Friday, May 29, 2020

(The Very Best) Lemon Bars

I love lemon desserts--souffles, puddings, cookies, pies. I'm no stranger to a good lemon bar, but 
sometimes I find the filling a bit too soft. This recipe for lemon bars combines a shortbread crust with a lemon filling that deliver a punch of flavor as it holds its own texture-wise. The crust is parbaked, but the bars come together quickly. They actually need more time to cool than it takes to make them. 


For the crust:

  • Cooking spray or butter
  • cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cubed

For the filling:

  • large eggs
  • large egg yolk
  • cup granulated sugar
  • tablespoons powdered sugar, plus more for dusting
  • tablespoons finely grated fresh lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 2 to 3 medium lemons)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour


  1. Prepare the baking dish. Lightly coat an 8x8-inch baking dish with cooking spray or butter. Line the dish with a parchment paper sling, leaving an overhang of about 2 inches on two opposite sides; set aside.
  2. Make the crust. Place the flour, granulated sugar, powdered sugar, zest, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse 5 times to combine. Sprinkle with the butter cubes and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.
  3. Press the crust in and chill while the oven heats. Pour the crust mixture into the prepared baking dish. Use the bottom of a measuring cup or your fingers to press the crumbs into an even layer. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 325°F.
  4. Parbake the crust. Bake the crust until light golden-brown, about 30 minutes.
  5. Make the filling. Place the whole eggs, egg yolk, granulated sugar, powdered sugar, zest, and salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Whisk in the lemon juice, and then the flour, until combined.
  6. Pour the filling onto the warm crust. Remove the parbaked crust from the oven. Pour the lemon filling onto the warm crust.
  7. Bake and cool the lemon bars. Return the pan to the oven and bake until light brown around the edges, set in the middle, and the top appears relatively dry, about 20 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack, at least 1 hour, before serving.
  8. Dust with powdered sugar. Using a fine-mesh strainer, generously dust the bars with more powdered sugar.
  9. Cut the lemon bars. Grasping the parchment sling, lift the lemon bar slab out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Cut into 16 bars. Dust with more powdered sugar, if desired, before serving. 
  10. *********************************
  12. The addition of confectioners' sugar and flour in the lemon filling made an incredible difference in the texture of these lemon bars. The ample lemon zest and juice in the recipe for both the shortbread and the filling makes these bars a lemon lover's delight.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Focaccia: No Fuss, KAF Blitz Bread

If you're looking for a homemade bread that can be on the table in 2 hours, look no further. King Arthur Flour has many wonderful recipes on its site. This one ranks up there with the best.

2 tbs olive oil (to drizzle into the pan)
1 1/2 cups warm water
3 tbs olive oil (for the dough)
1 1/4 tsp salt
3 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
1 tbs instant yeast
4 tsp Italian seasoning

olive oil
rosemary (opt)

Spray a 9 x 13 inch pan with non-stick vegetable spray. Drizzle about 2 tbs olive oil atop the spray.

Combine the remaining ingredients and beat at high speed for 60 seconds.

Scoop the sticky batter into the prepared pan. Cover the pan and let it rise at room temperature for 60 minutes--it should be quite puffy, but not fragile looking.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Gently poke the dough all over with your index finger.

Drizzle the dough lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with rosemary or other dried herbs of your choice

Bake the bread 25-30 minutes or until it's golden brown.

Remove bread from oven and wait 5 minutes. Turn bread out of pan onto a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.
I've made focaccia using other recipes, more labor intensive recipes, and now I wonder why. This bread was perfect, not to mention quick and easy. It had a slightly chewy exterior and was soft and yeasty on the inside. The Italian seasoning gave it a wonderful flavor, not to mention the fragrance. I will definitely make it again and next time I'll carmelize some shallots for the topping.  What a perfect accompaniment to pasta, though I can see it with antipasto, a side of marinara for dunking, some pesto....

Portuguese Sweet Bread

You know those incredible Hawaiian rolls that have been popular since the slider made its appearance on menus everywhere? Well, that's basically what Portuguese sweet bread is. This is bread you want to eat slathered in butter or as the base of a French toast that will have you wondering how you can ever wait for the bread to get stale.

This recipe is from Peter Reihart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice.

Makes 2 loaves

1/2 cup flour1(bread flour is best, but all purpose is fine
1 tbs granulated sugar
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
1/2 cup water at room temperature

To make the sponge stir together the flour sugar, and yeast in a small bowl. Add the water and stir until all the ingredients are hydrated and make a smooth batter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and ferment at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes or until the sponge gets foamy and seems on the verge of collapse.

6 tbs granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup powdered milk
2 tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tbs vegetable shortening
2 large eggs
1 tsp orange extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups flour (bread flour is best, but all purpose is fine)
About 6 tbs water, at room temperature

1 egg + 1 tsp water for egg wash

To make the dough, combine the sugar, salt, powdered milk, butter, and vegetable shortening in a 4 qt mixing bowl (or the bowl of an electric mixer). Cream together with a sturdy spoon or the paddle  attachment until smooth, then mix in the eggs and the extracts. Knead by hand or switch to the dough hook attachment and mix in the sponge and the flour.  Add the water, as needed, to make a very soft dough.  The finished dough should be very supple and soft, easy to knead, and not wet or sticky.  It will take 10 to 12 minutes with the electric mixer and close to 15 minutes by hand to achieve this consistency. The finished dough should pass the windowpane test.

Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it ferment at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

Remove the dough from the bowl and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Form each of the pieces into a boule.  Lightly oil two 9-inch pie pans and place 1 boule, seam side down, in each pan. Mist the dough with spray oil and loosely cover the pans with plastic wrap. Proof at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours or until the dough fills the pans fully, doubling in size

Very gently brush the loaves with an egg wash. .(1 egg whisked with 1 tsp water).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F with the oven rack on the middle shelf.

Bake the loaves for 50 - 60 minutes or until they register 190 degrees in the center. Remove from the pie pans and place on a rack to cool completely--at least 90 minutes.
This might have been the longest 90 minutes of my life. Waiting for the loaves to cool so I could sneak a baker's reward was excruciating. That tiny end slice, slathered in Nutella, was incredible. What a delicate crumb! What a lovely melding of flavors! It was hard to freeze one loaf and harder still to save some slices for the weekend. The French toast made with those stale slices was probably the best I've ever eaten. A bit labor intensive, but so worth it.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

English Muffin Toasting Bread

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With yeast nowhere to be found and flour a hit or miss commodity, I didn't think bread baking would be in the cards during this long isolation. Fortunately, I found a source for yeast online and managed to find some KAF all purpose flour during my last shopping trip. I was ready to bake bread. Since I am no longer shopping in person and am at the mercy of limited supplies of many favorites, I decided to start with English muffin bread.


3 cups (361g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 tablespoon (14g) sugar1 
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1 cup (227g) milk
1/4 cup (57g) water
2 tablespoons (25g) vegetable oil or olive oil
cornmeal, to sprinkle in pan

Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and instant yeast in a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer.

Combine the milk, water, and oil in a separate, microwave-safe bowl, and heat to between 120°F and 130°F. Be sure to stir the liquid well before measuring its temperature; you want an accurate reading. If you don't have a thermometer, the liquid will feel quite hot (hotter than lukewarm), but not so hot that it would be uncomfortable as bath water.

Pour the hot liquid over the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl.

Using an electric beater, or stand mixer with beater attachment, beat at high speed for 1 minute; the dough will be smooth and very soft. If you don't have an electric mixer, beat by hand for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and starting to become elastic.

Lightly grease an 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pan, and sprinkle the bottom and sides with cornmeal.

Scoop the soft dough into the pan, leveling it in the pan as much as possible.

Cover the pan, and let the dough rise till it's just barely crowned over the rim of the pan. When you look at the rim of the pan from eye level, you should see the dough, but it shouldn't be more than, say, 1/4" over the rim. This will take about 45 minutes to 1 hour, if you heated the liquid to the correct temperature and your kitchen isn't very cold. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 400°F.

Remove the cover, and bake the bread for 22 to 27 minutes, till it's golden brown and its interior temperature is 190°F.

Remove the bread from the oven, and after 5 minutes turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool. Let the bread cool completely before slicing.
The ease of preparation belies the delicious taste and beautiful crumb of this loaf. Whether you're an experienced baker or someone who is a little afraid of trying to make anything with yeast, this is a great recipe to have in your arsenal. I'm going to try to freeze a few slices to judge whether this is worth making in batches. In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy with eggs in the morning and try it as part of a grilled cheese sandwich. I might even give French toast a try before it's all gone.

Friday, May 8, 2020


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I have a go to recipe for popovers that I've used forever, but the other day the King Arthur Flour recipe for popovers popped up on my Facebook feed and I decided it was time for a change. Yes, I know that popovers have only 5 ingredients, so how different could they be? As it turns out, very.


  • 4 large eggs, warmed in a cup of hot water for 10 minutes before cracking
  • 1 1/2 cups (340g) milk (skim, low-fat, or full-fat), lukewarm
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt*
  • 1 1/2 cups (177g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 3 tablespoons (43g) melted butter  

  • Instructions

    1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Position a rack on a lower shelf. The top of the fully risen popovers should be about midway up the oven. What you don't want is for the tops of the popping popovers to be too close to the top of the oven, as they'll burn.
    2.  Grease the popover or muffin pan thoroughly, covering the area between the cups as well as the cups themselves. Make sure the oven is up to temperature before you begin to make the popover batter.
    3. Use a wire whisk to beat together the eggs, milk, and salt. Whisk till the egg and milk are well combined, with no streaks of yolk showing.
    4. Add the flour all at once, and beat with a wire whisk till frothy; there shouldn't be any large lumps in the batter, but smaller lumps are OK.
    5. Stir in the melted butter, combining quickly.
    6. Pour the batter into the popover pan, filling them about 2/3 to 3/4 full. If using a 6 cup popover pan, you will have batter left over. These can be baked in a well greased muffin tin.
    7. Make absolutely certain your oven is at 450°F. Place the pan on a lower shelf of the oven .
    8. Bake the popovers for 20 minutes without opening the oven door. Reduce the heat to 350°F (again without opening the door), and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until they're a deep, golden brown. If the popovers seem to be browning too quickly, position an oven rack at the very top of the oven, and put a cookie sheet on it, to shield the popovers' tops from direct heat.
    9. If you plan on serving the popovers immediately, remove them from the oven, and stick the tip of a knife into the top of each, to release steam and help prevent sogginess. Slip them out of the pan, and serve.
    10. *************************************************
    12. I'm officially a convert! These popovers had the highest rise of any I've made and the perfect combination of eggy inside and crispy outside. I'm guessing bringing the eggs and milk to room temperature was responsible for that. Whatever it was, this is my new go to recipe. These popovers were incredible. I just can't decide if I prefer them spread with butter and honey or with Nutella. I think I'll be making them for dessert in the future, stuffed with vanilla ice cream and topped with Nutella. YUM!

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

One Pot Turkey Swedish Meatball Casserole

I love Swedish meatballs, but they can be laden with fat and calories, something I try to avoid. I saw a recipe for one pot Swedish meatballs and decided it could do with some editing to fit into my weeknight meal plan. Not only was the lightening a success, it really did require just one pot--in this case a deep skillet--making clean up a snap.

Serves 4 (or 2 with leftovers for the next night, this time NO POTS) 

For the meatballs:
1 lb ground turkey (I use 93%)
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 egg
1/2 small onion, grated
1 tsp salt
pepper to taste
1 tbs canola oil

2 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 cups milk (I used Fairlife fat free; when you boil, it will break, but it doesn't affect taste; to avoid this, just use 2% or whole milk, but it will affect calories/smart points)
1 tbs worcestershire sauce
4 cups dry wide noodles (I like the yolkless variety)
2/3 cup grated cheese
2 tbs chopped fresh parsley

To make the meatballs, combine the ground turkey, bread crumbs, egg, grated onion, salt, and pepper and form into 36 one inch meatballs.

Heat a nonstick skillet with 1 tbs canola oil. Fry the meatballs one minute on each side.

Add the chicken broth, milk, and worcestershire sauce to the skillet and bring to a boil.

 Add the noodles, lower the heat to medium, and cook, stirring constantly for 8 minutes until the sauce coats the back of a spoon and the noodles are cooked. Add the cheese and parsley and serve immediately.
I was very pleased with how well this lightened version of a classic came together. The original was over 1000 calories a serving. This version came in at 14 Smart Points, well within the daily guidelines for a dinner that required just a side salad and a veggie. It went together so quickly, we found ourselves eating a bit early. The upside was it was very satisfying and delicious.