... with White Chocolate-Lemon Balm Icing. While the name is certainly fun and sounds fancy, these are basically jazzed up lemon bars (that are still really easy to make). I love anything with fruit in it. I'm much more of a baker than I am a cook, so I'm surprised that I have never made lemon bars before. These are so good! The crust is nice and buttery; the center is so tart and lemony; and the white chocolate cream cheese icing is the perfect complement to the tart center.
While the recipe is not too complicated, there are multiple steps that require quite a bit of time, so make sure you are prepared before you set out to make these. The crust needs to bake for 20 minutes, the lemon bar for another 50 minutes, and then it needs to be refrigerated for 1 hour before you can ice it. Additionally, it needs to be refrigerated for 1 hour before slicing.
I was not familiar with lemon balm prior to making this recipe. Lemon balm is actually a lemon scented herb related to mint. Interestingly enough, lemon balm is also used for medicinal purposes, and is believed to aid in the treatment of insomnia and anxiety. As someone who suffers from a bit of insomnia, I wonder if eating a batch of these lemon bars would help me get a better night's sleep ;) Admittedly, I did not make much of an attempt to track this herb down for the recipe; I simply substituted lemon zest. I'm curious about the flavor though, so next time I make this, I plan to find some lemon balm! (*Update: I just found some lemon balm at my local Lowe's store, of all places)
If you don't have one already, get a microplane grater/zester! This recipe calls for a large amount of zest, and you'll be in the kitchen for quite some time without it. It's great for grating cheeses, ginger, chocolate and nutmeg too!
I brought these to work and received compliments from everyone, even those proclaiming that they normally don't like lemon bars :) They are best served cold.
Slammin' Citrus Squares with White Chocolate-Lemon Balm Icing
from Celebrate with Chocolate, by Marcel Desaulniers
2 tsp unsalted butter, melted
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 ounce pieces
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
Super Citrus Center:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
2-1/4 cups granulated sugar
6 large eggs
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (approx. 5-6 lemons weighing 4 oz each)
1/4 cup minced orange zest (approx. 2-1/2 oranges weighing 8 oz each)
1 tbsp minced lime zest (one 3 oz lime)
White Chocolate-Lemon Balm Icing
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
8 ounces cream cheese, cut into 1 ounce pieces
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 ounce pieces
1/4 pound white chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh lemon balm leaves*
*If you are unable to find lemon balm and would like to use an herb, try lemon thyme in the same proportion; or for lemon flavor without an herb, substitute 1 tablespoon of finely minced lemon zest.
To Make the Crust: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly coat the inside of a 13 x 9 x 2-inch nonstick rectangular baking pan with some of the melted butter. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper (or wax paper), then lightly coat the paper with more melted butter. Set aside.
Place the 1/2 pound of butter and the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle. Mix on low speed for 1 minute; then beat on medium for 2 minutes until soft. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Continue beating on medium for an additional 2 minutes until softer. Add the flour and mix on the lowest speed (stir) to combine, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle. Operate the mixer on low for about 20 seconds to finish combining the dough. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan. Wearing a pair of disposable vinyl (or latex) gloves, evenly press the dough into the bottom of the pan from the center to the edges in a uniform thickness (this is almost effortlessly accomplished as the dough is very malleable).
Bake on the center rack in the oven until the edges of the crust are lightly golden brown and have ever so slightly started to pull away from the sides of the pan, 20 to 21 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside at room temperature while preparing the citrus center.
Prepare the Super Citrus Center: Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a sifter, combine the flour and baking powder. Sift onto a large piece of parchment paper (or wax paper) and set aside.
Place the sugar and eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle. Beat on medium speed for 30 seconds until well combined. Add the lemon juice, orange zest, and lime zest and mix on low speed to combine, about 15 seconds. Add the dry ingredients and mix on the lowest speed (stir) until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Once the dry ingredients have been incorporated, stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Operate the mixer on low for 15 seconds to finish combining the ingredients. Pour the citrus mixture into the pan over the top of the baked cookie crust layer.
Bake on the center rack of the oven until golden brown and slightly firm to the touch, about 50 minutes (turn the pan 180 degrees about halfway through the baking time). Remove from the oven. Immediately use a small plastic knife to cut around all the edges of what is not the lemon bar to free it from the sides of the pan. Now, while the lemon bar is still hot (if it cools in the pan it will be very difficult to extricate), turn it out onto a parchment paper (or wax paper) covered baking sheet. Carefully peel the paper away from the crust. Refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour.
Make the White Chocolate-Lemon Balm Icing: Sift the confectioner's sugar onto a large piece of parchment paper (or wax paper). Set aside.
Place the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle. Mix on low speed for 1 minute; then increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes until soft. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle. Beat on medium for 2 more minutes until very soft. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle. Add the confectioner's sugar and mix on the lowest speed (stir) for 1 minute. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Melt the white chocolate. While it is still warm (if it's not warm when added to the mixture, large lumps of chocolate may form) add it and 1 tablespoon fresh chopped lemon balm to the icing mixture. Now beat on medium for 1-1/2 minutes until thoroughly combined and somewhat fluffy.
Remove the lemon bar from the refrigerator. Invert it (cookie crust layer down) onto a baking sheet. Use a cake spatula to evenly spread the lemon balm icing over the top and to the edges of the baked citrus center. Refrigerate 1 hour before cutting.
To Serve: Remove the lemon bar from the refrigerator and place on a clean, dry cutting board. Use a sharp knife to trim the edges of the lemon bar to create an approximately 8-inch-wide by 12-inch-long rectangle with smooth and even edges. Use a serrated slicer to cut the lemon bar into twenty-four 2-inch squares. For a clean cut, heat the blade of the slicer under lukewarm running water (don't get the blade too hot or it will melt the icing) and wipe the blade very dry before making each cut. Serve immediately, or store in a tightly sealed plastic container in the refrigerator.
Yield: 24 two inch squares