Pink Lemonade Bars

Pink Lemonade BarsI have a love/hate relationship with Facebook’s “On This Day” feature. Yes, it’s fun to see old pictures and moments from my college days, but there’s a dark side to it all. That terrible haircut I’ve blocked from memory? Here it is! Every bad fashion choice I’ve ever made? Displayed prominently on my iPhone screen! What appears to be a solid year of angsty statuses? Just…what?!

Pink Lemonade BarsLast week, I had daily reminders of last year’s vacation to Swans Island, Maine. I am currently sixteen days away from heading up there again and I am so. freaking. ready. Swiping through photos of my friends and me hiking, puzzling, and sunbathing has me going crazy waiting to get out of NYC. Don’t get me wrong—I love living here. I just need a break every once in a while.

The vast majority of our trip pictures from last summer are of the four of us collecting wildflowers and climbing over rocks and floating on inner tubes in the ocean, but there are also a few of my friend Liz and me baking in “our” rustic kitchen. We had a ball working together, and I’m so glad I documented it all on here. Our first effort was a Blue-Razz Pie made with foraged berries, but it’s the Lemon Bars that really have me feeling nostalgic for my favorite island off the coast of Maine. There’s just something about the combination of soft lemon filling and buttery shortbread crust that screams summer, am I right?!

Pink Lemonade BarsToday, I’m taking that classic recipe and combining it with another favorite–Pink Lemonade! These Pink Lemonade Bars are super lemony and delicious, and insanely easy 😊 The whole recipe requires just ten ingredients, and while the filling is just as soft and delicious as a classic lemon bar, it’s much less complicated. Sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks are the heavy lifters here, keeping everything sweet and giving the filling its structure.

Pink Lemonade BarsPink Lemonade BarsPink Lemonade BarsPink Lemonade Bars get their color in two ways. The first is seedless raspberry purée, made from blitzing fresh raspberries in a blender or food processor and then pushing it through a sieve. I know that sounds tedious, but it takes all of five minutes. This will produce about 1/3 cup of purée, although you’ll only need to mix 1/4 cup into the filling.

Pink Lemonade Bars
Raspberry Purée only.
Pink Lemonade Bars
Raspberry Purée and Food Coloring.
You could certainly use only the raspberry purée to color the filling, but the pink may not be very vibrant. I wanted my bars to be a brighter pink, but no amount of raspberry purée by itself seemed to do the trick. Here, I’ve added a tiny amount of pink gel food coloring to achieve a berry color.

Bottom line: whether or not you choose to use food coloring, your bars will still be pink and lemony 😊

Pink Lemonade BarsThese bars bake up quickly, but must cool completely and be chilled before slicing—Pink Lemonade Bars are an excellent make-ahead dessert option. When you’re ready to serve, all you’ll need to do is slice them up and dust them with confectioner’s sugar. Your friends and family will love this twist on an old favorite.Pink Lemonade Bars

Pink Lemonade Bars
makes one 8-inch pan, 9-16 bars

Crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes

Filling:
6 ounces fresh raspberries
1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
4 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk (not fat free)
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2-3 large lemons)
red or pink food coloring, as desired (optional)
1/4-1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar

Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-inch square pan with aluminum foil, leaving overhang on two sides. Grease foil. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and salt. Add cold butter. Use your fingertips to rub butter into flour until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. It will be powdery, but should hold together when pinched. Pour shortbread mixture into prepared pan. Spread it around to cover the bottom of the pan before using your hand to pack it down into an even layer. Prick several times with a fork. Bake 8-10 minutes, until it begins to set.

Make the filling. Place raspberries in a food processor or blender. Process until puréed. Push raspberry purée through a sieve to remove seeds. This should produce about 1/3 cup raspberry purée. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat egg yolks until homogeneous. Whisk in sweetened condensed milk, followed by lemon juice and 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) of raspberry purée. Pour filling over warm crust. Bake 18-22 minutes, until the center of the filling just barely jiggles when the pan is jostled.

Let bars cool completely in the pan on a rack. Chill for at least two hours or overnight. Use foil overhang to remove bars to a cutting board. Peel off foil. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice bars.

Immediately before serving, place a cooling rack over wax paper. Place cut bars on rack. Sift confectioner’s sugar over the tops. Remove to a plate and serve immediately.

Leftover bars will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days. Add more confectioner’s sugar as necessary.

Key Lime Pie Popsicles

Key Lime Pie PopsiclesAre y’all as worn out as I am? I spent Memorial Day weekend in Texas with my family, my best friend from college is in town, and I am turning 32 on Monday!

Key Lime Pie PopsiclesThirty two. Thirty. Two. How am I possibly that old? I graduated from college ten years ago. I have been in New York for almost that long. I have a real job and responsibilities and a very busy life, but I sure don’t feel like a 32 year old. I still remember thinking that 23 was old. Oh, how times have changed.

Key Lime Pie PopsiclesKey Lime Pie PopsiclesI don’t know about you, but as a bonafide adult, I don’t always have time to make the desserts that I want. Lately, I have been dreaming about Key Lime Pie. It’s remarkably easy to make, but as we all know, pie takes time. This week, I have no time. In fact, it feels like I have negative time. But after breakfast yesterday, I did find a quick half hour to make a batch of Key Lime Pie Popsicles. When got home from work last night, I coated one in graham cracker crumbs and ate it in bed (because I’m an adult and I can). That’s what living the dream looks like this week–eating dessert in bed.

Please don’t judge me too harshly.

Key Lime Pie PopsiclesKey Lime Pie PopsiclesThese Key Lime Pie Popsicles are just as good as their namesake dessert and half the work! They have just six ingredients: key lime juice and zest, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, heavy cream, and graham cracker crumbs. The process is similar to making no-churn ice cream–mix together the juice, zest, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla, whip the cream, and fold everything together. Pour it all into popsicle moulds and freeze. A few hours later, release them from their moulds and coat them in graham cracker crumbs before serving. They really couldn’t be easier…

Key Lime Pie Popsicles…except that you can also layer the mixture into a freezer-safe container, swirl in some graham cracker crumbs, and have No-Churn Key Lime Pie Ice Cream. I love a two-fer.

Key Lime Pie PopsiclesKey Lime Pie Popsicles are a citrus-lover’s dream dessert! They have all the tart, tangy, creamy flavor of the classic pie, but with a frozen twist. Who needs a birthday cake when they have these popsicles? Not me!Key Lime Pie Popsicles

Key Lime Pie Popsicles
makes 10-12 popsicles

3/4-1 cup key lime juice (or regular lime juice), depending how much tartness you prefer
2 teaspoons key lime zest (or regular lime zest)
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk (not fat free)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs, for coating (about 8 whole graham crackers)

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together key lime juice, key lime zest, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to whip heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Do not over-whip.

Use a silicone spatula to fold half the whipped cream into the key lime mixture. Fold in the rest of the whipped cream. Divide mixture among popsicle moulds. Freeze for at least 4 hours.

When ready to eat, pour graham cracker crumbs into a shallow dish. Run popsicles (in their moulds) under warm water for a few seconds before releasing. Coat popsicles in graham crumbs, and enjoy!

Meyer Lemon Cream Cheese Scones

Meyer Lemon Cream Cheese SconesHello!

It’s been a crazy week around here. I’ve been preparing for a couple of catering gigs and the end of the month cake rush. In all the planning, this blog has been put on the back burner, but I’m here today with some spectacular Meyer Lemon Cream Cheese Scones.Meyer Lemon Cream Cheese Scones

Why are these little scones so great?

1. Well, first of all, they are full of Meyer lemon flavor. This seasonal fruit tastes like a combination of lemon and orange. Oh my word. So good. I buy mine at Trader Joe’s, but they are all over the place this time of year. I am planning to cook with them constantly before they disappear from shelves!

2. Cream cheese, y’all. Where my other scones are made with all butter, cream cheese steals the show here just like it does in my favorite pie dough. Its flavor in the finished scones is pretty mild, but the texture is just…incredible. These are the best scones I’ve ever made by a long shot. They’re crispy on the edges and insanely soft in the centers. I’m going to have a hard time making scones without cream cheese ever again.Meyer Lemon Cream Cheese Scones

3. Another magic ingredient? Heavy cream. Plenty of bakers use heavy cream in their scones, but I almost always go for half-and-half. My old standby would definitely work here, but the extra fat in heavy cream helps the middles of these scones to be super tender. It definitely makes these a little heavier than your average scone, but the texture it brings is worth the extra calories.

4. The glaze. I’ll eat scones no matter how they’re adorned, but I am positively in love with this easy two ingredient glaze. The scones themselves are flavored with Meyer lemon zest, while the glaze is made with the juice. Just whisk it into some confectioner’s sugar and drizzle it all over the warm scones.Meyer Lemon Cream Cheese Scones

I could write more, but I don’t think there’s a need. Run to the market this afternoon, pick up some Meyer lemons, and make some seriously good scones tomorrow morning. Enjoy your weekend!Meyer Lemon Cream Cheese Scones

Meyer Lemon Cream Cheese Scones
makes 8 scones 

zest of 1 Meyer lemon
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, very cold, cut into pieces
4 ounces (1/2 brick) full-fat brick-style cream cheese, very cold, cut into pieces
3/4 cup heavy cream + more for brushing, very cold

Glaze:
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
3-4 tablespoons fresh Meyer lemon juice

Note: Scone ingredients and dough need to remain cold at all times in order to bake up tender and flaky. If anything becomes room temperature or sticky prior to baking, chill for at least 15 minutes before proceeding as written.

Place oven racks at the top and bottom positions. Preheat oven to 425F. Line a sheet pan with parchment. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar and Meyer lemon zest. Use your fingertips to rub the zest into the sugar. Whisk in flour, baking powder, and salt. Add cold butter and cream cheese. Use a pastry blender or two forks to cut them into the dry ingredients until the largest pieces are the size of peas. Fold in heavy cream. The dough should clump when pinched together.

Flour a surface and your fingertips. Turn dough onto the surface and pat into a 1-inch thick circle. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice the circle into 8 wedges. Place scones at least 2 inches apart on prepared pan. Brush with heavy cream. Bake on the bottom rack for 7 minutes. Move pan to the top rack and bake an additional 8 minutes. Let scones cool in the pan on a rack while you make the glaze.

Combine confectioner’s sugar and 3 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice in a small bowl. Use a fork to whisk them together until smooth. For a thinner glaze, add 1 tablespoon more juice. Drizzle glaze over scones. Glaze will set after about 20 minutes.

Scones are best served the day they are made, but will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 48 hours.

Lemon Yogurt Cake

 How is it only Tuesday?

I’m going on vacation this Friday, and the anticipation is making this week seem absolutely endless. I can’t wait to be on an island off the coast of Maine with three of my closest girlfriends. We’re going to cook, hike, lay on the beach (if it’s not too cool), read, and relax. There’s no television or Internet, so we’ll be almost completely off the grid. It might not be your kind of vacation, but living in New York City, the idea of escaping literally all of the hustle and bustle is paradise. 

Until then, though, I’ve got plenty to do. Besides organizing the last details of our vacation, I’ve left my nanny job and gone full-time at my personal chef job. I get paid to cook dinner–that’s the dream, right?! Well, it is for me.

I’ve also been baking like crazy trying to get this blog so that it can function without me for a week. It might be a little quiet around here next week, but I’m hoping to write a post or two from the Wi-Fi porch at the island’s public library. 

 But I’m getting ahead of myself and haven’t said a word about today’s recipe, and that’s a real shame since I’ve looked forward to posting it for two weeks. This Lemon Yogurt Cake is bright, sweet, soft, extra lemony, and totally delicious. The cake itself is made super tender thanks to a cup of plain yogurt and a big hit of fresh lemon juice. Once it’s baked, the cake is soaked in an easy lemon syrup before being drizzled with a thick vanilla glaze. You could certainly make the glaze with lemon juice instead of milk, but I think the creamy texture pairs really well with the double-dose of lemon in the cake!

This Lemon Yogurt Cake is perfect for entertaining. I think it would be great for casual dinner parties, nice picnics, or taking to a friend who could use a nice surprise. Of course, it’s a wonderful cake to have around for no reason at all. After all, it’s hard to think about your never-ending to-do list when you’re eating a slice of cake! 

 Lemon Yogurt Cake
makes one 12.5 cup-capacity bundt pan*

For the pan:
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons neutral-flavored oil (I like canola)

Cake:
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
4 large eggs, room temperature
8 ounces plain yogurt (nonfat is fine)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon real vanilla extract
2 teaspoons lemon extract (optional)

Lemon Syrup:
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Glaze:
2 cups confectioners sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
3-4 tablespoons milk of choice
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F.

Prepare the pan. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together flour and oil. Use a pastry brush to paint the mixture onto the entire inside of the pan. Make sure to cover every crevice. Pour out any excess. Set pan aside.

Make the cake batter. In a medium-large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a small bowl, use clean fingers to rub together lemon zest and sugar.

In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until light and fluffy. Beat in lemon sugar. Add eggs one at a time, mixing completely after each addition. Mix in plain yogurt, followed by lemon juice, vanilla, and lemon extract (if using). Add dry ingredients in two installments, mixing just until combined. Transfer batter to prepared pan and smooth out the top. Tap pan on the counter five times before baking for 40-45 minutes. Cake is ready when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cake cool in the pan for fifteen minutes. Run a small, thin knife around the edges of the pan before inverting cake onto a rack to cool completely. Set rack over a rimmed baking sheet.

Make lemon syrup. Combine lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. While stirring constantly, bring to a boil and let cook for three minutes, until slightly thickened. Let syrup cool five minutes before spooning over cooled cake. Let cake sit for 20 minutes before carefully transferring to a serving plate.

Make the glaze. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together confectioner’s sugar and salt. Stir in 3 tablespoons milk and vanilla. If a thinner glaze is desired, add another tablespoon of milk. Drizzle glaze over cake. Let set for 20 minutes before serving.

Cake will keep covered at room temperature for up to three days, or in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Note:

This recipe may be divided into two 9×5″ loaf pans, although I am unsure of the bake time.

Blueberry Compote

 For all the things I love about baking, the time commitment is not one of them. It’s rare that I make anything that can be done and ready to serve in under 90 minutes. I pride myself on my patience, but sometimes the idea that a batch of cookies is going to take four hours is enough to make me insane. 

Enter this Blueberry Compote. It only has four ingredients, involves almost no actual work, and takes 20 minutes start-to-finish. And oh, is it good–burst blueberries in a not-too-sweet lemon-scented syrup. It’s just begging to be stirred into yogurt or poured over pancakes or ice cream. It’s a sauce that can be used on any breakfast or dessert item you can imagine. 

 This is my kind of mid-week recipe–the kind that goes from “just” ingredients to absolute magic in almost no time at all. Simmer a cup of water and a little sugar together until it thickens slightly and becomes a thin syrup. Fold in two pounds of fresh blueberries and simmer a few more minutes until they start to burst. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the juice and zest of a lemon. Ladle it into a jar, and you’re done. Seriously. That’s it. 

Blueberry Compote works almost anywhere you can think to use it. It would be divine with cheesecake or waffles, but it’s also healthy enough to eat with yogurt for a quick weekday breakfast. Oh, and it is absolutely amazing with angel food cake, pound cake, or the Vanilla Bean Ricotta Cake I’m posting later this week! Stay tuned… 

 Blueberry Compote
makes about one quart

1 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 lbs fresh blueberries
juice and zest of 1 lemon

In a large saucepan, bring water and sugar to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 7 minutes, until slightly thickened. Stir occasionally to keep crystals from forming.

Add blueberries and let simmer 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and stir in lemon juice and zest. Cool completely. Transfer to an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.