The Best Lemon Bars

I shared a bit earlier this summer that my kids have declared this the summer of cooking with mom.  We have spent a ton of time in the kitchen whipping up all kinds of treats from cookies to fresh donuts.  The kids have taken turns picking what the next thing we make together will be.   It was recently my oldest daughter’s turn to pick.  Emily begged to make lemon bars.

I love lemon everything (if you can’t tell by my blog title!).  Lemon meringue pie, lemon poppy seed muffins, lemonade, lemon bread…you name it.  I have a recipe for lemon bars that I love but the kids have complained in the past that it is too tart. However, I love the tart flavor of these bars! I’m not sure where I got this recipe but I’ve been using it for years. I was hesitant to make them with Emily when she asked but she was adamant that she wanted to make the sour lemon bars. Thankfully, my kids’ taste has seem to matured a bit and they appreciated these lemon bars much more than the last time I made them.

The Best Lemon Bars

For the crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup of sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon zest
  • 1/2 (1 stick) of melted butter

For the filling:

  • 4 whole eggs
  • 1 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 1/3 cups of sugar

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Mix flour, salt, sugar, and lemon zest together with a wire whisk. Using a hand mixer beat the melted butter into the flour mixture until it becomes dry and crumbly.  Press the crust mixture into the bottom of a slightly greased 9 x 9 pan. Use your hands or the back of a spoon to press the crust and even it out.
  • Bake your crust for 16 to 19 minutes until it is firm and slightly browned.  While the crust is baking make your filling. Using an electric mixer, mix the eggs, lemon juice, and sugar until well combined.
  • After your crust is done baking, poor the filling over the crust while it is still hot.  Bake the bars for another 20 to 25 minutes or until the filling is set. The filling should be firm and not jiggle much when the pan is shaken slightly.
  • Allow the bars to cool completely. Once cooled, store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.  When you are ready to serve them, dust the bars with powdered sugar and serve.

Fresh Donuts and Our Summer Cooking Plans

Donuts are one of my favorite treats.  There isn’t much that beats a fresh, warm glazed donut and a hot cup of coffee in the morning.  My children share my love of donuts and they often beg to hit up the local donut shop before school in the mornings. A couple years ago, I began to wonder how hard it would be to make our own donuts at home.  I set out to find a good recipe and replicate our favorite donuts. We experimented with a few cookbooks and recipes and finally found a donut recipe that we love.

My children declared this the summer of cooking with mom.  Every day one of them has asked to make something with me. They have decided that they want to spend this summer taking turns cooking with me.  Most of the time they each want to cook with me one-on-one but occasionally they pick a treat that requires a significant amount of work and they all pitch in to help.  This past Wednesday was one of those days. They decided they wanted to make homemade donuts.  Donuts aren’t a treat that we make often because they do take several hours to make.

We had absolutely nothing to do and nowhere to be on Wednesday so we all hustled into the kitchen. It took several hours but by the time Daniel got home from work we had two batches of donuts made. We had blast hanging out together all afternoon!

When I started my quest to find a yummy donut recipe for homemade donuts, I purchased several donut cookbooks.  My favorite one is Doughnuts: Simple and Delicious Recipes to Make at Home. I love this cookbook because the recipes and ingredients are simple.  The author, Lara Ferroni, includes recipes for basic glazed donuts as well as more elaborate recipes like strawberry shortcake donuts. There are recipes for both raised donuts and cake donuts as well as a variety of  frostings, glazes, and fillings.

To help make your donut endeavors successful, I do recommend these products.  They aren’t all necessary, depending on the recipe that you are using, but they are often helpful.

Basic Glazed Donuts

For the donuts:

  • 3 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 1 cup of whole milk
  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups of bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup of unsalted butter, melted
  • Vegetable oil for frying

For the glaze:

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons of milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Directions:
  1. Begin by heating the milk to roughly 115 degrees. In a medium mixing bowl, dissolve 2 tablespoons of the yeast into 3/4 cup of the warm milk.  Add 3/4 cup of the bread flour and stir to create a paste. Cover and let the mixture rest in a warm spot for roughly 30 minutes.
  2. Combine the remaining warm milk and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer.  With the paddle attachment on, add the rested flour, milk, and yeast mixture to the mixing bowl.  Add the sugar, salt, vanilla, and egg yolks. Mix until smooth. Remove the paddle attachment and use a dough hook to slowly alternate adding the rest of the bread flour and the unsalted butter until the dough pulls completely away from the sides of the bowl and is smooth and not too sticky. The dough should be very soft and moist but not so sticky that it is impossible to roll it out.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour but not more than 12 hours.
  3. Remove dough from the refrigerator. Line a baking sheet with a lightly floured non-terry dish towel. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface until it is roughly 1/2 inch think.  Use a donut cutter, to cut out the donuts.  If you would like these donuts to be filled, then do not cut the hole out.  A biscuit cutter works great for filled donuts.
  4. Place the donuts on the towel lined baking sheet at least 1 inch apart. Cover them with plastic wrap and allow them to sit in a warm spot to proof until they are double in size.  This usually takes about 5 to 20 minutes.  To test whether the dough is ready, tough it lightly.  If it springs back immediately then the dough needs more time.  If it springs back slowly, then the dough is ready. If it doesn’t spring back at all then the dough has overproofed.  Punch that dough down and roll it out again.
  5. For the glaze, mix the powdered sugar, milk and vanilla with a hand mixer on medium speed. You want a smooth, pourable glaze.  If the glaze is too runny, add a bit more powdered sugar.  If it is too thick, add a bit more milk.
  6. While the donuts are proofing, heat a heavy-bottomed pot with at least 2 inches of vegetable oil until a deep fat thermometer registers 360 degrees.  Once the donuts have proofed, use a metal spatula to careful lower the donuts into the hot oil. Fry for 1 to 2 minutes per side or until the dough turns a light golden brown.  Use a slotted spoon to carefully remove the donuts from the oil.  Place on a wire rack over a paper towel to drain the excess oil.
  7. After the donuts have cooled slightly, glaze them.  You can pour the glaze directly over them if you prefer.  I prefer to dip the donut in the glaze so that the glaze only covers about half the donut.

Source

This recipe and techniques are adapted from Doughnuts: Simple and Delicious Recipes to Make at Home by Lara Ferroni


Disclaimer

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission (at no cost to you). I only recommend books and products that I genuinely use, read, and love!

Valentine Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

It isn’t technically spring yet but it sure feels like it here in Arkansas.  We’ve enjoyed springlike weather with temperatures in the 70s and 80s all week.  I’ve absolutely loved it and it has kindled my desire to make spring treats and fire up the grill.

Every spring there is a little, local store run by a farm that opens in our town.  They have fields and fields of strawberries and the kids and I love to load up on fresh strawberries from this store.  We typically by a couple of huge boxes of those sweet berries and make all kinds of yummy treats in addition to just enjoying some fresh berries.  We usually make fresh strawberry jam and strawberry muffins but my favorite treat to make with the kids is chocolate-covered strawberries!  Our little, local farm store won’t open until April so we had to settle for strawberries from the grocery store but the girls and I got a head start on strawberry treats this afternoon.

 

Since this spring weather has put us in the mood for spring treats and it is the weekend before Valentine’s Day, Emily, Lauren, and I headed to the kitchen to add a Valentine’s spin to chocolate-covered strawberries.  Chocolate-covered strawberries are the perfect thing to satisfy my sweet tooth and one of the easiest, kid-friendly things to make in the kitchen.

We began by washing our strawberries off.  The girls do a great job at rinsing the berries and then using a paper towel to gently dry them off.  The chocolate becomes watered down and doesn’t stick to the berries if you don’t make sure they are dry.

Since this is a treat that I tend to make with the kids every year, I definitely try to make it as easy as possible.  One way I do that is by using Bakers Heat and Dip Dipping Chocolate.  Guys, I love this stuff!  It is so easy and it tastes sooooo good!  Open the package and stick it in the microwave for 30 seconds.  Stir the chips around with a spoon and then stick is back in the microwave for another 30 seconds.  Repeat until it is all melted.

Once your chocolate is melted, gently grab a clean, dry strawberry by the stem and dip it into the melted chocolate.  Set the dipped strawberries on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and let them sit until the chocolate had hardened.  Since it is so close to Valentine’s Day, my girls and I decided to get creative and add some Valentine’s sprinkles but the plain chocolate ones are still my favorite.  For the white chocolate ones, we used Ghiradelli White Chocolate Baking Chips.  We used these the same way that we used the Bakers Heat and Dip Dipping Chocolate.  We put some of the white chocolate in a small, deep bowl and melted them for thirty seconds at a time in the microwave.  We then dipped the strawberries in the white chocolate just like we did in the Bakers Chocolate.  If you want to add sprinkles, then make sure you sprinkle them on the strawberries immediately after you dip them and before the chocolate dries.

Bakers Heat and Dip Dipping Chocolate provides such a wonderful, smooth coat of chocolate and isn’t too hard when it dries.  It is so smooth and creamy once it dries on the strawberries!  One container usually does a pint of strawberries, give or take.  For the five of us in the house that can eat them, we usually make two pints of strawberries and use two of these dipping chocolate containers.

This treat literally took less than twenty minutes for my girls and I to make.  Even allowing the chocolate time to dry, these strawberries were ready to eat in under an hour.  You can pop your cookie sheet with strawberries in the refrigerator for a few minutes to make the chocolate harden quicker.  Also, they will keep in an air tight container in the refrigerator for a couple of days.

During the spring and summer months, we usually make these a couple of times a month.  They are a quick and easy treat.  I would much rather my kids eat fruit with a bit of chocolate than having something like a brownie or cookie for a snack so I consider it a win on the healthy eating front as well.  We don’t generally add sprinkles to our strawberries but we thought it would be fun for Valentine’s Day.  You can omit them though or add different colors for different holidays.  Green for St. Patrick’s day or pretty pastels for Easter would be cute!  Give it a try!  The next time you are creating your grocery order for your Walmart grocery pickup (best thing ever!) throw some Bakers Heat and Dip Dipping Chocolate and some strawberries in your cart for a quick, sweet treat!  Happy dipping!

 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I may receive a small commission.