23 May 2009

So This Lemon Walks Into a Bar

Lemon bars are that rare anachronistic dessert yet to be exploited by the foodsionistas like cupcakes and soft-serve ice cream.

There's no cult around lemon bars: Celebrities aren't spotted accessorizing their plates with them, and celebrity chefs don't serve them. There's something inherently old-fashioned about their sticky-fingered ways that refuses to permit deconstruction or reinvention.

Perhaps that's why I've always loved them so, especially for breakfast with a cup of tea. But what about with tea inside? The naturally sweet, floral profile of chamomile seemed a good match for all that tangy citrus.

Of course, some would argue that now I'm exploiting a classic. The only response that comes to mind is bite me. Then you'll see.

Lemon-Chamomile Bars

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2-3 tablespoons chamomile tea
Powdered sugar, for garnish

1. Heat oven to 350°. Line an 8 x 8 baking pan with nonstick foil. In pot used to melt butter, mix butter, sugar, vanilla, salt and flour and mix until just incorporated. Press dough evenly over bottom of pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until crust is fully baked, well browned at edges and golden brown in center.

2. While crust is baking, prepare topping: in medium bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, eggs and lemon zest. In small saucepan, bring lemon juice and chamomile tea to a boil; immediately turn off heat and let steep for two minutes. Press through a strainer into topping mixture, and stir until incorporated. Pour onto hot crust.

3. Return pan to oven and lower temperature to 300°. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until topping no longer jiggles in center when the pan is tapped. Remove from oven and let cool completely on rack.

4. Lift out of pan and cut into squares. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate for up to one week.

The crust hits your tongue first, with a buttery crunch of caramel, then your teeth sink through the lush, pillowy layer of tart lemon. The chamomile is in there, too, with a gentle, applelike sweetness that comes up like a unexpected breeze behind you.

If you pair it with a cup of chamomile tea, it's even more pronounced. I rarely do that when cooking with tea, but this has convinced me that I've been missing out by not tasting the tea alone and as an ingredient.

The potential here is endless- orange bars with Earl Grey, lime bars with jasmine pearls, and maybe even demand for me to open New York's first lemon bar bar.


anna said...

I would love to go to a lemon bar bar - especially if the bars all had tea in them! Lemon and chamomile are so nice together, too!

dunny said...

I think you're onto something!

Also, can you recommend any good bubble tea spots? My fave was Jenny's cafe on St. Mark's but they went out of biz awhile ago.

p.s. blue fin restaurant in times sq has earl grey creme brulee. it's super tasty! esp at brunch!

Gata said...

Oh man, I'd totally go to a Lemon bar bar!

Anonymous said...

So this chocolate chip cookie walks into a bar & the bartender says to it, "We don't serve food here"

ana dane said...

Even if a chocolate chip cookie had legs, I would still eat it.

Veri-Tea said...

You eat these for breakfast? Wow.

I am rapt in the concept of lemon and chamomile... must try!

avra romanowitz said...

would you say that these are one of the first things you ever baked? they must be as close to perfection as possible by now. (i do believe this was the first of your baked handiwork i've ever tried.) yum. wanting one now. bad.

lazysundae said...

i love lemon bars!!! i've made lime bars before but will have to try these.

Kevin said...

Those lemon bars look good! I like the addition of the chamomile.

Steven Knoerr said...

I love lemon bars, though I haven't made them in many years. I wonder what other teas would work with lemon bars, because I'm not really too crazy for chamomile.

Shannon said...

SO GOOD! Thank you sooo much ana again. I actually just bought all the stuff to make these and i came on to get the recipe. That peanut butter and jelly shortbread needs to come on ;)