This week there were 25 naked lemons in my refrigerator. This is part of the problem when you bake for a living. Remnants of lemons, deli containers of egg whites, and multiple tupperwares filled with caramel find their way into your fridge and suddenly you have to figure out what to do with them. This week’s surplus resulted in these delicious little lemon squares that are perfect to give as holiday treats!
Now, I know that lemon bars feel very “springy”. They are supposed to be made when it’s warm outside and our Instagram feeds are filled with fruity cocktails and ice cream sandwiches. But I think that winter is the perfect time for a good lemon bar. From November to April, citrus fruits are at their peak and are often overflowing from our fruit bowls, which can be otherwise barren for lack of spring and summer produce. These bars are also easy to put together, only require two components, and can be cut into little bite-sized squares, perfect for stuffing into Christmas cookie tins and giving out to co-workers. People will thank you as the tangy-ness brings a welcome respite in a season filled with sugar and chocolate and nuts.
So look no further for your next holiday baking activity. I adapted this recipe from the newest issue of Bon Appetit and you could definitely substitute lemons with another citrus (orange or grapefruit would be delightful!). The rosemary in the shortbread gives an earthiness and floral quality that complements the sharpness of the lemon curd, leaving you with a perfect bite and successfully clearing my refrigerator of all of my zest-less lemons. Now to figure out what to do with all those egg whites…
Lemon Bars with Rosemary Shortbread
For the shortbread:
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp granulated sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 cup butter, cold and cut into pieces
2 egg yolks
For the lemon curd:
3 large eggs
3 egg yolks
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
Zest of 1 large lemon
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
To make the shortbread:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8x8 pan with parchment paper so that there is at least 3 inches overhang on each side. Set aside.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, powdered sugar, sugar, salt, and rosemary and pulse a few times to mix together. Add the cold butter and pulse until the largest pieces of butter are pea-sized. Add egg yolks and pulse until dough begins to come together in clumps. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan and use your fingers to press it into an even layer on the bottom of the pan. Bake for 25-28 minutes, until golden brown.
To make the curd:
Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.
In a small bowl, whisk together sugar and cornstarch to break up clumps. Then transfer the sugar/cornstarch mixture to a medium-large saucepan, add eggs and egg yolks and whisk until smooth and sugar is mostly dissolved.
Whisk in lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla extract.
Place the saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the curd begins to bubble around the edges and thicken slightly, about 5 minutes. Simmer, still whisking, for about 1 more minute and remove from heat. Strain curd into a large bowl and add butter, piece by piece, whisking to incorporate after each piece.
Pour curd into the pan and spread evenly over the shortbread. Bake for 20-25 minutes until curd is set (there will be a slight wobble in the middle) and then let cool. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill overnight.
Before serving, slice into squares and dust with powdered sugar and fresh rosemary.