Kitchen Experiment – Almond Lemon Lime Ginger Bars

It’s that time once again… just remember (or learn for the first time) to know about me before you continue reading this recipe attempt. I experiment in the kitchen.  I mean it.

Today my roommate made brownies, breads and something for breakfast.  Therefore, the house was full of smells when I got up and came down stairs.  Later in the afternoon I realized that I was truly in the mood to make something from scratch.  However, after the holidays, my fridge/freezer and pantry are limited on items since I’m cutting down on expenses to help pay debts off.  So the ingredients list to work with was limited.

I looked around the kitchen and determined there were two ingredients for sure I wanted to use:  lemons and flour.  I did some looking around on the Epicurious app on my iPad to see what came up for recipes based on those two ingredients.  Lo and behold, one of my favs appeared – Lemon Bars.  But of course, I just can’t make a standard dish.  So I decided on a submitted recipe titled The Ultimate Lemon Butter Bar which comes from Rose’s Christmas Cookies by Rose Levy Beranbaum (November 1998).  Rose left a notation for this cookie recipe: “This classic cookie combines two of my favorite sweets: buttery-tender Scottish shortbread and satiny lilting English lemon curd.”

Because I modified the recipe only slightly, this post is going to have a bunch of photos with come commentary but not the step-by-step instructions given that you can find them behind the link above to actual recipe itself.  🙂

Some of the custard ingredients

This recipe on the iPad had lots of hints and tips which was appreciated, especially the strainer at the ready for the custard.

First thing was to get my Mise en place set.  If there’s anything I’ve learned from watching years of Food Network shows, preparation reduces stress and makes things go so much easier.

The recipe called 2 1/2 large lemons however I only used 1 1/2 regular sized lemons to get the 3 ounces of fresh juice.  I zested one whole lemon (which was then juiced).  I even zested it the way Michael Symon has been teaching viewers on The Chew.  (Yes, I’m bragging… lol.)

Wasting food however has become a bit of an issue for me personally this past year because I constantly keep seeing folks cooking and talking about saving ingredients but then tossing them out later…. can we save waste of money?  That’s why I decided to keep the 1 1/2 lemons left over after juicing/zesting that I normally would have pitched to be frozen to use later in a soup/stalk.  I’m predicting something Greek in my future…  🙂

So this recipe has basically two main areas, the crust and custard filling.   The crust is the first up.  To be honest, I didn’t change this too much beyond using whole wheat stone ground flour versus traditional AP (All Purpose) flour.

I was going to make the crust by hand, literally and not use a food processor or mixer…. riiight.  I figured I should at least use the food processor for the ‘dry’ ingredients.

I determined after putting the loose dough in the plastic bag that there were a couple of butter lumps which could have used more pulsing time.  The key was that cold butter doesn’t blend well which serves a purpose, it creates a flakier crust since the butter fat releases water vapor in the midst of the flour.

The recipe called for putting aluminum foil in the baking pan but only having the foil wrap on two sides.  I didn’t really understand this part but I think this might have been because of the size of the roll of aluminum foil used originally.  I ended up wrapping on all four sides which worked out in the end.

So the custard itself wasn’t too difficult to make, yet it was time consuming.  I was surprised that it took pretty much the whole 30 minutes while the crust baked.  This is where I made a slight modification, I and added powdered lime juice to the squeezed lemon juice to boost the citrus flavor.

Now it started off alright but when the lemon juice was added, a brief curdle stage took place.  Just like my experiences with chocolate mousse (chocolate seizing during the double boiler stage), the custard came back together just fine over time with near constant stirring.

After the custard started to come together, I added in crystalized ginger that I had left over from before which I froze to keep it as long as possible.  The heat from the cooking of the custard helps breakdown the ginger but notably did not completely melt it away.  This is why I was happy to use the strainer with a bowl at the ready next to the stove.  The recipe stated it would catch ‘residue’… whatever that’s supposed to be.

I had some left over sliced almonds and thought they would add a great crunch factor as a topping.  One tricky thing is that the custard is sticky and doesn’t have a skin on it.  Which in one respect is good because that means the almonds will stay in place. However that’s also the down side, they stay where they fall.  So if I go to make this again and I feel it’s necessary to let my OCD kick into high gear.

Lastly the powdered sugar coating was put on after the foil was peeled away from the cookie filling inside.  Setting the custard in the pan in the fridge for 30 minutes after the pan cools to room temperature was a good step.  The recipe portioned out at 18 pieces but since I used a square pan, I just did 16 portions with a four by four grid for cutting.  Due to the stickiness of the custard topping, I agreed with the recipe on cleaning the knife after each cut to prevent having problems portioning.

Finally after the cooling and cutting, it was time to package.  I was hesitant to stack them without parchment paper so I put a couple pieces in a takeout container from the local chinese restaurant.  But I also decided to test the ‘stacking’ issue to putting some in a different container and placed them on top of each other to see if they stick together or not.

All in all, the recipe took a little time but was by far totally worth it!  I will state for the record that this recipe is not friendly for the waistline, especially if you can’t stop at one piece.  (each piece registers at around 220 calories)  I am pleased with how my twist on a classic cookie bar recipe turned out and look forward to not making them disappear in just hours versus days.

So get in the kitchen and learn how to make food you love because we should all eat what we love, not what someone else thinks we should love.  🙂

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