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Arsip Tag: bars
One of the primary pieces of advice my grandmother imparted on me — besides the fact that she thought I should be a writer, an absurd idea I promptly ignored — was that one should always leave the house looking the best they can. I realize this might sound a little old-fashioned and possibly even oppressive — I Exist As More Than A Decorative Object, thankyouverymuch — but I took it to heart nonetheless because I know she didn’t mean high heels and rollers, but mostly that looking more with it than you might actually feel sometimes can trick you too.
I apply it in the kitchen as well. Thus, while if we’re being completely honest, life is currently a swarm of getting recipes ready for the next book (eee!), a to-do list for this month as long as the remainder of this year, kids waking up way too early, mama going to bed too late, an apartment that has yet to clean itself and let’s not even talk about what’s going on in the produce drawer — i.e. real life, and not even a bad one — rather than dwelling on the chaos, I think we should cook for the life we want, not for the life we have. Thus: I choose picnic bars.
Because when the opportunity to spend a weekend picnic-ing or basically doing anything that involves blankets, lawns, hammocks, iced tea or naps and laziness, I’m going to be so ready for it. Also, statistically speaking, having picnic bars ready immensely increases the chance that one will find or create a picnic to take them to. [Caveat: Not confirmed by actual statistician but I just know it’s going to work out for us.]
One year ago: Fake Shack Burger
Two years ago: Soft Pretzel Buns and Knots
Three years ago: Greek Salad with Lemon and Oregano
Four years ago: Vidalia Onion Soup with Wild Rice
Five years ago: Rhubarb Streusel Muffins
Six years ago: Pecan Cornmeal Butter Cake and Mushroom Crepe Cake
Seven years ago: Rhubarb Cobbler and Broccoli Slaw
Eight years ago: Cherry Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake and Mushroom Streudel
Nine years ago: Homemade Oreos and Celophane Noodle Salad with Roast Pork
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Roasted Leek and White Bean Galettes and Date Breakfast Squares
1.5 Years Ago: Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Prailine Sauce
2.5 Years Ago: Green Bean Casserole with Crispy Onions and Apple-Herb Stuffing For All Seasons
3.5 Years Ago: Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette
4.5 Years Ago: Gingersnaps and Sweet Potato and Marshmallow Biscuits
Almond Rhubarb Picnic Bars
Consider these a spring riff on 2014’s apricot pistachio squares; here we make a more classic frangipane with toasted almonds and extract and the rhubarb, well, I know ombré and chevron are totally out these days (grandma would not approve) but this was honestly accidental, a thing that happens almost naturally when you bias-cut a great pile of rhubarb and try to puzzle-piece it into a pattern. If all of your rhubarb are pointing in the same direction when you cut them, that is, the greener bases on one side and the pinker tops on the other, and you work through the pieces from one side of the board to the other, a gentle transition of color happens on its own. Or, you know, you could just scatter pieces all over and it will all taste the same in the end.
You can double this recipe and make them in a 9×13-inch pan.
Yield: I cut these into 16 2×2-inch squares
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon fine sea or salt
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (4 ounces or 115 grams) unsalted butter, cold is fine
3/4 cup (75 grams or 2 1/2 to 2 3/4 ounces) sliced almonds, ideally toasted and cooled
1 tablespoon (10 grams) all purpose flour
A few pinches of sea salt
6 tablespoons (75 grams) plus 1 teaspoon (5 grams) granulated sugar
5 tablespoons (70 grams) unsalted butter, cold is fine
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon almond extract, 2 teaspoons brandy or another flavoring of your choice (totally optional)
1/2 pound rhubarb
Powdered sugar or 1/4 cup jam of your choice
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut two 12-inch lengths of parchment paper and trim each to fit the 8-inch width of an 8×8-inch square baking pan. Press it into the bottom and sides of your pan in one direction, then use the second sheet to line the rest of the pan, perpendicular to the first sheet. This is going to make it very easy to remove the bars.
Make the crust: Combine the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Cut the butter into chunks, and add it to the bowl, then run the machine until the mixture forms large clumps — that’s right, just keep running it; it might take 30 seconds to 1 minute for it to come together, but it will. [No food processor? Get the butter to room temperature and beat it with the sugar, then the flour and salt and mix until combined. Chilling it for 15 minutes or so will make it easier to press in.]
Transfer the dough to your prepared baking pan and press it evenly across the bottom and 1/4-inch up the sides. Bake for 15 minutes, until very pale golden. For the sake of speed, transfer to a cooling rack in your freezer for 10 to 15 minutes while you prepare the filing.
Make the filling: In your food processor bowl (which I never bother cleaning between these steps), grind almonds, 6 tablespoons sugar, flour and salt together until the nuts are powdery. Cut the butter into chunks and add it to the machine. Run the machine until no buttery bits are visible. Add any flavorings and egg, blending until just combined. Spread filling over mostly cooled (warmth is okay but it’s hoped that the freezer will have firmed the base enough that you can spread something over it) crust.
Arrange the fruit: Trim rhubarb and cut it half horizontally top to bottom, i.e. like splitting a hamburger bun, with the flatter part on the bottom. [Update: Does this diagram help?] Keep tops and bottoms matched/stacked and cut stalks on the diagonal into about 1 1/4-inch lengths. The top and bottom of each segment should nicely “V” together, color side up, in a chevron pattern. If you mostly reach for the more green segments first and the pink-er segments second, you’ll end up with an ombré look on top. Sprinkle fruit with 1 teaspoon granulated sugar.
Bake the bars: For 45 to 55 minutes, until they’re golden on top and a toothpick inserted into the almond cream underneath comes out cream-free. The rhubarb pieces are going to move around a little as it bakes so don’t be surprised if the pattern looks a little different when it’s done.
Let cool in pan on a rack, or in the fridge, or even in the freezer. You can decorate the bars with a little powdered sugar, or warm some jam and brush it over for a glossier finish. I find it easiest to get very clean cuts when the bars are very cold. A serrated knife, used gently, can ensure the rhubarb stays perfectly put if it’s not cold enough. While bars do not need to be refrigerated if it will just be a day or so, they keep longer and (I think) more nicely chilled.
This has been my go-to cheesecake for as long as I have cooked. Gourmet Magazine published it in 1999, but the recipe hailed from Santa Fe’s Three Cities of Spain coffeehouse* a place I didn’t know a thing about until this week, when curiosity got the better of my intentions to something succinct about cake for once in my food blogging life. Up the road from an artists’ colony, it was apparently a popular hangout in the 1960s for local bohemia, hosting an eclectic mix of entertainment from poets and musicians to foreign films. It closed in the mid-1970s, probably around the time Santa Fe was starting to become too expensive for starving artists. Canyon Road, once dirt, was paved. From Googling, it looks like the old adobe home that housed it (apparently built in 1756) became Geronimo restaurant (named after the man who built it) in the early 1990s, and is still open today. What does this have to do with the cheesecake they kept in the pastry case? Very little, friends — and please correct me if this Manhattan-ite got any Santa Fe details wrong — but I can’t resist a cake with a story.
My cheesecake story is much less interesting; this site’s archives would tell you otherwise but I came late to it. My husband loves it, many of you who read this site seem to love it, and I don’t… dislike it, I just don’t need more than one or two slices a year. I find it so heavy and overly monotonous; I always wish the proportions were different, say, the same amount of buttery crust and whatever topping you wish but a thinner layer of baked cream cheese custard. It not a testament to my mental acuity that it took me this many years to figure out this was the easiest way to make it happen. As bars, the taste is less heavy, it feeds a lot more people, and it’s portable, meaning it can go anywhere you want to this weekend (your friends thank you, in advance).
What I’ve always loved about this cheesecake is the dead simplicity of it — 3 bricks of cream cheese, 4 eggs, 1 cup of sugar, some vanilla — and the creaminess despite the lack of sour cream or other dairy within. There no flour and no fuss. If your cream cheese is soft enough, you could whisk it entirely by hand. It’s much less sweet than most, so it doesn’t taste like, say, baked cream cheese frosting, and it’s topped with a layer of barely sugared sour cream that’s baked right onto the cake. I think it’s brilliant; it’s a harmonious accent and visually pleasing but more importantly, since I have very little patience for baking in water baths (although with bars like this, and not a potentially leaky springform, it would be as easy as it gets), this topping hides any cracks that might appear.
I had intended to maybe marble in a berry sauce — I think berries against cheesecake is aces — but then I went to the Greenmarket where berry season is in full swing so and everything was so pretty, I couldn’t possibly bring myself to cook them and piled them on instead. But this recipe is flexible and I think you could easily tweak it in a number of ways:
• Skipping the sour cream topping and adding a slick of whipped cream instead, although I would do this closer to serving and eating it.
• Marbling it with a raspberry or other sauce, as we did here.
• Topping it with a chocolate glaze, as we did here, or starting the bars with a chocolate base, as we did here.
• Adding the finely grated citrus zest of any kind that you like by rubbing it into the sugar before adding it to the cake.
• Marbling the top with dulce de leche before baking it.
• Using a more traditional cooked fruit topping, as we did here.
* rather the loveliest name, says someone heading to Barcelona next week, albeit with a heavier heart than anticipated
If nuts are an issue, you can skip them, or I’d recommend replacing them with an equal weight of toasted coconut flakes, roughly chopped.
- 1/2 cup (2 1/4 ounces or 65 grams) whole toasted almonds
- 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (245 grams) all-purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 cup (6 ounces, 12 tablespoons, or 170 grams) cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) cold water, plus an additional tablespoon, if needed
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (115 grams) granulated sugar
- 3 6-ounce containers fresh raspberries (510 grams, 18 ounces, or about 4.5 cups)
Make the bars in a food processor: Pulse almonds in your food processor until coarsely chopped. Set them aside and lightly wipe crumbs from workbowl. Add flour and salt and pulse to combine. Add butter and pulse the machine in short bursts until the the largest butter bits are the size of small peas.
Both methods: Divide butter-flour mixture into two bowls (each will have 1 1/2 cups of crumbs). Drizzle cold water over first bowl, use a spoon or spatula to mix it into shaggy clumps, then use your hands to quickly, gently knead it together into one ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, flattening it a packet shape. Chill for 1 hour, or until firm.
Add sugar and chopped almonds to second bowl of butter-flour mixture and use your fingertips to pinch them together, mashing up the buttery bits, until a loosely clumped streusel is formed. Set this aside. At this point, you can refrigerate both the crumbs and the dough overnight (and up to 3 days) and bake it when needed.
Assemble your bars: Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat an 8×8-inch cake pan with nonstick spray. Line the bottom and two sides with a fitted piece of parchment paper. You can also make this in a 9- to 9.5-inch round tart pan. No need to line the bottom with parchment paper if there’s a removable base.
On a well-floured counter, unwrap your packet of dough, sprinkle the top generously with flour, and roll you dough to a 10×10-inch square (or a 13-inch round for a round pan). Gently fold it into quarters and unfold it into your prepared pan, centering the dough as best as you can. Press into the bottom of the pan and 1-inch up the sides, folding the extra dough over the walls and pressing it against the sides to reinforce the edges. Don’t worry if it’s messy — mine totally was. The only thin you want to avoid is holes or tears; patch any that you see.
Fill base with berries and sprinkle evenly with crumble topping. It will seem like too much but it’s going to be perfect once it bakes.
Bake bars: For 40 to 50 minutes, covering with foil if it browns before it’s done. Bars are done when they’re an even golden brown and (this is the most important part) you can see the berry juices bubbling through the crumbs. Let cool for 20 minutes on a cooling rack, then use the parchment sling to lift bars out of pan and cool the rest of the way on the rack. (Or, if using a tart pan with removable sides, remove them now.)
To serve: Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if you wish, and use a serrated knife to cut into squares (or if a round pan, wedges). Bars keep at room temperature or the fridge, lightly wrapped, for 5 days.
To scale this up to a 9×13 quarter-sheet pan, use:
- 1 cup (4 1/2 ounces or 130 grams) whole almonds
- 3 cups plus 3 tablespoons (415 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 1/3 cups (21 tablespoons, 10.5 ounces, or 300 grams) cold, unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup (80 ml) cold water
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
- 5 1/2 6-ounce containers fresh raspberries (905 grams, 32 ounces, or 8 cups)
9×13 quarter-sheet pan instructions: When you need to divide the crumbs in half, each half will have about [edited] 2 2/3 cups of butter-flour mixture. Line your 9×13-inch pan with a rectangle of parchment paper. Roll the crust to 13×17-inches and proceed as above. It took about 10 minutes longer to bake, but keep an eye on it, covering it with foil if it gets too brown too fast. I let it cool completely in the pan.
Let’s talk about lemons: Spungen recommends a Meyer lemon for the whole lemon but I found in working on my own whole lemon bars that regular (Eureka) lemons were just fine so long as they’re not too large (4 to 4.5 ounces is ideal) and the skin isn’t too thick. Cut the lemon in half and take a look at the thickness of the pith (white layer) of the skin. Does it look thick to you, perhaps even 1/4-inch thick or larger? If so, go ahead and remove the skin only from one half of the lemon before proceeding. If it looks normal or not especially thick, you’ll be just fine.
- 9 whole graham cracker sheets (1 sleeve), broken into pieces or 1 1/2 cups (150 grams) crumbs
- 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
- Large pinch of salt
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 1 whole (preferably organic) lemon, any variety (see Note), scrubbed
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 4 large egg yolks
- 8 tablespoons (4 ounces or 115 grams) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional; I skip it)
- Pinch of salt
- 4 large egg whites
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
Place the graham crackers, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process until the fine crumbs form. Add the cold butter and pulse until the cold butter blends into the crumbs. It should look and feel like wet sand. Transfer to the prepared pan and mix it up with your hands to make sure the butter is well distributed. Press into the pan, going up the sides a bit, and bake for 10 minutes, or until just golden. Let cool while you make the filling.
Make the filling: [See Note up top for using different lemons.] Trim the stem end of the whole lemon and cut it into thin slices. Remove any seeds. Add to a food processor or blender jar (preferably a high speed blender) along with the lemon juice, egg yolks, butter, sugar, vanilla (if using), and salt and blend until very smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Pour over the crust (it’s ok if it’s still warm) and bake for 30 minutes, or until it is bubbling and browning around the edges. It won’t look at all set, and might even look like a total mess (unevenly browned or bubbly), but it will set up as it cools. Place on a cooling rack. After about 10 minutes, run a small, sharp knife around the edges. Cool completely, then chill until coldm (I sped this up in the freezer). When completely chilled, carefully remove the parchment and, using a spatula, transfer to a small baking sheet (you can do this just before adding the topping — I missed this step and regretted it because you want the paper off before you try to toast the top or it will — whoops — burn).
Make the meringue: An hour or so before serving, make the topping. Combine the egg whites, sugar, vanilla, and salt in the metal bowl of a stand mixer and set over a pan of simmering water. Keep the mixture moving, using a whisk or the whisk attachment, until the sugar is completely melted and it’s hot to the touch (or 160F). Transfer to a stand mixer and beat on high speed until glossy and very stiff, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to the top of the lemon bars, smooth out, and use a large serving fork to create a pattern in the meringue, or the back of a spoon or offset spatula to make swirls like you see here.
Finish the bars: When you’re ready to finish, use a kitchen torch or your oven’s broiler to brown the meringue. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Use a knife dipped into hot water to cut bars into 12 to 16 squares, depending on how large you want them.