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.

Lemon Meringue Pie

Lemon Meringue PieFor the next three weeks, I feel like I should call this blog E2 Bakes Fort Worth. I’m in town for the holidays and a family event during the first week of January. Three weeks of family time may seem like an eternity to some, but I think it’ll go by in a flash. When my immediate family and I get together, we just *click.* Everything is more fun with my parents and sisters around. Oh, and I can’t forget about our trusty schnauzer.

We used to do the big family Christmas every year, but these days, we prefer a quieter holiday. We cook and decorate and play Dominoes–it doesn’t sound like much, but it’s the best.

Lemon Meringue PieSince we aren’t expecting any company this year, we don’t have to make any specific holiday menu. The plan is to make a lamb pot pie, and I’m hoping to make pots de creme for dessert, but we’ll see. That’s the great thing about Christmas being “just us.” We can make those things…or not. There are no expectations beyond an ear-splitting rendition of “O Holy Night,” and my mom’s all-citrus fruit salad.

But there is something to be said for traditions. I do not come from a family of bakers, aside from my grandmother, Nonnie. She would have been 98 this past Sunday. Nonnie made the best Buttermilk Biscuits and chocolate cake I’ve ever had, but she had much more than those two items in her baking repertoire.

When we were young and she was in good health, she would come over on Christmas Day with boxes and boxes of homemade desserts. Many of them were made up on the fly, using up ingredients she found around her little house. There were strawberry cakes and chocolate cream pies, and I recall one Christmas where my mom allowed us to eat her apple cake for breakfast for days. No two years were exactly alike, save for one item: Lemon Meringue Pie. I don’t remember her ever making one for another occasion.

Lemon Meringue PieLemon Meringue PieLemon Meringue PieWhile Lemon Meringue Pie may not say Christmas to you, it does to my family and me. The flaky crust, lemony base, and airy topping bring back memories of our childhoods. While I was baking this pie yesterday afternoon, my dad stopped in for a few minutes. Instead of remarking at the horrific mess the kitchen had become, he looked at me and said “This brings back memories of being in my mother’s kitchen.” That’s probably the highest compliment he could give me.

Lemon Meringue PieLooking for more holiday recipes? You’ve come to the right place! Check out my Five-Ingredient Salted Marzipan Truffles, Iced Sugar Cookies, Pear & Cranberry Torte, Eggnog Bundt Cake, Gingersnaps, Lindor Truffle Peanut Butter Blossoms, and Chai Shortbread Snowballs. For food gifting, try my Hot Chocolate Mix, Brownie Mix, or pair these Orange Cardamom Pistachio Shortbread with a box of tea.

Lemon Meringue Pie
makes one 9-inch pie

1/2 recipe Cream Cheese Pie Dough (or other good crust)

Meringue:
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5 large egg whites, room temperature

Filling:
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 1/2 cups water
5 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons fresh lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 425F.

Roll pie crust to 12-inch diameter. Fit it in a standard pie plate, trim the overhang to 1-inch, and crimp. Line the inside of the unbaked pie crust with parchment (or non-heavy duty foil). Fill with pie weights (or dried beans). Bake for 15 minutes. Carefully lift out parchment and weights. Bake an additional 10-12 minutes. Set crust aside to cool. Reduce oven temperature to 325F.

Make the meringue. In a small bowl, use a fork to combine cream of tartar and sugar. Set aside.

In a separate small bowl, use a fork to whisk together cornstarch, water, and vanilla.

Place egg whites in a large mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat them on medium-high for 1-2 minutes, until frothy. Add sugar mixture one tablespoon at a time, beating until completely incorporated. Add cornstarch mixture one tablespoon at a time, until combined. Continue beating on medium speed until egg whites form stiff peaks. Set aside.

Make the filling. In a small mixing bowl, use a fork to beat egg yolks. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Whisk in water. Heat over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture reaches a simmer and thickens. Whisking constantly, pour 1/3 cup of the mixture into the egg yolks. Whisking constantly, add egg yolk mixture to the pan. Stir in lemon zest, followed by lemon juice and vanilla. Let simmer for 1 additional minute. Remove from heat. Whisk in butter. Push filling through a sieve to remove any lumps.

Pour hot filling into prepared crust. Drop spoonfuls of meringue over the top of the filling, and use the back of the spoon to spread it out. Bake 20 minutes, until meringue is lightly browned. Let pie cool completely on a rack before slicing and serving.

Lemon Meringue Pie is best served the day it’s made.

Pink Lemonade

 I think the world would be a much happier place if we all stopped for a lemonade break. I mean, think about it.

It’s ten thousand degrees outside. School is starting back up again soon. The holidays are not all that far away.

Yes, I’m thinking about the holidays nearly four months out. Aren’t you?! 😜 

 So, how about instead of thinking about all the stuff we have to do, we pause for a glass of cold lemonade and forget everything for five minutes? Real lemonade, not the powdered stuff that you’ve had in your pantry for two years. Definitely not that. Instead, let’s have perfectly sweet-tart homemade lemonade. And let’s make it pink because it’s just more fun that way.

    Homemade Pink Lemonade takes a little more effort than stirring powder into water, but it is also a million times more delicious. You won’t find any food coloring in the list of ingredients either. Nope. The pink color comes from fresh raspberries!

The recipe starts with making a lemony raspberry syrup. Throw some fresh raspberries, a couple of tablespoons of lemon zest, sugar, and water into a small saucepan, and cook it just until the berries start to fall apart. Let it cool for 30 minutes while you juice a bunch of lemons. Then strain the syrup into a pitcher and stir in the lemon juice and some cold water. Serve it over ice with a few slices of lemon and cute straws, and then relax for five whole minutes. Trust me, your to-do list can wait that long.

 Pink Lemonade
makes about 2 quarts

Syrup:
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
6 ounces fresh raspberries
2 tablespoons fresh lemon zest (about 2 large lemons)
3/4 cup water

For Assembly:
1 1/2 cups lemon juice (about 10 large lemons)
3 1/2-4 cups cold water
ice

For Garnish (optional):
1 large lemon, thinly sliced

Make the syrup. In a small saucepan, combine sugar, raspberries, lemon zest, and water. Cook over medium heat for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until berries are starting to fall apart. Let cool 30 minutes before pushing through a fine mesh sieve to remove seeds and pith.
Make the lemonade. In a large pitcher, combine syrup, lemon juice, and 3 1/2 cups cold water. Stir. Taste, and add 1/2 cup more cold water if it’s too tart.

Serve pink lemonade over ice. Garnish with lemon slices, if desired.

Lemon Bars

 I have bought six pounds of flour and two pounds of sugar this week. That’s nothing new for me, a person who regularly has to explain why she needs eight pounds of butter to the cashiers at Trader Joe’s. But here on Swans Island, where there’s one lone store for all 300 residents, people want to know what on earth you’re doing with all that flour and sugar. Long story short, every person I’ve run into at TIMS now knows that there’s a baker staying down the road.

It’s not like I was trying hide it, standing waist-deep in a ditch, picking raspberries and waving at passing cars with my friend, Liz. But it’s funny how now, for the last three days, every time I walk into that little general store, the sweet cashier wants to know what I’m going to bake next. When I mentioned yesterday that I was testing my recipe for lemon bars, the she and a woman standing in line behind me simultaneously said “Ohhhh, I love lemon bars.” After I got home from the beach today, I put four on a plate and drove them over. 

Lemon Bars are one of my favorite summertime treats. Bright and lemony with a not-too-sweet shortbread crust, I don’t think there’s anything more refreshing than biting into one straight from the fridge.

And they’re super easy, too. Cut together flour, sugar, salt, and cold butter, and press the crumbly mixture into a pan. Bake that for ten minutes just to set, and let it cool while you make the filling. Rub lemon zest into sugar, and whisk in a couple of eggs and a yolk, a little melted butter, some half-and-half and a ton of lemon juice. I like to add a touch of vanilla, just to round out all the lemon. Stir in a couple of tablespoons of flour and the tiniest bit of salt before pouring it over the crust. Bake it for 40 minutes, just until it no longer jiggles when the pan is jostled. 

 The hardest part of making Lemon Bars is letting them cool. Once they’re out of the oven, they need to cool to room temperature. Then they need to be refrigerated for at least three hours. This will seem absolutely endless, but as far as I’m concerned, Lemon Bars should always be eaten cold. Once all that cooling and chilling is done, all that’s left to do is slice them into bars, dust them with confectioner’s sugar and eat three in rapid succession.

Lemon Bars are a classic–perfect for any occasion. Even popping into the general store in a nine year-old terry cloth bathing suit cover-up with smeared mascara and sand in your hair. My appearance aside, these sweet little bars were a hit.

I can’t help but wonder what the nice people at TIMS will think when I go in and buy four pounds of peaches tomorrow. 

 Lemon Bars
makes one 8-inch pan, about 16 bars

Shortbread Crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cubed

Filling:
3 tablespoons lemon zest
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs + 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 tablespoons half-and-half (or heavy cream)
1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

For Topping:
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-inch square baking dish with aluminum foil, leaving overhang at the edges. Grease foil with butter. Set aside.

Make the shortbread crust. In a large mixing bowl, mix together flour, sugar, and salt. Using a pastry blender or two forks, cut butter into dry ingredients until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. Mixture will be very crumbly and dry. Transfer mixture to prepared pan and use your fingertips to press it into one even layer on the bottom of the pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool on a rack while you prepare the filling.

In a large mixing bowl, combine lemon zest and sugar. Use your fingertips to rub zest into sugar until completely combined. Whisk in eggs and egg yolk one at a time, mixing completely after each addition. Whisk in melted butter, followed by half-and-half (or heavy cream), lemon juice, and vanilla. Mix in all-purpose flour and salt. Mixture will be thin. Pour filling over the shortbread crust. Bake for 40-45 minutes, tenting with foil at the 10 minute mark. Let cool completely on a rack before chilling for at least four hours.

Set a cooling rack over a piece of wax paper. Use the foil overhang to remove bars from the pan to a cutting board. Peel foil from the edges. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice bars. Set bars on prepared rack. Sift confectioner’s sugar over the tops of the bars.

Serve bars immediately or refrigerate for up to three days.