Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Lovely Lemon

We went over to a friend's house Friday night.  She had made some lemon bars, which are one of my husband's favorites.  On our way home, he asked if I could make him some lemon bars some time soon.  Being the dutiful, obedient wife that I am (I'll wait for you to stop laughing.  No really, I've got all day here..) I decided it would be a good blog post.

I found a recipe in my Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook:

Luscious Lemon Bars

2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. sifter powdered sugar
2 TB cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 c. butter
4 slightly beaten eggs
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
3 TB all-purpose flour
1 tsp. finely shredded lemon peel
3/4 c. lemon juice
1/4 c. half-and-half, light cream, or milk
Powdered sugar

1. In a large bowl combine the 2 cups flour, the 1/2 cup powdered sugar, cornstarch, and salt.  Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press mixture into the bottom of a greased 13x9x2-inch baking pan.  Bake in a 350 oven for 18 to 20 minutes or until edges are golden.

2. Meanwhile, for the filling, in a medium bowl, stir together the eggs, granulated sugar, the 3 TB flour, lemon peel, lemon juice, and half-and-half.  Pour filling over hot crust.

3. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes more or until center is set.  Cool on a wire rack.  Sift powdered sugar over top.  Cut into bars.  Cover and store in the refrigerator.

My notes:
- Let the butter rise in temperature a little, but don't soften completely.  Cut into small chunks to make cutting it into the dry ingredients easier.
- I have never owned a pastry blender.  I use a fork.  It works just fine.
- I didn't have a lemon peel to shred, so I left it out.  It really adds more to the visual than the flavor.
- I used Fat Free half-and-half because it's what I have on hand.

The result.............YUM!  The crust has a shortbread flavor and texture.  The filling set perfectly. 

I think I'll go have one with my coffee this morning.  I'm starting to learn that fruit can, in fact, make delicious desserts. Yes, I know pastry chefs around the world have known this little tidbit of information for decades, but I'm a die hard chocaholic.  My personal growth through this experience is astonishing, don'tcha think?

Thanks for reading!  On to the next baking adventure......

xo, Shell

Saturday, July 10, 2010


We are headed to a BBQ tomorrow night, and I said I'd bring dessert.

It's not hot as Satan's armpit like it has been for much of the country, so I thought I'd actually bake something.

I want cake, and I want chocolate.  So, chocolate cake it is.  I say this like I don't want chocolate cake every day.  Form your own opinions and judgments as you see fit.

I went back to the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook because, quite honestly, it's the only one down from the high shelf right now, and I'm lazy.

I made this:

Chocolate-Buttermilk Sheet Cake (aka Texas Sheet Cake)

2 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. butter
1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 c. water
2 eggs
1/2 c. buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 recipe Chocolate-Buttermilk frosting

1. Grease a 15x10x1 or 13x9x2 inch baking pan; set aside.  In a medium bowl stir together flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

2. In a medium saucepan combine butter, cocoa powder, and water.  Bring mixture just to boiling, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  Add the cocoa mixture to flour mixture and beat with an electric mixer on medium to high speed until thoroughly combined.  Add eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla.  Beat for 1 minute (batter will be thin).  Pour batter into the prepared pan.

3. Bake in 350 oven for about 25 minutes for a 15" pan, 35 for a 14" pan, or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean.

4. Pour warm Chocolate-Buttermilk frosting over the warm cake, spreading evenly.  Place cake in pan on a wire rack; cool thoroughly.

Chocolate-Buttermilk Frosting

In a medium saucepan combine 1/4 c. butter, 3 TBSP cocoa powder, and 3 TBSP buttermilk.  Bring to boiling.  Remove from heat.  Add 2 1/4 c. sifted powdered sugar and 1/2 tsp. vanilla.  Beat until smooth.  If desired, stir in 3/4 c. coarsely chopped pecans.

First of all, that frosting is as good as it looks.  It is like very thin fudge.  If I could shrink myself a la "Honey I Shrunk the Kids", I would have gone for a swim in it.

Since the end product is for a BBQ tomorrow, you'll have to stay tuned to find out how it tastes.  It came out with the lovely 'We live at altitude' dip in the middle.  BUT, the well in the middle would make my fudge frosting laps much easier (if I was, in fact, pocket sized).

On to the next baking adventure.................

Fruit isn't technically dessert

Hi Everyone!

Sorry I haven't posted in so long.  I actually have two posts for tonight, so I'll get right to it.

The title of this post is true.  Technically, I don't consider any fruit based item 'dessert'.  I won't order the 'fruit tart' at a restaurant.  MAYBE pie can count because it is encased in flaky, lardy deliciousness, but that's beside the point.

A few weeks ago, I picked up a few containers of lovely looking blackberries that were $1 each at the grocery store.  I knew we'd never eat them all plain, so I set about looking for a fruit crisp kind of recipe in my cookbooks.  I hit the jackpot in my pink Better Homes & Garden cookbook.

Fruit Crisp
5 c. sliced, peeled cooking apples, pears, peaches, or apricots, or frozen unsweetened peach slices
2 - 4 TBSP granulated sugar
1/2 c. regular rolled oats
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg, ginger, OR cinnamon
1/4 c. butter or margarine
1/4 c. chopped nuts or coconut

1. For fruit filling, thaw fruit if frozen.  Do not drain.  Place fruit in a 2-quart square baking dish.  Stir in the granulated sugar.

2. For topping, in a meduim bowl combine the oats, brown sugar, flour, and nutmeg.  Cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir in nuts.  Sprinkle topping over fruit.

3. Bake in a 375 oven for 30 - 35 minutes (40 minutes for thawed fruit) or until fruit is tender and topping is golden.  If desired, serve warm with ice cream.

I followed the variation for blueberry crisp with my blackberries:  Prepare as directed, except use 5 c. fresh or frozen blueberries [blackberries] for the fruit.  Use 4 TBSP granulated sugar, and add 3 TBSP all purpose flour.

The result was bubbly and tantalizing (or is that me...wait...)

It was really good.  The blackberries were just tart enough that the end product wasn't too sweet.  I did have it with ice cream, so technically it wasn't ONLY fruit.  I think fruit crisp is a great way to use up fruit in the fridge that's on its way out.  The topping is made with pantry staples.  It's a crowd pleaser, for sure!

On to the next baking adventure............