I have a huge cookbook collection. They are my biggest weakness, probably even more so than chocolate. Okay, well maybe it is a toss up. What is my favorite kind of cookbook? Hands down it is a bakery cookbook. If a book has bakery in the title, it must be mine! I think this obsession stems from two things. One, I especially love to bake delicious, but not so fancy cookies, brownies and bars. Bakery cookbooks are always chocked full of these kinds of recipes. And, if I wasn’t a pharmacist, I always dreamed that I would be running the cutest little bakery. Maybe someday…. But, until then, I will continue to research, try recipes, and blog them in preparation. So, the latest bakery book I picked up is The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook. While flipping through it, there were so many recipes I flagged, that I finally gave up because it’s kind of silly to bookmark the whole book!
I very recently developed a new love for anything citrus and Back in the Day Bakery’s lemon pie bars looked incredible. Of course, I have had lemon bars many times. But, those always have a shortbread crust and a lemon curd filling. These are different in that they have a graham cracker crust and a creamy, opaque lemon filling. The bars are slightly tart, which pairs perfectly with the sweetened whipped cream. Just to warn you, this recipe does make a whole lot of bars. But, there a lot worse problems to have.
Lemon Pie Bars
Yield: one 13 x 9 pan ( a whole lot of bars)
For the crust
3 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 24 crackers)
12 Tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
2 Tbsp sugar
For the filling
1 cup heavy cream
2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 cup fresh lemon juice
Two 14 oz cans sweetened condensed milk
6 large egg yolks
Fresh Whipped Cream (optional)
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease a 9 X 13 inch baking pan and line with parchment, allowing the ends of the paper to hand over two opposite edges of the pan. I also greased the parchment paper.
To make the crust: In a medium bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, butter, and sugar and blend with a fork until the crumbs are evenly moistened. Press the graham cracker mixture firmly and evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Use a piece of parchment to press on the crust with the palm of your hands to make sure it is completely level.
Bake the crust for about 8 minutes, until lightly golden. Let cool completely before adding the filling. Turn the oven temperature down to 325° F.
To make the filling: In a large bowl, whisk together the heavy cream, lemon zest, lemon juice, sweetened condensed milk, and egg yolks. Pour the filling over the cooled crust.
Place the baking pan inside a larger baking pan and pour enough hot water into the larger pan to come halfway up the sides of the smaller pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the filling is puffed at the edges and no longer jiggles in the center when the pan is tapped. Remove the pan from the water bath and set it on a rack to cool for 1 hour, then refrigerate until cold.
Cut the bars into squares and serve chilled, with the whipped cream. The bars will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
To make fresh whipped cream:
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the cream on medium until it starts to thicken. Add the confectioners’ sugar and beat until the cream holds nice soft peaks.