As I'm commuting from work to home, my brain keeps getting tangled up with all the other responsibilities in life. By the time I'm home, have had my shower and dinner, it usually winds up just a few minutes before 10 p.m.! In the meantime, I'm very happy with and grateful for the response and encouragement from my readers in various parts of the world. (My fellow Flickr'ites, I've not forgotten about you, too!) When I started this blog, I wasn't expecting this much of a response. All I want is to share my edible, visual experience with you. ... Hmm ..., a humble little journal by a 22-year-old cooking/baking/food photography and styling fanatic.
As I've said, I've been struggling to a strike a balance among the many things in life, including taking THE exams and courses, working, involving in my family's and friends' lives, indulging myself once in a while in the sea of cookbooks and recipes on the Internet, working on something edible in the kitchen as well as behind the lens and computer screen. It often ends up that my blogging mode has been long gone by the time I settle down before the computer screen each night. Furthermore, thinking about the exams and lessons really turns me off. Thus, all these explain my two-week absence from the food blogosphere. But, boy! I really appreciate the feedback and encouragement I've been getting from readers like you coming from different parts of the world! Thanks once again! I feel recharged now!!! =)
Anyhow, this past weekend was no exception as well. I went out early last morning to sit for the exam. Leaving the test center with a really discouraging result two hours later, I still set off with my original schedule--i.e. to replenish my baking supply at a large-scale baking supply store on the opposite side of the city. Yes, I carried more than 3kg worth of stuff home without personal transportation! I did it by relying on the public transportation, my own feet, a backpack--and my own money! Whoa! It feels damn good to be an independent woman LOL!
As for today, I slept for a little over five hours and kicked myself out of the bed with excitement. Though I had to say goodbye to Plan A, I still managed to accomplish what I'd laid out for Plan B. On this very Sunday, I made a loaf of wholemeal cinnamon swirl bread, nine wholemeal cinnamon rolls, one banana chiffon cake and about 30 vanilla bean cookies again with my own recipe after an unsatisfactory attempt last weekend. All these will last me through till end of this week (hopefully.) Too bad, Mother Nature hasn't been friendly lately. We've been getting torrential rain every evening since the monsoon season hit us; therefore, my food photography session was called off in the last minute due to poor lighting. I'll need to get up early tomorrow morning to snap some pictures of these babies before going to work. Though sounds weird, I love it even when I feel worn out!
Anyhow, speaking of lemon bars, they're one of my favorites--if only they aren't too sweet! It's one of those desserts I learned during my 2.8-year stay in the U.S. I don't know if I'm the only one wondering about this, but to call lemon bars American may sound a bit illogical!? Based on my observation, most Americans are unaware of the existence of lemon curd. In fact, lemon curd is 100% English. Nonetheless, lemon bars themselves consist of a shortbread base and lemon-curd topping. And to make things even more confusing, they're a classic in American pastries!
Lemon bars aren't the only weird case I've noticed so far. Chiffon cakes are another one! Well, let's hope that I can share my chiffon-making experience with you in the future with all my backlogs =.="". (You'll get dizzy by dates and times once you start to track down my backlogs ... I'm a ridiculously slow blogger!) I can tell you for sure though most East Asians don't have too sweet of a tooth when compared to Americans. Some don't even eat anything sweet!! My gosh! Thinking about chewy, fudgy American brownies, rice krispies bars and chocolate chip cookies, my brain can already feel a sudden sugar rush ... absolutely not diabetic-friendly! =S ... But, I'd been dying to introduce this classic American dessert to my folks back in Malaysia and don't want it to be cloyingly sweet at the same time. So, the only natural thing to do was reducing sugar.
It's hard to track down a "local recipe" for lemon bars here. With that intention, I turned to one of my favorite pastry sites Joy of Baking for help. I followed the recipe exactly except that I reduced the quantity of sugar by 1/4. I've tried Betty Crocker's lemon bar recipe when I was still in the States, but I've come to prefer this one. Instead of getting a crumbly dough that could be pressed onto the bottom of the baking pan, I got a stickier dough that had to be spread with help from a rubber spatula. I doubt that it was because I didn't use U.S. but metric system of measurement while making the bars. Metric system counts by weight rather than volume anyway. i.e. more accuracy. =) I guess this is simply the way the recipe works, which makes it different from others!
Lemon curd served with a slice of toast is already yummy. Pairing it with shortbread definitely makes these bars lemony, tempting, refreshing and richer! What a simple treat to make for perfect teatime snack!
Lemon Bars (Adapted from Stephanie Jaworski's, of Joy of Baking)
For a 20x20cm (an 8x8-inch) square baking tray
*I used a 7x7-inch square baking tray
113g unsalted butter, at room temperature
25g powdered sugar
140g plain flour
1/8 tsp salt
150g sugar (was 200g originally)
1 Tbsp finely grated fresh lemon zest
2 large eggs
80ml fresh lemon juice
25g plain flour
Some powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)
- Grease the baking tray and set aside for use later; combine (B) together and sift once, set aside as well
- For the shortbread base: cream (A) till light and fluffy, fold in the flour mixture by hand with help from a rubber spatula till just incorporated--don't overmix it! You may otherwise end up with a hard-rock crust due to the formation of gluten network in the flour!
Spread the slightly sticky dough onto the bottom of the greased baking tray--making sure it's evenly spread and reaches every corner of the tray.
Bake at 170C for 20 minutes or till lightly browned
- For the lemon curd layer: In the meantime, as you bake the shortbread in the oven, prepare the lemon curd topping by rubbing together (C) to release the lemony oil and scent, then mix in the eggs until the mixture looks pale and creamy and the sugar dissolves. Mix until combined as you gradually sift in the 25 grams of flour. Stir in the lemon juice next.
Once the shortbread is done with baking, remove the tray from the oven and pour the lemon curd mixture onto the hot shortbread
Bake at 170C for 20 minutes, or till the filling is set--don't overcook it!
- Remove the tray from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack
- To serve, cut it into squares or triangles of equal size; dust with powdered sugar just before serving if desired. Dish out and enjoy!!
*These bars were good enough for us without powdered sugar. And, we love ours chilled.*