This week’s inspiration comes from this colorful antique poster I found at an estate sale. It was printed in 1911 by James Lee, in Chicago, Illinois, and has the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments on it. When my son saw it, he said “I want that.” I knew he’d say that, too. Our pastor ends every sermon with the Lord’s Prayer, and I think my son finds comfort in the familiarity of it. I framed it and hung it in his room.
Speaking of church, one of our church’s ministries is an elementary school whose student population is largely underprivileged. Every year a group of volunteers from the church prepares a luncheon for the teachers to kick off the school year and let them know how much they are appreciated. Throughout the year, the volunteers provide encouragement and assistance by providing tutoring, performing clerical work, maintaining the gardens, and sprucing up wherever needed. When the call went out for volunteers to bake for this year’s teacher luncheon, guess who hit the “reply” button with lightning speed? Yep — in fact, I volunteered to bake TWO desserts. Because I was inspired by the poster? No. Because I really wanted to help? Maybe. Because I am full of myself? Probably.
The organizer, Judye, sent all of the bakers the recipe we would be using, which turned out to be the Barefoot Contessa’s Lemon Bars. I have always viewed Lemon Bars as a quintessential Southern dessert. I picture eating them on a porch with a pitcher of iced tea while wearing a frock. Except I don’t have a porch or a frock.
Now if I had known that the recipe called for a CUP of fresh lemon juice, I might not have volunteered to make two. I was squeezing lemons for what felt like an hour. On the plus side, my house smelled like I had cleaned it, which of course, I hadn’t because I was busy squeezing a gazillion lemons.
Judye’s instructions said that we were free to use a different recipe for Lemon Bars, but to please use real butter and real lemon juice. Fair enough, although I chose to use Ina’s recipe. But to my dismay, halfway through making the recipe I realized I didn’t have enough sugar. If necessity is the mother of invention, desperation must surely be its half-sister. I had powdered sugar, and thought maybe I could get away with substituting it for the granulated sugar — after all, Judye didn’t say anything about that. So I looked up the ratio for substituting powdered sugar for granulated sugar (use 1-3/4 cups powdered sugar for a cup of granulated sugar), prayed for forgiveness, and substituted powdered sugar for about 1/3 of the sugar called for in the recipe.
Well, those Lemon Bars came out spectacular. I have made my share of droopy, gloppy Lemon Bars that would not cut cleanly and oozed all over the plate. In fact, I had quit making them because of so many disappointments. These, however, cut cleanly and the filling was just firm enough to stay put. I suspect it was the corn starch in the powdered sugar that provided the extra support. Or maybe it was divine intervention. Whatever it was, I will forever swap out 1/3 of the sugar in the filling for the appropriate amount of powdered sugar when I make Lemon Bars.
|DIVINE LEMON BARS||
- FOR THE CRUST:
- ½ pound butter, softened
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 cups flour
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- FOR THE FILLING:
- 6 extra-large eggs
- 2 cups sugar
- 1-3/4 cups powdered sugar, plus extra for dusting
- 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
- 1 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice
- 1 cup flour
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- For the crust, cream the butter and sugar using an electric mixer, until light and fluffy. Add the flour and salt and beat on low speed, until just mixed. Press the dough into a 9″ x 13″ baking pan, building up a ½” edge on all sides. Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
- For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, powdered sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set. Allow to cool to room temperature. Cut into 20 squares. Using a sifter, dust lightly with powdered sugar.
Go put your frock on, and I’ll meet you on the porch.
Waiting to go out to the teachers.