Saturday, March 30, 2013

Coconut Lemon Bars

These lemon bars are for Genevieve… mostly so she'll stop harassing me about making lemon bars. 

Genevieve was on my team at my last company, and regularly dropped hints for me to bring in treats. A month or so ago, she pinged me and said "so, have you ever made lemon bars?" Then a few weeks later "you should make lemon bars…for your blog, I mean." Then, shortly after, she abandoned all subtly, and got straight to the point "seriously, when are you making me lemon bars?"

I've never really cared about lemon bars. I mean, not that I disliked them, but they were never something I really wanted or craved. So after Genevieve's insistence, I put a poll up on Facebook, to gauge interest and see if others also wanted lemon bars. Turns out, you do. Lemon bars won. So here Genevieve, here are your damn lemon bars already!  

Truth be told, I'm glad she suggested (er, demanded?) lemon bars, because I actually hadn't ever made them, and I loved it! They were super fun to make, filled my apartment with the best lemony, buttery scent ever, and, lo and behold, they're so, so addictingly good. However, I must warn you: don't be fooled by the citrusy freshness—lemon bars are not, I repeat NOT, good for you. They're super buttery and have tons of sugar. I used almost half the amount of sugar that one popular recipe called for. That's crazy. I also added coconut to the shortbread crust…because I love coconut, and also because coconut and lemon are so springy and perfect for Easter weekend. The sweet richness of the crust cuts through the lemony tang, so that the bars are not too sweet or too sour, but just the right mix of the two. 

Coconut Lemon Bars
Adapted from this recipe

Coconut shortbread crust
3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, diced
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup confectioner's/powdered sugar
3/4 cup shredded, sweetened coconut
1/4 teaspoon salt

Lemon filling
4 large eggs, plus 2 egg yolks
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 cup fresh lemon juice (I used 4 medium-large lemons, but I would recommend juicing straight into a liquid measuring cup)

Toasted coconut and powdered sugar, for serving

Preheat to 350, with rack in center. Grease a 9x13 inch pan (or, I used two 8x8 pans) and line with foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides. Grease the foil. 

Start with the crust. Pulse the butter, flour, brown sugar, powdered sugar, and salt in a food processor until the dough comes together, about 1 minute*. Then mix in the coconut. Press evenly into the bottom of the pan or pans, making sure there are no cracks. Bake until the crust is golden, about 20-25 minutes.

While the crust is baking, make the filling. Whisk the eggs and extra yolks, sugar, and flour in a bowl until smooth. Remove the crust from the oven and reduce the temperature to 300. Add lemon zest and juice to egg mixture, and whisk until combined (you want to wait until you're ready to pour the filling to add the lemon, as the acid could begin to cook the eggs). Pour the filling over the warm crust and, and bake until the filling is set, 30 to 35 minutes.

Let the bars cool in the pan on a rack, then refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours. Lift out of the pan using the foil and slice. Dust with powdered sugar and toasted coconut before serving. PS. they taste great straight out of the fridge! 

*If you have a food processor that fits more than a cup and doesn't make the most horrible screeching sound in the world that makes your cat run and hide every time you use it, then use that. If not, you can use your hands, just be patient, and work the dough until you have pea-sized dough pebbles, and it can come together in a ball. I actually enjoy the hands-on mixing of the dough…but I also have the worst food processor ever. 
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