Have you ever had those moments where you have absolutely no confidence that the outcome of any given situation will end favorably? You have accepted defeat. Failure is imminent. You just want to get it over with already so you can shake it off and move on. It’s one of those things that happens to everyone at one time or another. Nobody’s perfect, after all.
Example: Let’s say you are cramming hard for finals in a crowded university library. You’re jamming to some Matchbox Twenty on your Sony Discman (no iPods yet!) and highlighting away in a textbook with your favorite purple highlighter. You are in the zone. You’ve got this in the bag. You are surrounded by at least a hundred of your closest friends doing the exact same thing. It’s been a long evening, so you decide to take a break. You put down your highlighter and take off your headphones. You stretch out your legs and pull your arms up over your head. Ahhh. That feels good. But those legs need just a bit more stretching. You tip your chair back a bit to really get at those muscles.
Then it happens. You realize there is no stopping it. It’s going to end badly. You realize you have absolutely ZERO confidence in your ability to stop yourself from falling backwards in your chair. In the library. In front of everyone. CRASH! A nanosecond later, you are on your back staring up at the ceiling.
Another example: Let’s say for three to five months of every year, your lovely Midwestern state with it’s miles of lush farmland and pefect glowing sunshine becomes a terrible, arctic wasteland of wintery doom. The snow flies, the wind blows, the ice builds up so much on your driveway you could go there and start training for Olympic speed skating events. It’s bad enough when you are standing in front of a window in your pj’s inside your nice, warm cozy house looking outside at it. It’s quite another to be out in it. But life must go on. You feel that little pang of jealousy toward your brothers in southern states where entire cities shut down just because three inches of snow falls. But, alas, you’ve lived in the Midwest for nearly thirty years and you know that it’s business as usual when winter weather strikes.
So you’re driving down a fairly busy residential street one evening after the snow’s been falling all day. You inch along slowly, careful not to make any sudden moves. Your eyes are wide with panic, your knuckles white with the fear that can only come from trying to navigate a particularly hairy snow covered street. Behind you, giant SUVs and pick up trucks are piling up, irritated to be stuck behind one THOSE people who won’t just move her ass already. You see another car approaching the road from a side street in front of you. It’s moving way, WAY too fast.
The car tries to slow down but slides out into your path. You are helpless. You have absolutely ZERO confidence that you will be able to avoid hitting that car. You move your foot to the brake and brace yourself. You are about to get into an accident.
A third example: Let’s say you have a bag of lemons on hand that’s just begging to be turned into lemon bars. You find a recipe that looks tasty and sounds easy so you go to work measuring, mixing and beating things into a crust and a filling. Your recipe calls for beating four eggs until thick. You turn on your trusty KA mixer and let it go to town. After 5 or 6 minutes, you take a look and decide that said eggs are not really thick. Well, maybe they are kinda thick. Thicker, maybe, than they were? You can’t really tell. Meh. Good enough, you decide, and off you go adding the rest of the ingredients.
When it’s all said and done, you realize your lemon bar filling is thin. Like really, REALLY thin. Hm. So you beat it some more, even going as far as to switch out your paddle attachment for your beater attachment. It is clear that your lemon filling is not going to get any thicker. You decide to press forward. Panic sets in as you pour your filling onto your par-baked crust. It flows like water, with definite splashback. The evidence is on your shirt. Maneuvering the pan to the oven prooves challenging, as you try not to spill this awful, runny filling all over the floor.
This can’t be good. There’s NO WAY this right. Where did you go wrong? What happened? You have absolutely ZERO confidence that these lemon bars are going to turn out. What a waste of time and ingredients.
Ah! But a wait a minute! Things are not always as bad as they seem. Tsk, tsk, tsk, Oh Ye of Little Faith, for assuming the worst.
Fall backwards in your chair at the library? No worries. Everyone around you is so focused on the task at hand that not one person notices. Not a soul looks up and sees you sprawled on the floor like a rag doll. You are either extremely lucky…or you are a really quiet faller.
About to hit a crazy driver who slides into your path on cold winter’s night? No problem. You some how manage to slow down just enough to let the guy get his bearings in your lane and move forward. WHEW! Thank goodness! You are either extremely lucky…or you are quite the tactful and alert winter driver.
Lemon bars looking like a huge, embarrassing failure? It’s okay, because after 20 minutes in the oven, they have set beautifully with not even the slightest quiver of runniness in the center. And after cooling and chilling, they cut like a dream with a perfectly tart, smooth, creamy filling that’s just makes you want to run screaming down the street proclaiming your Kitchen Greatness to your entire neighborhood. You are either extremely lucky…or… Oh, heck with that, you knew they’d be okay from the start, right? There’s no way you’d mess up a recipe for lemon bars, for goodness sake. I mean, really…..
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, you can change all the “yous” in the stories above to “me, mine, I, my,” etc. etc. All three of those are true stories that did in fact happen to yours truly. The Great Lemon Bar Saga of 2009 being the most recent, of course.
I really honestly thought these weren’t going to turn out. I had trouble from the get go. Right off the bat, I overpulsed the butter for the crust mixture in my food processor. Let’s just say I did not have coarse crumbs. I had what looked, well, flour. I was sure I wasn’t going to be able to press it into my pan with any kind of positive result. I was wrong! Crust came together wonderfully despite my error. And then, of course, there was the filling fiasco. I was so sure I had a stinker on my hands, I was already rummaging around to see what else I could bake today to fill the void left by the loser Lemon Bars.
I was so pleasantly surprised at how wonderful they are! They held up great after being cut into squares and the filling is wonderful. Sometimes I find lemon bars to be too sweet…I want to taste LEMON for crying out loud! I want that tiny bit of pucker on the inside of my cheeks. These are perfect. Smooth, creamy and sweet without being too sweet.
Oh, the only thing…I did end up with tiny bubbles all over the tops of my bars probably because I beat the snot out of the egg mixture before pouring it into the pan. All worked out great though, because they’re dusted in powdered sugar! Bubbles? What are these bubbles you speak of? I see no such thing, be gone with you!
Give these a try today! And DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT panic when your filling looks too thin. They’ll be fine. I promise!
LEMON BARS (Recipe Source: Martha Stewart, Everyday Food)
FOR THE CRUST:
- Non-stick cooking spray
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
- 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for sifting
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
FOR THE FILLING:
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 4 medium lemons)
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with rack in center. Coat a 9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray; line pan with two crisscrossed rectangles of parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides.
- Make the crust: In a food processor, pulse flour with confectioners’ sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press into bottom and 3/4 inch up sides of prepared pan. Refrigerate 15 minutes.
- Bake until crust is lightly browned 20 minutes. Let cool slightly in pan. Reduce oven heat to 325 degrees.
- Meanwhile, make the lemon filling: In a bowl, beat eggs with an electric mixer until thick. Beat in granulated sugar, lemon juice, flour, baking powder, and salt. Pour over warm crust. Bake until set, about 20 minutes. Cool to room temperature; refrigerate about 1 hour.
- Using paper overhang as an aid, lift square from pan. Sift remaining tablespoon confectioners’ sugar over the top. Cut into 16 squares.
ENJOY! (with confidence)
One year ago: I wasn’t doing much cooking because Eric and I were enjoying a long weekend in St. Louis! Check out all the fun we had!