First off, a new discovery: I have a food writer cousin in Palm Beach! She does great stuff, so go check it out. This is not one of those Spanish stretches of the word cousin, either, but an actual relative. We are both descended from same the great-grandmother who made American style biscuits for tea in Bilbao.
Simon Hopkinson says that good cooking is one third talent, one third skill, and one third good taste.
I think that´s probably true for high-end creative chefs. But for the rest of lowly mortals, it´s one third skill and two thirds repetition.
Take these lemon bars. They are without question the most wonderful morsels of tangy-sweet deliciousness known to mankind, but they didn´t start out this way. I tried several versions, all of which were good, but not quite as good as I hoped. Finally, after tweaking and trying and making them several times, I am now convinced that I have the ultimate lemon bar.
The biscuit base is from Belinda Jeffrey´s "Mix and bake". The lemon curd is from Donna Hay´s "Modern Classics 2". Both have been tampered with by yours truly, and adapted for that versatile and trusty old machine, the Thermomix 31*.
The ultimate lemon bar
Preheat the oven to 180º, and make the base
225 gr. flour
180 gr. butter
80 gr. sugar
zest of one lemon
pinch of salt
Put them in that order in the Th, program 15 seconds, speed 6. Turn out and let rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. It´s so buttery that it can be hard to work, so I just squish it into a 30x23 cm. tin, lined with greaseproof paper, and hope for the best.
Bake until pale golden, about 25'.
Meanwhile, make the custardy lemon filling.
Put 6 eggs,
1 and 1/2 tablespoonfuls of cornstarch
1 cup sugar**
1 cup lemon juice
zest of the lemons used for the juice
200 ml. cream
in the bowl. Program 5 minutes, speed 4, 80ºC.
This makes more than you´ll need for the size of tin. You can either do the complicated sums needed to cut down the recipe to four eggs, or have a bit of a lick-the-bowl fest, and still have some left for a couple of sweet little ramekins.
Let it cool a little, and spread it over the pastry base. Put in the oven for five minutes to set a bit more, then take it out and leave to cool.
To serve, dust with icing sugar and cut into squares. If you make the squares very small, nobody will even consider doing that annoying polite "oh, no I couldn´t" thing. They´ll come back for more and more.
*If you´re making them without machinery the best way to go will be to make the base as you would shortbread, and the filling as you would custard.
**I like my lemon desserts tart and not overly sweet, so just for your information, I will point out that the original filling in Belinda´s book called for two cups of sugar, and Donna for only 3/4 cup lemon juice.