04
Apr
09

Lemon Bars and Pound Cakes

Sorry for the slow updates!  Last week, I spent several days getting ready for the bake sale at Vox Populi.  Vox Culture is an NPO that my church has formed that allows local artists and musicians to gather together and perform/promote their talents.  Since all funds we make go to charity, I volunteered to help out and provide food.  With the help of my fellow churchgoers, we prepared enough food to raise nearly $300 just from the food alone!

Here’s what we made:
50 blondies
40 chocolate chip cookies
100 red velvet cupcake truffles
16 brownie cookies
30 mini cheesecake tarts

Pictures of the event can be found on the Vox Culture website.

white chocolate pound cake with strawberry coulis

white chocolate pound cake with strawberry coulis

meyer lemon bars

meyer lemon bars

Anyway, it’s a new week, meaning a chance to make some new desserts!  When I came back to work, my coworkers asked if I had any leftovers from the Vox Populi event.  Since I didn’t bring anything, a couple remarked how I haven’t brought anything to work in the last few months (which is true, I bring my stuff to church and small group now).  I asked the coworker sitting next to me what kind of desserts he likes, and he responded with ‘sweet and sour, like the key lime pie you made a few weeks ago’.  Hmmm, well I was tired of Key Lime Pie, so the first thing that popped into my head were Lemon bars!

I got this recipe from my friend Monica last year.  It’s SUPER easy to make, and tastes great to boot!  The previous two times I made it, I used a mixture of lemon juice and water to dilute the tartness… this time, I had Meyer lemons so no diluting was necessary!  I also shelled and chopped up some pistachios for the crust for added flavor.  Anyone who likes lemon bars should give this a shot, since all it takes is a buzz in the food processor, some blind baking of the crust, and then just pouring in the simple filling.  Actual preparation only takes like 10 minutes, and that’s only because I was zesting and juicing my lemons!

As for small group, I was deciding between two recipes I had saved up from the past week: a blueberry crumb cake from Dorie’s book, and a Cream Cheese Pound Cake from a blog I follow.  I already brought a lemon poppyseed pound cake to small group before, but the cream cheese in this recipe intrigued me.  The blog also had a link to a White Chocolate version that sounded even more decadent.  I decided to use the White Chocolate Cream Cheese Pound Cake from Seven Spoons while also making the strawberry coulis from smitten kitchen.  White chocolate, strawberries, and pound cake.  How could you go wrong with that?

Turns out the cake was DELICIOUS.  I’m usually a bit picky with my own desserts, often finding the slightest thing wrong with them, and rarely do I come back for seconds once I bring a dessert to a group setting.  However, even I was impressed with this recipe… the cream cheese definitely did not overpower any flavor, but instead gave the crust a very nice texture.  The almond extract in the cake and syrup complemented the white chocolate deliciously, and the almond syrup gave the surface a crispy, sugary crunch that perfectly balanced the soft, yet dense pound cake interior.

I’d say this recipe definitely replaces my previous lemon poppyseed pound cake version.  If you like pound cakes, give this a shot!  As with all pound cakes, it’s very little fuss and doesn’t even need any glaze, frosting or extra decoration.  The strawberry coulis was a nice complement but some people did without it, so it’s purely optional.  Pound cakes are the original ‘butter cakes’ (traditionally they were just made with equal parts butter, sugar, eggs and flour to sum up to a pound), and thus they taste better at room temperature than chilled.  Just keep it sealed with wrap or something and it should last 3-5 days at room temp.  If you need to store it longer than that, wrap it and keep it in the fridge, but be sure to bring it to room temperature before serving.

White Chocolate Almond Pound Cake

from Seven Spoons blog

Ingredients

  • Melted butter for greasing the pan
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped white chocolate.

Almond simple syrup (optional):

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Directions

1.  Preheat oven to 350 F.  Lightly butter and flour (or spray) a 10″ tube pan.  I used one of my handy bundt cake pans for this.

2.  Sift together flour and salt in a medium bowl.  Set aside.

3.  In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or with an electric beater, cream together the softened butter, cream cheese and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. This will take about 5 minutes, being sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl periodically.

4.  Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides again and beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla and almond extracts.

5.  With the mixer on low, add the flour in two additions, alternating with the milk. Mix until just combined. With the mixer still on low (or with a rubber spatula), stir in the white chocolate. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, mounding the edges up slightly and leaving a bit of a furrow through the middle. Hit the pan against the counter to remove any trapped air bubbles.

batter in bundt cake pan

batter in bundt cake pan

6.  While cake is baking, combine the water, sugar and almond extract in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook until the sugar is dissolved and the syrup becomes thick.

7.  The cakes should be done after 75-85 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the centre comes out clean and the top is golden brown. Allow to cool in pan, on a wire rack, for 10 minutes.

8.  Turn the cake out onto the rack and use a pastry brush to coat the cake entirely with the syrup. Allow to cool completely.


Strawberry Coulis

from smitten kitchen

Ingredients

  • 2 cups quartered hulled strawberries (about 12 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Directions

Combine strawberries, water, sugar and lemon juice in blender. Purée until very smooth, then press through a fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds. Cover and refrigerate until cold. Coulis can be prepared one day ahead.

strawberry coulis

strawberry coulis

Lemon Bars or Pie

Ingredients

For the crust:

  • 1 ½ cups AP flour
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar plus additional for dusting
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter plus additional for greasing – chilled and cut into small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup almonds or pistachios – chopped

For the filling:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs – beaten
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ cup AP flour
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest

Directions
1.  Preheat oven to 350oF. Into a medium bowl, sift together 1 ½ cups flour, powdered sugar and salt. Cut in the butter, 1 teaspoon zest and nuts until mixture just clings together.

2.  Press mixture into a lightly buttered 9” x 13” baking dish (or into a 10” spring form pan for pie). Bake until just firm and lightly golden, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly before adding filling.

3.  In a nonreactive bowl (glass or stainless steel), stir together the sugar, eggs, lemon juice, baking powder, ¼ cup AP flour and tablespoon zest until combined. Pour into prepared, cooled crust.

4.  Bake until filling is set and lightly browned, 25-30 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack til it’s room temperature. I then put it in the fridge for about a hour before cutting into bars. Dust bars with powdered sugar.

5.  If you’re going to make a lemon meringue pie, the meringue recipe is below.

Swiss Meringue Ingredients:
2 large egg whites, room temperature
½ cup sugar
Small pinch cream of tarter
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:
1.  Whisk egg whites, sugar and cream of tarter in a heatproof mixing bowl (glass or stainless steel) set over a pot of simmering water until sugar has dissolved and whites are hot to the touch, 3-3 ½ minutes.
2.  Remove from heat. Beat on low speed, gradually increasing to high until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 10 minutes. Beat in the vanilla. Use immediately.
3.    Put meringue on top of pie to make it look pretty.  Brulee if you can!

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