Monday, February 20, 2012

Dangerously Delicious Lemon Bars

It's no secret around here that I have a huge sweet tooth, so when I came across a particularly delicious looking recipe for lemon bars on Pinterest it wasn't even a question of if I was going to make them, but rather when. One of Jesse's aunt made lemon bars for us this past summer and they were addictively good, I've been wanting to try them ever since. 

As much as I avoid eating corn & corn products, there is one exception: shortbread. I grew up with my mother's shortbread recipe and have yet to come across a recipe that is as equally melt-in-your-mouth-delicious. That being said I usually don't make shortbread all that often, maybe once a year or so, making these an extra special treat around here. 

These bars fall into the sweet\sour dessert category, but I would say they're more tart than a true sour with a very zingy pudding-y-custard like filling. Yum. They're so good that I may or may not have eaten an unnatural amount of them since I made them Sunday.

Adapted from LickTheBowlGood
(my recipe yields less, maybe half of the original. I substituted my mother's shortbread cookie recipe for the crust, and orange instead of lime).

1\2 cup corn starch
1\2 cup icing sugar
1 cup sifted flour
3\4 cup softened butter

4 large eggs at room temperature
1 1\2 cups granulated sugar
1 tbsp. finely grated lemon zest
1 tbsp. finely grated orange zest
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon\orange juice (I used 3 medium lemons and half a large orange)
3\4 to 1cup flour

Pre-heat Oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a 6x9 glass cake pan and line side\bottom with parchment paper (makes removal much easier). 

For the crust: 1) Sift corn starch, icing sugar and flour together. 2) Blend in softened butter with spoon; mix until soft. 3) Press firmly and evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Chill until oven pre-heats 3) Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the edges are very lightly golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on, but reduce heat to 300 F (the original recipe does not call to do this, but the filling is composed mostly of egg, and a too hot oven will result in an over-cooked meringue-y texture on the edges).

For the filling: Whisk together eggs, sugar, lemon and orange zest, as well as the lemon\orange juice. Add the flour gradually, using the whisk to scrap the sides & bottom as you go. Pour over crust and bake for 30-45 minutes, until filling is set. 

Let cool to room temperature & chill for 30 minutes before cutting into bars (reduces the crumbling tendency of the crust). Dust with confectioners (icing) sugar or top with whipped cream if you prefer. Store in the refrigerator (if they haven't already been devoured).

Monday, February 6, 2012

Homemade Fruit Explosion Muffins.

Fruit Explosion Muffins are a popular muffin at any Tim Horton's location across the country. Don't believe me? Compare how many there are on display to how many bran muffins are left. Or just try and get one any time after 1pm, you probably won't be able to (unless you're lucky). 

The thing is, I really don't like store bought muffins. Pre-mixed batters always taste funny to me and no ingredients list is a big (huge) turn off too. Plus, I don't particularly relish spending $2.50+ for a mid-sized muffin that's only special feature is that it is stuffed with strawberry jam (no matter how tasty they might be).

So why not just make blueberry/strawberry muffins and be done with it? It's just not the same! Believe me. 

Instead, today I made my own version, and you can too!


Muffin batter:

1 3/4 cups white flour (can be substituted 50/50 white & whole wheat)
1/4 cup sugar (white or brown will do)
2 tsp. baking powder
2 (large) eggs
3 tbsp. cooking oil (sub 3-4 tbsp butter or margarine if desired)
3/4 cup milk

Fruit filling:
1 cup berries (fresh or frozen)
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp. corn starch
2 tbsp. sugar

Pre-heat oven to 375F

In a small pot combine water, sugar and corn starch stirring until dissolved. Add berries and simmer over medium low heat, stirring occasionally. When berries have semi-dissolved and a thick syrupy consistency has been achieved, remove from heat, cover with a lid and set aside. **be careful not to over-boil as the bottom will burn and then you will be sad**

In a large mixing bowl sift flour, sugar and baking soda. (in a separate vessel) Combine eggs, milk and oil (or melted butter/margarine). Combine both liquid & dry ingredients with a few quick strokes. Take care not to over mix.

Fill the bottoms of the muffin tin about 1/2 way, add a generous dollop of berry filling and add batter on top until the tin is about level. 

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown (you can also check with a toothpick to see if the batter has set). 

Yields: 6 BIG fruity muffins or 12+ mini muffins.

For my muffins I did a split mix of wild frozen blueberries and strawberries (half cup of each)   as there was nothing to be found in the produce section this weekend. The only thing to keep in mind is if you use frozen berries you may need to simmer the filling longer. You also may have noticed that there is no salt measurement included for this recipe (that's because baking powder is a salt); if you live at a lower altitude (or don't trust a recipe without salt) you can add 1/2-3/4 tsp. of salt to the recipe.

They may not be 'perfect' but they are perfectly delicious! For those wanting exact replicas, you can buy silicone inserts that sit in the batter during the baking process leaving little holes waiting to be filled after cooling.