Showing posts with label Lemon Bars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lemon Bars. Show all posts

Monday, December 5, 2011

Two More Cookie Finalists!

Last year I was the only one choosing recipes and baking cookies.  There are five of us participating this year and it has been interesting to watch how recipes are selected.  Just like everyone in the world, we all have our favorites -- favorite textures, and favorite flavors.  Some of us choose cookies based on what our families like.  Some recipes have been selected because of fond memories of a similar cookie.  And some of us (count me in!) have trouble picking only two recipes.  So just a few of us piggies will be posting three recipes instead of two.  Hey!  We have to bake Christmas cookies for our friends and families anyway.  Right?

The second finalist is Lemon Bars Deluxe from Lynn in Texas.  This will come as no surprise to anyone who reads this blog.  I've been sending out not-at-all subtle hints that I wanted a lemon square recipe.  Cleone Hawkinson sent us a very similar lemon square recipe, but -- poor Cleone.  Her daughter-in-law, Wendy, mentioned their relationship.  We decided that it wouldn't be fair to include family members.  So, Cleone, thank you for sending your recipe!  Wendy is lucky to have such a lovely mother-in-law!

On to Lynn's Lemon Bars Deluxe.  Aside from having a craving for lemon bars, there are a couple of things I particularly like about the recipe.  The main thing is that it can be frozen.  It's so handy to be able to cook them ahead of time and thaw them for Christmas festivities.  If you read my mysteries, you know that Sophie always has stashes in the freezer that she can pull out to serve at the last minute.  Apparently, these also survive three days at room temperature!  That would make them very practical for anyone who has to take baked goods with them on a car trip to Grandma's house.

Lynn notes that they're time-consuming.  They are in that the crust has to be refrigerated before it's baked.  But if you happen to have your Christmas card list nearby or you need to walk the dogs, that's a great time to do it.

Here's what Lynn said~

Now I recall the recipe was time-consuming but seemed worth the effort as I made it more than once!  Here it is:

Lemon Bars Deluxe

Yields about 2 dozen bars


Extra softened butter for greasing pan.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Adjust oven rack to middle position. Lightly butter a 13- x 9-inch baking dish and line with parchment or wax paper allowing edges to come over the sides.

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup powdered (confectioner's) sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

Pulse flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch, and salt in food processor.

Add butter and blend, 8 to 10 seconds, and then pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Sprinkle mixture into prepared baking pan and press firmly into an even layer with slightly raised sides to hold in the filling. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes and then bake until golden brown, about 20 to 30 minutes; remove from oven and let cool slightly. After crust is finished baking, reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.

Lemon Filling:

4 large eggs, beaten lightly
1-1/3 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (from two large lemons)
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice, strained
1/3 cup whole milk
1/8 teaspoon salt

While crust is baking, make the Lemon Filling:

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, and flour; stir in lemon zest, lemon juice, milk, and salt to blend well. Pour mixture onto the pan on top of the warm crust.

NOTE: You may set prepared Lemon Filling aside until crust is finished baking. When ready to pour on warm crust, re-blend Lemon Filling mixture and pour into the warm crust.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until the filling feels firm when touched lightly. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool for 30 minutes.

Grasp the parchment and carefully lift the bars onto a cutting board. Cut into serving size squares or bars, wiping your knife clean between cuts if necessary.

Extra powdered or confectioners' sugar to decorate finished bars.

Sieve powdered or confectioners' sugar over bars and serve. NOTE: The powdered sugar will start to be absorbed into the Lemon Filling after several hours, but it can be reapplied before serving.

Storage: 3 days at room temperature, 3 weeks refrigerated (individually wrapped in plastic wrap to prevent drying), or 3 months frozen.

The dough is a snap in a food processor.

The filling seems runny, but don't worry!
I'm including this because I thought I'd goofed with those funky brown spots.  The powdered sugar covers them.  Whew!

Lynn is right.  They're well worth the effort!

But I'm not done yet.  We have another finalist today!  Finalist number three is Raspberry Rollups from Kathy Kaminski.  The raspberry jam got my attention immediately.  It wasn't until I took a closer look that I realized this recipe is similar to one my mom makes.  My mom's recipe requires a lot of rolling out and folding of the dough to create a flaky pastry and while they're very good, they're a lot of work.  So I was eager to see how this would work out.

Here's what Kathy said ~
Here are 2 favorite family Christmas cookie recipes-both from my mom's mom.

Raspberry Rollups

1 cup butter or margarine
½ cup (8 oz. package) cream cheese
2 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon salt
Red raspberry jam

Combine butter and cream cheese and blend until smooth.  Combine flour and salt and blend into butter mixture. Chill about half an hour. Roll about ¼ inch thick. Cut into 2 ½ inch squares. Spread each square with one teaspoon raspberry jam to within ¼ inch of edge. Roll up firmly. Place rolled edge down on ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 420 degrees about 12 minutes or until golden brown.

My mom remembers these as pillow cookies. Instead of rolling the squares up, her mom folded them like a ravioli. She also used other jams in addition to the raspberry-apricot was another one.

I spread a little extra jam along the edges to help seal the pillows.

Three shapes out of one recipe: roll-ups; pillows; and the windmills that my mom used to make.

Fresh from the oven.

Served as dessert!  Don't be fooled by the fact that there's no sugar in the dough.  They're delicious!


Saturday, October 3, 2009

A Chat with Joanne Fluke

Anyone who reads culinary mysteries knows the name Joanne Fluke. The author of Cherry Cheesecake Murder, Fudge Cupcake Murder, Sugar Cookie Murder and many more delicious titles, Joanne keeps us coming back for more tastes of life at Hannah Swensen's bakery in a small town in Minnesota.

Her books have been translated into Russian, Hungarian, Japanese, and Korean! How fun is that?

Joanne's latest book, Plum Pudding Murder has just been released and includes Hannah's favorite Christmas dinner recipes! In case you can't get enough of Joanne's recipes, you'll be happy to know that she's working on a cookbook to be released about this time next year. But her husband Ruel has to taste all the recipes first. Poor Ruel!

Joanne was kind enough to give us a glimpse into her private life (and her fridge!).

1. Name three foods in your fridge right now (that might surprise

Chipolte salsa, natural yogurt, and (for the dogs) chopped chicken and pork.

2. Who does most of the cooking in your house? There's often a divide between people who love to cook, and those who love to bake. Are you strictly a baker or do you like to cook as

We both do it, about the same. I do most of the baking. Ruel makes the best Lasagna and other pasta concoctions.

3. What's a typical mid-week dinner at your house?

Sandwiches and salad.

4. Name your top five favorite cookie recipes (and tell us what books
they're in, too!)

Impossible. We like them all. When I bake it's usually some new recipe I'm working on.

5. Your amateur sleuth, Hannah Swensen, is awesome and so incredibly
loved! Can you tell us a few ways that you are like Hannah--and a few
ways that you are not like Hannah?

Hannah is quicker with snappy replies. She's a lot younger.

6. This is a really touchy issue, and we don’t mind if you don’t want to answer – just say “pass" -- but can you tell us if Hannah is going to be baking a wedding cake (for herself!) in a future book? To put it another way - will your readers ever hear wedding bells ringing for

We’re going to have to wait to see if Hannah chooses one of the guys. I have very little to say about Hannah’s love life. I can throw her a curve, of course, like Ross, but she has a mind of her own. People think I’m crazy when I say that, but it’s the truth. I have tried making her do things that didn’t “fit” and it always came out flat, so that I had to go back and rewrite it her way.

7. Did you ever have a dream of opening a cookie shop like Hannah's?

No. I love what I do too much to switch. Besides, I'd go broke in business.

8. Your latest book, Plum Pudding Murder, will be released in
October. What's Hannah up to this time?

She finds a body and figures out who done it. And she makes a great plum pudding that is nothing like the ones Mrs. Crachitt made. Hannah's are not steamed and actually have plums in them!

9. Would you care to share a recipe with us?


Lovely Lemon Bar Cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, rack in the middle position.

2 cups flour (no need to sift)
1 cup cold butter (2 sticks, 1/2 pound)
1/2 cup powdered sugar (no need to sift, unless it's got big lumps)

4 beaten eggs (just whip them up with a fork)
2 cups white sugar
8 tablespoons lemon juice (1/2 cup)
1 teaspoon or so of zest (optional) (zest is finely grated lemon peel)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons flour (that's 1/4 cup -- don't bother to sift)

Cut each stick of butter into eight pieces. Zoop it up with the flour and the powdered sugar in a food processor until it looks like coarse cornmeal (just like the first step in making a piecrust). Spread it out in a greased 9 x 13 inch pan (that's a standard cake sheet pan) and pat it down with your hands.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden around the edges. Remove from oven. (Don't turn off oven!)

Mix eggs with white sugar. Add lemon juice (and zest, if you want to use it). Add salt and baking powder and mix. Then add flour and mix thoroughly. (This will be runny -- it's supposed to be.)

Pour this mixture on top of the pan you just baked and stick it back into the oven. Bake at 350 degrees for another 30-35 minutes. Then remove from the oven and sprinkle on additional powdered sugar.

Let cool thoroughly and cut into brownie-sized bars.

Thanks for joining us today, Joanne!

To find out more about Joanne and her books, visit her website at