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lemon bars

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lemon squares

Bars or slices, squares or shortbreads, however you call the simple shortcrust base with gooey topping cut into pieces for ease of handling, rather than for restraint in consuming, it’s an awesome good invention.

I must admit I’d not paid much attention to bars/slices/whatever before. Millionaires, rocky roads, bakewells and angels with icing seemed all too shop-bought, too evenly square, too boring icing on boring sponge. When I first saw a panettone (okay – possibly the sixth time) I knew I wanted to try baking it at home. Peanut butter cake bars never incited such emotion – I wouldn’t want to copycat it any more than I’d like to make boiled sweets at home. Just. Not. Appealing.

It was the pistachios that attracted me in this recipe, featured in NY Times Cooking. My occasionally visiting offspring dumped her nut allergy sufferer boyfriend and since then she keeps asking if I’m not baking anything nutty. She can’t get enough after years of abstemiousness through not keeping a single almond at home. I’m pleased to indulge her: the allergy was the only interesting feature of the boyfriend.

lemon pistachio bars

So now I’m converted – since, to be honest, quite a few cakes can be cut into rectangles and called ‘slices’, it opens a new world of possibilities. And the lemon topping on this one is rhapsodic. And if my inner baking snob is not happy with bars or slices I can always keep the thing whole, serve it in tranches with forks and call it a tarte.

lemon bars

Servings: 16 barsTime: 50 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • Makes 16 small squares
  • For the shortcrust base:
  • 125g (1 cup) plain flour
  • 30g (¼ cup) icing sugar
  • ¼ tsp fine salt
  • 115g (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, diced
  • 30g (¼ cup) shelled unsalted pistachios, roughly chopped
  • For the filling:
  • 2 eggs
  • 200g (1 cup) caster sugar
  • 15g (2 tbsp.) plain flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • zest grated from 1 lemon
  • juice squeezed from 1 lemon (4 tbsp.)
  • 40g (1/3 cup) shelled unsalted pistachios, whole
  • icing sugar, for dusting
lemons and pistachios


METHOD

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Line a 20cm square tin with parchment.

Blitz the crust ingredients in the food processor until it looks like coarse breadcrumbs. Pour it into the tin and press down firmly with your fingers or with flat bottom of a glass or a cup.

shortcrust base for lemon bars

Bake for 20 minutes until a little coloured.

topping for lemon bars

For the filling, whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl. Remove the crust from the oven when baked, pour in the filling and return to the oven for another 20 minutes, until set. Cool completely in the tin.

baked lemon squares

Remove the pastry onto a board with the parchment, dust with icing sugar and cut into squares with a serrated knife.

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