Easter isn't complete without eggs, be it chocolate eggs, plastic eggs or desserts made with eggs. Eggs are popular around Easter time, not just because it's what the Easter bunny delivers, but also because of its religious symbolism. The sunny yolks just look so vivid, that they alone can fill the holiday with the promise of new beginnings. Braided breads and yellow cakes made with eggs are traditional, but for something even sunnier and sweeter, these lemon bars really make a beautiful dessert for Easter.
I've had many good and bad lemon bars, but the best I've ever had were at Baked Bakery in Brooklyn. About five years ago, I made my first pilgrimage to this exceptional bakery. I still remember my first taste of the lemon-lime bars I had that day. I never forgot them and knew immediately one day I would try making them myself. When Baked came out with their first book, I was overjoyed to have the recipe. Here I adapt it to use Meyer lemons, which lend more sweetness and flavor than regular lemons.
Believed to be a cross between a mandarin orange and standard lemon, the golden-hued Meyer lemon is revered for its fragrance and flavor. Their mellower, less acidic taste makes them very appealing in many dishes, both sweet and savory. The popularity of Meyer lemons have surged over the past years from features in magazines and other media. They are somewhat difficult to find, but specialty grocers do carry them. I was in luck, though, when I found them for a great price at my local Trader Joe's. I knew immediately then that I'd be making my favorite dessert of lemon bars.
Meyer Lemon Bars with Coconut-Graham Cracker Crust
Adapted from "Baked: New Frontiers in Baking" ($32.50, Stewart, Tabori and Chang)
For the coconut-graham cracker crust:
1 cup shredded coconut
2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 16 crackers)
2 tablespoons light-brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
For the Meyer lemon curd filling:
11 large egg yolks
3 large eggs
1-3/4 cups granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 cup lemon juice plus 1/4 cup zest (about 6 Meyer lemons)
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup heavy cream
Preheat oven to 300 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Add the coconut to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Spread coconut on sheet pan and toast until pale and golden, about 7 to 10 minutes, tossing periodically. Watch carefully as coconut will burn if left unattended.
Spray a 9-by-13-by-2-inch pan with a removable bottom with cooking spray. Line just the bottom with parchment and spray again.
Add toasted coconut to a large bowl with cracker crumbs and sugar. Toss to combine. Drizzle in butter and mix thoroughly to moisten crumbs. Press the crumbs into the prepared pan using your hands or a spatula, pressing up the sides about an inch. Chill crust for 15 minutes. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool.
Increase oven temperature to 325 F.
In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks, whole eggs, sugar, salt, lemon juice and zest. Place bowl over a pot of simmering water. Whisk mixture continuously for 10 minutes until thick. Temperature of mixture should reach 180 F. Off the heat, whisk in butter, a tablespoon at a time, until incorporated. Whisk in cream. Pour mixture through a fine sieve over the crust, pressing through with a spatula. Spread mixture evenly in pan and rap a few times to release any air bubbles. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Surface should look set.
Let bars cool completely, then chill, uncovered, for at least 2 hours or, covered, overnight. Remove from pan by placing over a small bowl to help release the bottom from sides. A large spatula can be used to carefully slide it onto a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to cut into bars. Wipe knife clean after every slice. Yield: 16 bars.
Storage note: Bars keep for up to two days in the refrigerator. To store, return bars to pan, cover with a long sheet of paper towel and then plastic wrap. Use binder clips to secure. The paper towel will absorb any moisture and prevent condensation from forming on the bars.
(Joseph Erdos is a New York-based writer and editor, butabove all a gastronomer and oenophile. He shares his passion for food on his blog, Gastronomer's Guide, which features unique recipes and restaurant reviews among many other musings on the all-encompassing topic of food. One for the Table is Amy Ephron's online magazine that specializes in food, politics and love. http://www.oneforthetable.com.)
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