trying to keep the batches consistent.

After baking. I like the bit of spotted coloring they got–if I were to do it a third time I would let them get even more golden on top.

Whipping up the frosting/icing. It’s similar to cinnamon bun glaze, but more lemon-y.

After frosting. I used the nice high sides of the pan to roll it around with the icing inside, using the heat of the filling to keep it moving until it covered everything evenly. Afterwards, I let it cool completely on a rack, wrapped it with plastic wrap and let the pans cool in the fridge for a few days. Before I cut them, I put the pans in the freezer for about 15-20 minutes to firm them up just enough to keep them from crumbling as I cut them. ❄

After cutting and wrapping. I put 2-3 individually wrapped bars in each gift bag, along with some of the other goodies in this picture (clockwise, from top left: 17-48: Buttery Vanilla Rolls, 17-41: Molasses Oatmeal Bread, 17-20: Macadamia Chip Cookies, this recipe, and 17-49: Apple Muffins). I tried a few, and I have to admit: they were pretty good. They were also the most highly reviewed item in the bag from my giftees.

I think the answer to my initial question of whether it was me or the recipe has been confirmed: it was me. So let this be an example–it’s not always a bad idea to give something a second chance.

Grade: A

?? Interested in the full list of Simply Delicious treats we made for 2016’s holiday baking extravaganza? (XMAS 16) ?

How about another year’s Simply Delicious holiday bake-off?  XMAS 15