Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Strawberry Lemon Bars

Spring is my favorite season. It marks the end of the long and dreary Seattle winter and welcomes an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables. The other day I picked up some lots of strawberries; four pounds to be exact! At $4.88 how could I resist. Buying 4 pounds of strawberries is quite a gamble. Sure you can check the package for mold or squished berries but you can’t see the ones buried in the middle and you certainly can’t taste the berries. When I got home, I sorted through them and I was astonished to find not a single moldy, mushy, squished, or injured berry. Most were a dark ruby red, with only a few slightly under-ripe berries. As I inspected each berry, I couldn't help but notice that strawberries have the most amazing floral and fruity fragrance. I froze half, ate quite a bit (they were sweet too), and baked with the rest.

These strawberry lemon bars were inspired by strawberry lemonade. If a regular lemon bar is like lemonade, I wondered if I could achieve the same delicate pink color and interplay of strawberry and lemon flavors of strawberry lemonade in a lemon bar. Originally, the plan was to mix strawberry puree with the lemon bar filling. Then Steven asked if I was going to make strawberry swirls, like swirls in cheesecakes. I thought, ya know that’s not a bad idea! It definitely made more sense than mixing it all together because if I mixed the strawberries into the filling I would get orange not a delicate pink due to the very yellow egg yolks. But of course ideas always sound really good on paper or in my head but reality can prove to be different. I envisioned picture perfect swirls of dark red in a sea of bright yellow. When I started making the lemon bars, I realized that the filling is actually really thin. So when I plopped the strawberry puree in, they didn’t exactly swirl like I planned. They ended up just floating around on top of the filling. Hmm... Oh well! So I ended up haphazardly swishing it around. Sure they aren’t as pretty as I pictured them but the important thing is that they taste good! Just like a glass of strawberry lemonade. Mission accomplished!

Strawberry (Swirl/Swish) Lemon Bars
(Adapted from Cook's Illustrated Lemon Bar recipe)

7/8 C all-purpose flour
1/3 C confectioner’s sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
A pinch of salt
6 tbsp unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/2 in cubes

Lemon Filling
2 large eggs
2/3 C granulated sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp flour
1/4 C lemon juice, from 2 lemons
2 tsp lemon zest, from 2 lemons
2 Tbsp milk
A pinch of salt

Strawberry Puree
1 C chopped strawberries
1 – 2 Tbsp granulated sugar, depending on how sweet the berries are

Mix the chopped strawberries with sugar and set aside to macerate for about 30 minutes. I used about 1 1/2 tbsp of sugar.

Add the flour, confectioner’s sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a food processor. Blend the ingredients together for a few seconds to mix evenly. Then add the pieces of butter and pulse until the mixture is pale yellow and looks like coarse cornmeal. If you don’t have a food processor you can use a fork, a pastry blender, or even your hands to cut the butter into the flour. Cook’s Illustrated recommended freezing the butter then grating it into the flour and using your hands to rub the pieces between your fingers.

Line a 8 x 8 in baking pan with a sheet of parchment. Press the crust mixture into an even 1/4 in layer in the pan bottom and about 1/2 in up the sides. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

When you finish making the crust the fruit should almost be done. Blend the strawberries in a food processor (for a few seconds) or mash with a fork until there are no large chunks. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes until thick. We need to cook out some of the moisture in the puree so it gets more syrupy. Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF and after the crust finishes chilling, bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown.

You can prepare the filling while you bake the crust. Whisk the eggs, sugar, flour and salt in a bowl until the sugar dissolves. Then whisk in the lemon juice, zest, and milk.

Reduce the oven temp to 325ºF, pour the filling into the crust. Drop spoonfuls of the strawberry mixture on the surface. Use spoon or knife swirl/swish the strawberry puree into the filling.

Bake for about 20 - 22 minutes, until the filling feels firm when touched lightly.

Cool to room temp, dust with confectioner’s sugar and serve.

I made these for Meeta’s Monthly Mingle, A Taste of Spring.


Anonymous said...

You are not the only one. I bought 4lbs of strawberries at $4.99 recently too! And there're only 2 mouths to feed, and one mouth does not like strawberries. So I left with eating 4 lbs of strawberries! I think I found 3-4 mushy mold strawberries in my purchase.

Your strawberry lemon bars are tempting. I usually enjoy the tangy taste to my desserts/sweets!

Anh said...

Your strawberry lemon bars look very nice Amy. I have tried the combo of lemon and strawberry before - nicer than I initially expected. :)

I too buy a lot of strawberries when they are in season. If I can finnish them, I use them to make strawberry coulis, which freeze well. :D

Rachel said...

These look great!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Those bars look incredibly good! Strawberries and lemon go very well together...

Patricia Scarpin said...

Amy, you're a mean, mean person - lemon and strawberry are absolutely favorites of mine. You just put them together!! I want some of these bars so bad! ;)

Anonymous said...

I tend to do strawberry overboard this time of year as well. Glad you just gave me another recipe to try!

Bettina said...

whoa, they're selling 4 lbs strawberries for 4.88 each here too!!! did you get them at safeway? mmm, i love desserts. hehe. i like how you called them strawberry (swirl/swish) lemon bars. lol.

SteamyKitchen said...

Hey not fair! 4lbs of strawberries isn't $4.99 here! More like $8.99 :-(

Amy said...

Same here! Steven doesn't like strawberries either. Lol. Only 3 to 4 mushy berries isn't bad at all! Next time I will use a bit less sugar so the bars will be even more tangy.

Thank you! Ooh strawberry coulis sounds like an awesome idea. I'd love to put it on my french toast.

Thank you!

Thanks! I agree, I love the combination.

Definitely, strawberry and lemon work surprisingly well together. You’re always welcome to have some of the ones I made. :)

I hope you like them as much as I did. :D

Nah I got them at Fred Meyer but Safeway was selling them for $4.99 too. Originally I wanted to call them swirl bars but they were more swish bar hehehe.

Aw that’s such a bummer strawberries are so expensive! :(!

Passionate Eater said...

What a bargain and an interesting combination idea! I like your logic of trying to emulate strawberry lemonade though, very creative!

Freya said...

Oh my god, these look so delicious! A beautiful summery looking sweet! Lemon and strawberry are perfect partners!

Helene said...

Absolutely gorgeous! Great combination...just the photos make my mouth water!

Amy said...

Strawberries are so affordable now, I have to keep myself from buying a truckload and freezing it all. ;)

Freya and Paul,
These are my new summer desserts. They're so good, I just inhale them.

Thank you so much!

Unknown said...

I made this for Mother's Day. Smashing success. It's awesome to have all the recipes that you've made on the web so I can pull it up and make it anytime. :D

Anonymous said...

I think these are simply beautiful. I was searching on freezing lemon bars as I'm having a party on Friday and want to get a few things done ahead. I know what you mean by marbling, but honestly, I think the sections of bright red in the yellow look wonderful. I'm going to make these now! Thanks for the inspiration.

Kristen said...

Oh, these DO taste like strawberry lemonade! I just made them today and they're delicious. :)

Eleganza Strings/ The DeLadurantey Family said...

I love strawberries and lemons!

Fussy Pants said...

I know I'm 3 years late on this, but I ran into this recipe while googling lemon bar freezing and am SO glad I made it. It's phenomenal! Thanks for sharing it!


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