Lemon pistachio bars

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I have been making some variation of lemon bars since I was a kid. Mostly my mom made them because they are easy and quick. I followed suit, as they are generally a no-fuss crowd-pleaser. But somewhere along the line, the recipe I’d been using all my life stopped working. The filling would never solidify/thicken, so it was like a lemon soup inside while the outer edges were virtually burned. I don’t know why this is – it just didn’t work no matter what I did.

So when I decided to use up a stockpile of pistachios and wanted to move beyond my standard recipes, I thought lemon and pistachio would be a good match. I used the standard shortbread crust I have always used for lemon bars; I searched around for other filling recipes… but oddly, though I found a different one, it’s still basically the same as the one I’ve always used with a reduced amount of sugar, which is probably better. Maybe I just whisked/beat it better than in the past. Or something. There are only so many ways to make lemon filling, right?

The people who ate these raved.

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Lemon pistachio bars
Crust
Preheat oven to 375°F/190°C
2 cups flour
½ cup powdered sugar
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon lemon zest
chopped pistachios

Combine base ingredients until crumbly. Press mix into an ungreased 13×9 inch pan. Bake until golden brown (about 20-30 minutes).

Reduce oven temperature to 160C

Filling
4 eggs, well-beaten
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2/3 cup lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest
a pinch of salt

Whisk eggs; add all other ingredients except lemon juice and zest, which should be added last. Bake 20 minutes. Let cool completely before slicing into squares.

You can sift powdered sugar on top of the cut bars.

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Lemon meringue cupcakes

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It was originally my intent to make several kinds of curd (lemon, pineapple and kiwi) but really didn’t have time, so I stuck with lemon. I was also thinking I would try to shape the meringue like ghosts (Halloween, you know?) but I was finishing these after several marathon days of baking and couldn’t be bothered. I just plopped the meringue onto the tops and broiled.

Lemon meringue cupcakes
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup softened butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cups milk

Preheat oven to 375F/180-185C. Line a cupcake pan with liners.

Whisk dry ingredients together in one bowl.

In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until smooth and fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla and 1/4 cup of the milk. Beat for a few minutes until the mixture is light. Alternately beat in dry ingredient mix and the remaining half cup of milk. Half-fill each cupcake liner.

Bake for 15-20 minutes (insert a toothpick into the center of cupcakes to check for doneness; a clean toothpick means the cupcake is ready). Cool on baking rack.

When cooled, hollow out the center of the cupcakes, discard the middle parts.

Fill the middle with lemon curd. Top with meringue topping. Broil in the oven or use a cooking torch to brown the meringue.

Meringue

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For use on a lemon meringue pie or cupcakes!

Meringue
3 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons sugar

Whip egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Add salt.

Keep whipping while gradually adding in sugar. Increase speed of mixing until light, fluffy, stiff peaks form.

Use as desired on pie or cupcake tops, etc.

 

Make your own lemon curd

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Why buy pre-made lemon curd when it’s easy to make your own?

Lemon curd
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
6 tablespoons butter

Whisk all ingredients but butter in a saucepan. Stir in the butter over low heat on the stove. Whisk until mixture thickens (between 6 to 10 minutes).

Cover with plastic wrap, ensuring that the wrap is on the surface of the curd so that it doesn’t grow a skin. 🙂

Chill.

I used this to make lemon meringue cupcakes.

coconut cream bars

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Despite ending my amateur baking activity/fetish/obsession (?), I was still motivated to try something new and experimental (motivated by getting rid of ingredients, that is): coconut cream bars.

I had never made these before so I tried something new. I don’t usually taste-test my own baking (that’s what working in an office full of sugar-hungry people is for!). But in this case, I felt a bit worried, so I put one of these coconut cream bars in my mouth as I was setting up all the baked goods for my office to test. Once I could tell it tasted fine, I spit it out and threw it away. I know. I’m a fucking weirdo.

What I can say is that I think the biggest, best difference about these simple bar cookies is that they are made with brown sugar, which adds more depth and flavor.

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Coconut cream bars
Crust
2 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter

Preheat over to 175C. Line a 13″x9″ rectangular pan with parchment.
Mix all ingredients together and press evenly into pan.
Bake 12-15 minutes. Cool 10 minutes.
Reduce oven temperature to 160C.

Coconut cream filling
3 eggs
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
3 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups coconut

Whisk all ingredients but coconut together. Stir in 3 cups of coconut. Pour over crust and top with remaining one cup of coconut.
Bake 25-30 minutes.

Pumpkin-stuffed snickerdoodles

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I don’t eat most of the things I bake – in fact, none of them. But I ate one of these because I cut one in half for the sake of the picture and thought, “Eh, why not?” But then, I really like pumpkin. These were not, as far as I know, the most popular of the cookies I brought to the office for Halloween this year… but I think if a person gave them a chance, they’d be pleased.

Pumpkin-stuffed snickerdoodles
Cookie dough
1 cup butter
1 cup vegetable oil
¾ cup sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
2 large eggs
4 ¼ cup flour
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup sugar + 1 tablespoon cinnamon (+ colored sugar) to roll

Filling
2 cups (10 ounces) white chocolate chips
1 cup pumpkin
1 ½ cup finely ground gingersnaps
1 ½ cup digestive biscuits
4 tablespoons powdered sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 (8 ounces/about 225 grams) package cream cheese

First, make filling: melt white chocolate in microwave; stir, heat in 15s intervals, stir well each time, do not overheat. Smooth. Set aside to cool slightly. Mix pumpkin, crumbs, powdered sugar, cinnamon, and cream cheese. Add the white chocolate and mix – place in the fridge to chill and firm. Roll pumpkin filling mix into balls and place on wax paper – cover and freeze until firm.

Cookie dough: Beat butter, oil, sugars, eggs. Sift dry ingredients together and add dry ingredients to the butter mixtures in 3-4 additions. Form a ball and chill dough at least one hour.

Mix sugar and cinnamon together, and preheat oven to 180C. Bake for 12-15 m – scoop out balls of dough – press filling ball in and cover over with another bit of dough until completely covered – roll to seal. Roll in cinnamon and sugar mix and bake.