January 2014 - Buttered Side Up

The Best Lemon Bars: Lemon Curd Squares

This recipe was originally posted on December 22, 2011 on Cooking for Seven. These are, to date, the best lemon bars I have ever made (or eaten), so I wanted to make sure to share the recipe with you.

Lemon Bars | Buttered Side Up
Lemon Bars | Buttered Side Up
Lemon Bars | Buttered Side Up
Lemon Bars | Buttered Side Up
Lemon Bars | Buttered Side Up

My Dad hates citrus in baked goods. Thus, I have always been leery of cooking with lemons, oranges, limes, etc.
Reuben loves lemon bars. When he informed me of this, I promised to make him some. I searched the internet over for the perfect recipe, and settled one entitled “Lemon Curd Squares.” When I saw that the ingredient list included cream, I knew I needed to make them.
And I wasn’t disappointed in my choice. Reuben loves them. He requested I send several bars in his lunch so he could share them with the other guys. That day he posted on my Facebook wall: “Best lemon bars ever. :)” <— Proudest. Moment. Ever.
These lemon bars are the perfect medium between overpoweringly sweet and mouth-puckering sour. The crust is wonderfully tasty, enhanced by a smidgen of cinnamon. Dust with a little powdered sugar, and you have an elegant, scrumptious dessert.

Lemon Curd Squares
Adapted from Willams-Sanoma | Printable Recipe | Makes 12 Bars
For the crust:
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (I used half white, half whole wheat)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar (I used demerara)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 8 Tbs. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
For the lemon filling:
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar (I used ground demerara)
  • 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest (optional)
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 Tbs. heavy cream
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting (optional)
To make the crust:
1.) Preheat an oven to 350°F. Lightly grease an 8-inch square baking dish (preferably glass) and line with parchment paper.
In a food processor, combine the flour, granulated sugar, salt and cinnamon. Pulse briefly until blended. Add the butter and pulse until the dough forms moist crumbs and sticks together when pinched, about 1 minute. There should be no trace of dryness. Press the dough into the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of the prepared baking dish, lightly flouring your fingertips if necessary to prevent them from sticking. Bake the crust until pale golden, 20 to 22 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the crust cool completely. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.
To make the filling:
1.) In a bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar, flour, salt and lemon zest. Add the eggs, lemon juice and cream and whisk until just blended. Carefully pour the mixture over the baked crust.
Bake until the filling is set but still jiggles slightly when the dish is gently shaken, about 20 minutes, or longer if using a metal pan. Transfer the pan to the wire rack and let cool for about 30 minutes. Run the tip of a small knife along the inside of the dish to loosen the crust from the sides, then let cool completely.
Cut into 12 small rectangles (fewer if you want larger bars). Grab the sides of parchment paper that stick out from the pan and carefully remove the bars from the dish. Just before serving, sift a dusting of confectioners sugar over the bars.

Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese from Scratch

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese | Buttered Side Up
Homemade Macaroni and Cheese | Buttered Side Up
Homemade Macaroni and Cheese | Buttered Side Up
Mac and Cheese
Homemade Macaroni and Cheese | Buttered Side Up

I used to turn up my nose at the very thought of mac and cheese. Growing up, we rarely ate the stuff. Occasionally we'd try a prepackaged variety. Horrid. Just horrid.
Fast forward to after Reuben and I were married. He told me about how much he liked mac and cheese. So I decided to try make some for him: from scratch. It was massively gross. I used whole wheat noodles which were bitter, and the sauce was tasteless. Needless to say I was very discouraged.
And so Reuben convinced me to (reluctantly) buy the prepackaged variety. To my surprise, I quite liked it.
But I didn't want to give up on mac and cheese from scratch.
I tried my fair share of macaroni and cheese recipes. They were all disappointing on some level. And then one day, being fed up with making cheese sauces and shoving mac and cheese into the oven, I decided to simplify things. I threw some good ingredients into a pot of noodles and gave it a stir. Bingo. Delicious.

This recipe is quite rich. If you aren't in love with all things cheesy and creamy, this may not be the recipe for you. But if you like things over-the-top, you should definitely give this a try.

NOTE: I like shredding the cheese myself rather than using the pre-shredded stuff you buy in a big bag - it's full of anti-caking agents. 
Also, inspired by Tracy, I gave Sriracha on mac and cheese a try. It was quite good.

Easy Stovetop Mac and Cheese 
recipe by Erica Lea of Buttered Side Up | serves 3-4 | Printable Page

8 ounces of pasta (shells, bow ties, penne, whatever you please)
6-7 ounces of cheddar cheese, shredded
6 tablespoons of butter
3 tablespoons of cream
salt to taste

1) Bring a pot of water to a boil. GENEROUSLY salt the water. It's critical to salt the water enough, otherwise you pasta will be tasteless. Add the pasta and cook to your preferred doneness. Drain and return pasta to pan (I like to use a pot with a draining lid).

2) Add the butter to the still-hot pasta, cover and allow to melt a bit. Add the cheese and cream and give it a good stir. Put the lid back on and let it rest a bit. Give it another stir after a few minutes. Everything should come together into a smooth sauce. Taste and season with more salt if needed. Serve immediately.

3) Store any leftover in the refrigerator. Make sure to add a little cream to the pot when you reheat; otherwise the cheese will separate. 

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