Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Magic Tricks and Yellow Flowers

Once again I've found myself wrapped up in a project because someone mentioned something to me, I can't even stop myself anymore, it's a sickness I swear. It all started a few weeks ago when I got in my mind the idea for a blog post for the first day of spring. I'd taken some inspiration from the yellow flowers that always bloom around the 21st of March to make something lovely and lemony yellow. But I swear, not a day after I did, and got myself all excited for spring, it started snowing again and it snowed for two more days after that.  Oh well. So I put the blog post on the back burner, and I took these lemon bars over to my mother's house to celebrate the now only symbolic arrival of spring. Upon first bite she proclaimed these lemon bars to be the best she ever had. This of course pleased me to no end, and gave me the big head.

Later that same week I got to talking to my baking teacher and she asked me if maybe I had any gluten-free magic tricks up my sleeve for our cookie class in two weeks. As usual I got sort of flustered, and pink cheeked and made no promises, but on the trip back home I got to thinking about those "best I've ever had" lemon bars and thought that maybe they'd be just the thing to cut to pieces and turn into something new. Back at home I set to work to altering this lemon bar recipe so that it would work gluten-free. It was.... a fairly painful process with many many trips ( 6!) to the garbage can. BUT with a whole lot of patience and a little mad science I  finally managed to produce a miracle just in time for class that was not just good for gluten-free, it was just plain awesome. So here we are, the most amazing lemon butter bars, two ways.

Regardless of the recipe you choose to make here, either gluten-free or the original, the assembly method is the same, and it's pretty simple too. Also, I've listed the recipe in grams because in my experience (which might not be yours) some of the weight amounts for the gluten-free flour blend were so very slight they wouldn't even register on my kitchen scale on the imperial/ U.S. setting, so I've listed the recipe in grams for the sake of accuracy.

Gluten-Free Lemon Butter Bars
Adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum's Rose's Christmas Cookies 
You can find the original gluten-y recipe here

Shortbread Base - Adapted from Gluten Free On a Shoestring

54 grams Brown Rice Flour
54 grams White Rice Flour
27 grams Tapioca Starch
36 grams Potato Starch
5.4 grams Xanthan Gum
3.6 grams pectin ( I used this kind)

14 grams Powdered Sugar
25 grams granulated Sugar
142 grams Cold Unsalted Butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

Lemon Curd Topping

4 large egg yolks ( 74 grams)
150 grams granulated sugar
94 grams lemon juice, freshly squeezed (about 2 1/2 large lemons)
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons 
(4 grams) lemon zest (finely grated) 
57 grams unsalted butter (softened) 

2 tablespoons(14 grams) powdered sugar for dusting 

For the shortbread base
Add the GF flour mix and the sugars to the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine, start adding the butter in small batches to the bowl and pulse until it disappears. Add all the butter and pulse until the dough starts to come together into a ball. Remove the dough from the processor, wrap it in plastic and chill for a few minutes ( 15 in the freezer, 20 ish in the fridge) until it gets firm. While you're waiting, preheat the oven to 325* F.

Line the bottom of a metal 8 x 8 inch baking pan with parchment paper that's just long enough so that a little bit of the paper hangs over the sides ( you can use this as a handle to remove the bars from the pan later. It makes life soooo much easier).

Once the shortbread base is chilled and firm, press it into the bottom of the of the parchment lined baking pan and baking in the oven for 25 -30 minutes and the top is lightly golden brown.

While the base is baking, start making the lemon curd topping.

*For the next step you'll need a double boiler, if you're like me and don't have a double boiler laying around you can ghetto rig one by nesting a sauce pot or a skillet over a simmering pot of water.

In the top bowl of a double boiler, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar, then add the lemon juice ( you have to combine them in this order egg-sugar-lemon juice, because the acid in the lemon will start cooking the egg too soon if you add it first). Cook the lemon curd, whisking constantly until the mixture begins to thicken and starts to resemble the texture of hollandaise. Remove from heat, add the butter, salt and lemon zest and whisk until smooth.

When the shortbread base comes out of the oven, add the lemon curd to the hot base, smoothing it out a little so it's even. Lower the oven temp to 300* and put the lemon bars back in the oven for 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely, then refrigerate the pan for 30 minutes to set the lemon curd completely before cutting into bars. Dust lightly with powdered sugar before serving. Enjoy!