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IMG_4172The heralding of what might finally be spring has spurred me to make something light and summery, like these lemon bars. I’m typically much more of a chocolate person, but I do have to appease the warm-weather gods by baking up an offering. These bars turned out to be just the right balance of sweetness and tartness, but I did alter the recipe quite a bit.

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For the filling, I used three jumbo eggs instead of four regular sized eggs. I also didn’t have enough lemon juice, and I didn’t use Meyer lemons. I just used what was in the supermarket. I clearly didn’t mix the egg up enough, hence the splotchiness, but it didn’t affect the taste at all. I reduced the sugar to compensate, but I entirely eyeballed it. Then for the crust, I decided to do a spinoff of this almond crust I made for a key lime pie, subbing half the flour for almond meal. It turned out pretty darn good overall, despite my slightly haphazard approach.

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Lemon Bars
From Baking Bites
Makes one 9×9 pan

Crust
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup almond meal
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp Meyer lemon zest
1/2 cup butter, room temperature

Filling
4 large eggs
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 cup Meyer lemon juice, freshly squeezed and strained

Preheat oven to 350F. Line 9×9-inch baking pan with aluminum foil.
Make the crust. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest. Cut butter into chunks and add to flour mixture. Blend in with an electric mixer at low speed until mixture forms coarse, sandy crumbs. Pour into pan and press mixture down (with your fingers or the back of a spoon) into an even layer.
Bake for 16-19 minutes, until just lightly browned around the edges.
When the crust is almost done baking, with just 1-2 minutes to go, make filling. Whisk together all filling ingredients in a large bowl. Do not let the filling mixture sit around on the counter while the crust bakes.
When the crust comes out of the oven and is still hot, pour in filling mixture.
Bake for about 20 minutes, or until filling just barely begins to turn golden at the edges. It may appear very wet, but filling will continue to set as the crust cools. Allow to cool to room temperature, then, when bars are completely cooled, refrigerate for at least 1-2 hours before slicing.

This is a really plain-looking cake, but as far as taste goes, it’s truly outstanding. I saw this recipe on Serious Eats, and was positively enthralled by the idea of adding olive oil into a lemon pound-esque cake. Those flavors sound very Mediterranean to me, and I also had a tub of Greek yogurt sitting in my fridge. Why the heck not?

And I’m exceptionally pleased with how this cake turned out. I used nonfat Greek yogurt instead of regular plain yogurt, and that might have contributed to the slightly coarser texture of the cake but I have absolutely no problems with how it tasted. The olive oil wasn’t exceptionally pronounced, and you wouldn’t be able to discern it if I didn’t tell you there was some. I truly love how this cake is startlingly good in its simplicity, and the technique required is almost idiot-proof too. Highly recommended.

Lemon Yogurt Olive Oil Cake
Adapted from Serious Eats
Makes one 9×5 loaf

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup plain whole milk yogurt
3 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup EVO (extra-virgin olive oil)

Procedures

Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously butter an 8 1/2-x-4 1/2-inch loaf pan, place the pan on a lined baking sheet and set aside. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and keep near by.

Put the sugar and zest in a medium bowl and rub the ingredients together until the sugar is fragrant. Whisk in the yogurt, eggs and vanilla. When the mixture is well blended, gently whisk in the dry ingredients. Switch to a spatula and fold in the oil. The batter will be thick and shiny. Scrape it into the pan and smooth the top.

Bake the cake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until it is golden and starts to come away from the sides of the pan; a knife inserted into the center of the cake will come out clean. Cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then run a knife between the cake and the sides of the pan. Unmold and cool to room temperature right-side up.

Storing: You can keep the cake at room temperature for at least 4 days or freeze it for up to 2 months