Thursday, June 9, 2011

The lagniappe in limoncello

The long-awaited limoncello is ready!  I've bottled portions of it for friends and it's been well-received.  I even managed to save some for me--for later in the summer when it's really hot, really sultry and really humid.  In Texas. that seems to be NOW!!  On a night when the crickets are singing in the trees and the frogs are chorusing in the pond, on a night following a day that has been one constant wave of heat, I'll pour some limoncello over cracked ice and sip it slowly on my patio.  If you're on my patio during one of those hot, summer nights, I'm sure you'll want your own glass of limoncello to sip.

But even though limoncello-making is over for this year, being my mother's daughter, I cannot bear to throw away the lemon peels that have been steeping in vodka and sugar for the past several weeks.  In previous incarnations, I've used them to make baba pastries and I've slivered and added them to lemon sauce that accompanies warm gingerbread.  They'll keep tightly covered for several months in your refrigerator.  Recently, I used them to enhance a pan of lemon bars:  finely minced in the food processor, they melded with butter, sugar and flour to make the rich shortbread crust that lies underneath a delicious, tart, not-too-sweet lemon curd, which was also intensified with more minced lemon peel and mellowed with some of last year's limoncello.

Lemon Bars

These bar cookies are easy to make and utterly delicious if you use top-quality ingredients.  Make sure your butter is fresh and pure-tasting.  Here's the recipe I developed:


1/2 cup loosely packed lemon peels strained from limoncello (alternatively, zest of 1 lemon)
1 cup butter (you'll need to soften it a bit first if you don't have a food processor)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Put lemon peels in food processor and mince finely.  If you are using lemon zest, add that to your bowl now.  Add butter, sugar and flour, processing until mixture resembles coarse meal.  If you work the ingredients by hand, use two forks or a pastry blender to work ingredients into a coarse meal.  Press into an ungreased 9 x 13 inch pan (metal works best for this recipe).

Bake for 20 minutes, or until firm and lightly golden.  Meanwhile, make the lemon curd filling.

Lemon Curd Filling:

4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup flour
juice of 2 lemons
1 Tbs. limoncello
2 Tbs. finely minced lemon peels strained from limoncello (alternatively, zest of 1 lemon)

Whisk together all ingredients until smooth.  Pour over baked crust.  Put pan back in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes more, or until filling is set.  Cool completely and garnish with lemon curls, or cut into 2" squares and dust each square generously with powdered sugar.  Makes 36 bars.

When life gives you lemons, make limoncello!

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