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12 Days of Cookies: Lemon Bars

12 Days of Cookies: Lemon Bars



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It’s cookie season and people all around the world are baking, cutting, sprinkling, wrapping, and giving out all kinds of different cookies. To celebrate this festive time of the year and to bring you some new inspiration, we’re sharing 12 cookie recipes with you, one every day from now until Christmas Eve. These aren’t just any old cookie recipes, either — they’re recipes from cookie and history-enthusiast Anna Ginsberg and her cookbook The Daily Cookie, which is filled with 365 cookie recipes that honor and celebrate notable events throughout history. Along with giving you something new to bake in the kitchen, these 12 days of cookies give you a chance to win a copy of the book every day we share a recipe, so you’ll be able to enjoy a cookie recipe every day of the year, not just right before Christmas.

Today’s cookies are Lemon Bars, in honor of Lady Bird Johnson’s birthday, who is known for her work in Washington under the Johnson Administration and for her other environmental campaigns through the National Wildflower Research Center and Austin’s Town Lake. Along with her work in government policy, Johnson was quite the hostess, and was known for her dessert treats like these ones.

Click here to see the Lemon Bars Recipe

Want more cookie recipes like this one? Tweet this (up to once a day): I just entered to win a copy of The Daily Cookie from @TheDailyMeal & @AndrewsMcMeel #12DaysofCookies bit.ly/WviLZ4 — and a collection of 365 cookie recipes may be yours.

Anne Dolce is the Cook Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @anniecdolce


Easy Lemon Bars Recipe

When life gives you lemons, forget the lemonade and make this Easy Lemon Bars Recipe! They’re complete with a press-in shortbread crust, a tangy, luscious lemon filling, and a dusting of powdered sugar. There are no fancy ingredients, they’re so easy to make and they always get rave reviews!

I’m a huge fan of citrus and use it daily in cooking and baking. It adds such a bright pop of freshness to everything, and is a ray of sunshine on the cloudiest of days.

Lemon desserts are a favorite of mine. My lemon pudding cake and lemon cheesecake recipes are tried and true favorites, but you really can’t beat this Easy Lemon Bars Recipe!

I adapted this recipe from my key lime bars, which have gotten rave reviews over the years. They’re bursting with fresh flavor and are perfect for lemon lovers!


12 Days of Cookies: Recipes inspired by your favorite candy bars

You may not lay a finger on anyone's Butterfinger, but you will want to grab a plateful of this Butterfinger-inspired holiday bark. Like the candy bar, this sweet treat is jammed with peanut butter, has a satisfyingly crunchy-flaky bite and — of course — sports plenty of chocolate. But to keep your enamel intact, we made it slightly less sweet and a little more grown up. (Full recipe at right)

Matthew Mead/The Associated Press

Start to finish: 20 minutes, plus cooling

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon coffee beans, finely crushed or ground
  • 3 tablespoons barley malt syrup
  • 6 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 2 cups crushed Shredded Wheat breakfast cereal
  • 1/2 cup Grape-Nuts breakfast cereal
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate bits
  • Coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped lightly salted peanuts

Have 2 sheets of kitchen parchment or waxed paper the size of baking sheets nearby.

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the coffee beans, malt syrup, honey and peanut butter. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in both cereals until everything is evenly coated. Spoon the mixture onto 1 sheet of waxed paper, then top it with the second sheet.

Working quickly, use the back of a large spoon or a rolling pin to flatten and squash the mixture into a thin sheet about 1/4 inch thick. Remove the top sheet and top with the chocolate bits. Allow to sit for 2 to 3 minutes so the chocolate can melt. Use a butter knife or offset spatula to spread the chocolate evenly over the top of the bark. Sprinkle with sea salt and the peanuts.

Allow to fully cool, then break into pieces. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

So how do you eat a Twix bar? Do you use your teeth to scrape all of the chocolate-caramel topping off, then go back and eat the naked crunchy cookie? Do you nibble first some chocolate-caramel, then some cookie, then back to chocolate-caramel, and so on? Or do you wholesale devour it, cookie, caramel and chocolate all at once?

With our cookies, it doesn't much matter. We've taken those three things we love about Twix and combined them into one terrific bar cookie you can eat however you like. (Full recipe at right)

Matthew Mead/The Associated Press

Start to finish: 1 hour (30 minutes active)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 9-ounce package soft caramel candies
  • 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half, divided
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup milk chocolate bits

Heat the oven to 375 F. Line a 9-by-9-inch baking pan with kitchen parchment.

In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the butter, sugar, vanilla, salt and baking powder until fluffy and light. Add the flour and mix just until a dough comes together. Press the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan. Prick all over the crust with a fork. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.

While the crust bakes, prepare the filling. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the caramels with the sweetened condensed milk and 1/4 cup of the half-and-half, stirring continuously. When the mixture is melted and smooth, remove from the heat. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and remaining 1/4 cup half-and-half. While whisking, pour the yolks into the melted caramel.

When the crust is baked, pour the caramel mixture over the crust, then return the pan to the oven. Bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until set.

Gently sprinkle the milk chocolate bits over the top and allow to melt from the warm bars. Use an offset spatula to gently spread the melted chocolate over the surface of the caramel, taking care to not disturb the caramel layer. Allow to cool completely before removing from the pan and cutting into small bars. Once cooled, store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

This cookie was all about packing an outrageous number of peanuts into one small, but so-very-delicious package. Inspired by the NutRageous bar, these drop cookies combine peanut butter, whole peanuts, chocolate and caramel into salty-sweet morsels you will find dangerously addictive. (Full recipe at right)

Matthew Mead/The Associated Press

Caramel Peanut Butter Rocks

Start to finish: 30 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup salted peanuts
  • 1 cup caramel filled chocolate chips

Heat the oven to 375 F. Line 2 baking sheets with kitchen parchment or coat them with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, stir together the peanut butter, brown sugar and egg. Mix just until you have a thick paste. Gently stir in the peanuts and chocolate chips. Scoop by the tablespoon onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving 1 1/2 inches between them. Bake for 10 minutes, or just until set. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan. Once cooled, store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

Zagnut candy bars are like a crumbly, coconutty Butterfinger, minus the chocolate. These cookies play off that crisp coconut texture, combining both coconut flour (often found with the gluten-free products) and shredded unsweetened coconut. You also can make your own coconut flour by pulsing unsweetened shredded coconut in a food processor until finely ground. (Full recipe at right)

Matthew Mead/The Associated Press

Start to finish: 30 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) melted butter
  • 1 cup finely shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour

Heat the oven to 375 F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the brown sugar and eggs. While mixing, add the melted butter, then the coconut, then the coconut flour. Mix until well blended.

Working in batches, drop small mounds of dough by the teaspoon onto the prepared pan, leaving 2 inches between them. The mounds should spread slightly. If not, flatten to 1/8 inch thick. Bake for 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Gently loosen the cookies with a thin spatula and transfer to a cooling rack. Wash, dry and re-coat the pan between batches.

Once cooled, store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

Is it even possible to eat a Kit Kat bar without triggering that "Give me a break!" earworm from the ➀s? Seems not. So our cure to keep us from humming "Break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar!" for the rest of the day is to bake up a batch of these shortbread cookies inspired by that breakably delicious candy. (Full recipe at right)

Matthew Mead/The Associated Press

Shortbread Wafer Sandwiches

Start to finish: 45 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus extra
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted
  • 1 cup milk chocolate bits

Heat the oven to 350 F. Coat 2 baking sheets with cooking spray or line them with kitchen parchment.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in the melted butter. Drop the dough by the teaspoon onto the prepared pans, leaving 1 inch between them.

Use a wet paper towel to lightly moisten the bottom of a drinking glass, then press the glass into a small plate or bowl of sugar. Use the sugar-coated glass to lightly flatten each cookie, recoating it with sugar between cookies. You won't need to remoisten the moisture from the cookies should be sufficient.

Bake for about 12 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Use a thin spatula to loosen the cookies from the pan while still warm, but allow to cool on the pans.

When ready to fill, melt the milk chocolate bits by heating in glass bowl in the microwave in 15 second bursts, stirring in between until smooth. Use a butter knife to spread a thin layer of melted chocolate on the bottoms of half the wafers, then press together with a second cookie to form a sandwich. Allow the chocolate to set up before serving. Once cooled, store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.


12 Days of Cookies: Recipes inspired by your favorite candy bars

You may not lay a finger on anyone's Butterfinger, but you will want to grab a plateful of this Butterfinger-inspired holiday bark. Like the candy bar, this sweet treat is jammed with peanut butter, has a satisfyingly crunchy-flaky bite and — of course — sports plenty of chocolate. But to keep your enamel intact, we made it slightly less sweet and a little more grown up. (Full recipe at right)

Matthew Mead/The Associated Press

Start to finish: 20 minutes, plus cooling

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon coffee beans, finely crushed or ground
  • 3 tablespoons barley malt syrup
  • 6 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 2 cups crushed Shredded Wheat breakfast cereal
  • 1/2 cup Grape-Nuts breakfast cereal
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate bits
  • Coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped lightly salted peanuts

Have 2 sheets of kitchen parchment or waxed paper the size of baking sheets nearby.

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the coffee beans, malt syrup, honey and peanut butter. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in both cereals until everything is evenly coated. Spoon the mixture onto 1 sheet of waxed paper, then top it with the second sheet.

Working quickly, use the back of a large spoon or a rolling pin to flatten and squash the mixture into a thin sheet about 1/4 inch thick. Remove the top sheet and top with the chocolate bits. Allow to sit for 2 to 3 minutes so the chocolate can melt. Use a butter knife or offset spatula to spread the chocolate evenly over the top of the bark. Sprinkle with sea salt and the peanuts.

Allow to fully cool, then break into pieces. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

So how do you eat a Twix bar? Do you use your teeth to scrape all of the chocolate-caramel topping off, then go back and eat the naked crunchy cookie? Do you nibble first some chocolate-caramel, then some cookie, then back to chocolate-caramel, and so on? Or do you wholesale devour it, cookie, caramel and chocolate all at once?

With our cookies, it doesn't much matter. We've taken those three things we love about Twix and combined them into one terrific bar cookie you can eat however you like. (Full recipe at right)

Matthew Mead/The Associated Press

Start to finish: 1 hour (30 minutes active)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 9-ounce package soft caramel candies
  • 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half, divided
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup milk chocolate bits

Heat the oven to 375 F. Line a 9-by-9-inch baking pan with kitchen parchment.

In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the butter, sugar, vanilla, salt and baking powder until fluffy and light. Add the flour and mix just until a dough comes together. Press the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan. Prick all over the crust with a fork. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.

While the crust bakes, prepare the filling. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the caramels with the sweetened condensed milk and 1/4 cup of the half-and-half, stirring continuously. When the mixture is melted and smooth, remove from the heat. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and remaining 1/4 cup half-and-half. While whisking, pour the yolks into the melted caramel.

When the crust is baked, pour the caramel mixture over the crust, then return the pan to the oven. Bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until set.

Gently sprinkle the milk chocolate bits over the top and allow to melt from the warm bars. Use an offset spatula to gently spread the melted chocolate over the surface of the caramel, taking care to not disturb the caramel layer. Allow to cool completely before removing from the pan and cutting into small bars. Once cooled, store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

This cookie was all about packing an outrageous number of peanuts into one small, but so-very-delicious package. Inspired by the NutRageous bar, these drop cookies combine peanut butter, whole peanuts, chocolate and caramel into salty-sweet morsels you will find dangerously addictive. (Full recipe at right)

Matthew Mead/The Associated Press

Caramel Peanut Butter Rocks

Start to finish: 30 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup salted peanuts
  • 1 cup caramel filled chocolate chips

Heat the oven to 375 F. Line 2 baking sheets with kitchen parchment or coat them with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, stir together the peanut butter, brown sugar and egg. Mix just until you have a thick paste. Gently stir in the peanuts and chocolate chips. Scoop by the tablespoon onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving 1 1/2 inches between them. Bake for 10 minutes, or just until set. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan. Once cooled, store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

Zagnut candy bars are like a crumbly, coconutty Butterfinger, minus the chocolate. These cookies play off that crisp coconut texture, combining both coconut flour (often found with the gluten-free products) and shredded unsweetened coconut. You also can make your own coconut flour by pulsing unsweetened shredded coconut in a food processor until finely ground. (Full recipe at right)

Matthew Mead/The Associated Press

Start to finish: 30 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) melted butter
  • 1 cup finely shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour

Heat the oven to 375 F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the brown sugar and eggs. While mixing, add the melted butter, then the coconut, then the coconut flour. Mix until well blended.

Working in batches, drop small mounds of dough by the teaspoon onto the prepared pan, leaving 2 inches between them. The mounds should spread slightly. If not, flatten to 1/8 inch thick. Bake for 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Gently loosen the cookies with a thin spatula and transfer to a cooling rack. Wash, dry and re-coat the pan between batches.

Once cooled, store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

Is it even possible to eat a Kit Kat bar without triggering that "Give me a break!" earworm from the ➀s? Seems not. So our cure to keep us from humming "Break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar!" for the rest of the day is to bake up a batch of these shortbread cookies inspired by that breakably delicious candy. (Full recipe at right)

Matthew Mead/The Associated Press

Shortbread Wafer Sandwiches

Start to finish: 45 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus extra
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted
  • 1 cup milk chocolate bits

Heat the oven to 350 F. Coat 2 baking sheets with cooking spray or line them with kitchen parchment.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in the melted butter. Drop the dough by the teaspoon onto the prepared pans, leaving 1 inch between them.

Use a wet paper towel to lightly moisten the bottom of a drinking glass, then press the glass into a small plate or bowl of sugar. Use the sugar-coated glass to lightly flatten each cookie, recoating it with sugar between cookies. You won't need to remoisten the moisture from the cookies should be sufficient.

Bake for about 12 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Use a thin spatula to loosen the cookies from the pan while still warm, but allow to cool on the pans.

When ready to fill, melt the milk chocolate bits by heating in glass bowl in the microwave in 15 second bursts, stirring in between until smooth. Use a butter knife to spread a thin layer of melted chocolate on the bottoms of half the wafers, then press together with a second cookie to form a sandwich. Allow the chocolate to set up before serving. Once cooled, store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.


Lemonhead Cookies – 12 Days of Sugar, Day 6

There is a place here in Salt Lake called Cookies By Design. They make a killer lemon drop cookie.

The first time I ever tried one was at my mother-in-laws house on Christmas day. Her cousin brings her a tray of yummy, big cookies every Christmas. It’s hard to choose which one to try, but one year I happened to grab an iced lemon one. All it took was one bite! Oh my heck, was it ever good! Every Christmas since, I always head for the cookie tray when we get to her house and grab myself the lemon cookie.

Ever since that first time trying it, I was hooked and I don’t just wait until Christmas to have one. Every now and then I’ll stop in at the cookie store and grab myself a lemon cookie (or two, or three).

Over the years I have tried to recreate that dang cookie and have just never had any luck . . . until now!

I honestly can’t even begin to tell you how excited I was when I made these and took my first bite . . . JACKPOT! These cookies taste just like the cookie I fell in love with years ago!

I have a hard time stopping at just one. Now that I think about it, maybe it’s not such a good thing that I can now make them myself. . . .I think I’m in trouble!


How To Make Lemon Bars:

To make this lemon bars recipe, simply:

  1. Make the crust. Either in a food processor (the easiest method!) or by hand (also works just fine), mix the crust ingredients together until they form a fine crumbly texture. Pour the mixture into a parchment-lined 8-inch square baking pan, then press it in firmly to form an even layer of crust. And bake for 20 minutes until golden.
  2. Make the filling. Meanwhile, as your crust is baking, whisk all of your filling ingredients together in a mixing bowl until combined. Try not to over-mix, to avoid having a million bubbles rise to the top of your filling. (<– But if that happens, or if your powdered sugar is too chunky, feel free to just pour the filling through a fine-mesh strainer to get it nice and smooth again.)
  3. Pour the filling on the hot crust. Alright, timing is important with the next step! As soon as you pull the hot shortbread crust out of the oven, go ahead and pour the filling mixture onto the crust immediately. The eggs in the filling will immediately begin to cook and form a seal between the crust and the rest of the filling, which will prevent your crust from getting soggy.
  4. Bake again. Then go ahead and pop the pan back in the oven for about 20 minutes. You don’t want the lemon filling layer to get too golden or puff up to where it cracks — you just want it to bake long enough so that it sets.
  5. Chill the bars. Then remove the pan from the oven and let it cool for awhile on a baking rack, followed by a few hours to chill in the refrigerator. Dust with extra powdered sugar on top if you would like. Then slice, serve, and enjoy!


Tips for the Best Lemon Bars

  • Don’t Reduce the Sugar: I know it may be tempting for those who are trying to cut back on sugar, but sugar not only adds sweetness (which helps reduce how tart the filling could be), but it also adds moisture. That moisture helps to keep these bars from cracking.
  • Use Fresh Lemon Juice: Definitely opt for fresh lemon juice rather than bottled – the flavor is very different, and the fresh lemon juice will make these bars SO much better. Trust me.
  • Don’t Over Mix Your Filling: If you notice some air bubbles or even a little white layer of air bubbles on top of your baked bars, it’s ok. It’s just the air from the filling rising while the bars bake! To help avoid too much of that, just be sure not to over mix your filling .


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Lemon Bars

I have posted this recipe on my photography blog before but thought that I would share it here because it is a favorite of mine.

I love anything lemon. Sweet, savory, lemon does it for me. These lemon bars are one of my favorite desserts on the planet and completely remind me of my mom. When I had my oldest son she came to my house to take care of us and these are the first thing that I asked her to make for me. I love them. They are easy to make, hold well, and freeze like a dream. I usually cut the squares pretty small and freeze half a batch for another time. I make these in my Cuisinart but you can easily make them by hand. That is what Martha would do. But as we all know, I am no Martha.

Also, had a bunch of gorgeous Meyer Lemons laying around and wanted to use them up. They made these a little sweeter than I would have liked. If I were to use Meyer Lemons again, I would have definitely reduced the amount of sugar in the filling or cut it with some full strength lemon. I loved the bright yellow color that the Meyer lemons gave me, but these are supposed to be on the tart side.

For the crust:

2 cups flour
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
pinch of salt
2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature

4 eggs
2 cups sugar
4 Tablespoons lemon juice
4 Tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9吉 pan with cooking spray. In a food processor, put the dry ingredients in the bowl and pulse. Add the butter and pulse until it turns into the size of peas. Press the crust into the bottom of the pan. Bake the crust for 20 minutes.

Let the crust cool a bit and start on the filling.

Put all of the filling ingredients in the bowl of the food processor and process until smooth. Right before you are ready to pour it over the crust, add the baking powder. Give it one more whirl and you can pour it in. Pour it gently on top of the crust or the crust can break.

Bake the lemon bars for another 25 minutes or until the lemon filling is set.

Cut into squares and share with a friend.


The bars are very sticky and gooey since the filling has a lemon meringue pie-like consistency. For clean individual pieces, dip your knife in warm water, make your cut, then carefully wipe off the blade and repeat. Right before serving, I like to sprinkle powdered sugar on top. Cold bars also prevent the sugar from melting.

How to keep the filling gooey but sliceable

The filling is very similar to a spoonable lemon curd, but I use flour to create a stiffer gel consistency. Eggs begin to turn into a solid around 144 to 158ºF (62 to 70°C). However, since it&rsquos in a mixture of sugar and starches, it doesn&rsquot bind as tightly together. During baking, keep an eye out. The high proportion of egg can turn the consistency rubbery and bread-like if baked too long.

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