Well folks. Guess what…
I’m a man obsessed. I have yet another citrus recipe to share with you.
First though, I would like to mention that Brooklyn Homemaker received enough nominations in theKitchn’s The Homies to make it into the finals for “best daily read” cooking blog! Woohoo!!! I only started writing this blog about six months ago, and at that time I never imagined that I would come so far so quickly. I hate to sound like I’m bragging, but I feel like my writing style and photography skills, as well as my understanding of blogging and my idea of what I want Brooklyn Homemaker to be, have grown and improved so so much. There’s still a lot of room for improvement, but I’m at a place where I feel very pleased with the direction of this blog and excited for what it will become in the future.
If you are as big a fan of Brooklyn Homemaker as I am, and you’re as excited about the future of the blog as I am, please take a moment to vote for me in The Homies for “best daily read”. TheKitchn does make you create an account, but they make it very easy, and you can even sign in through facebook. Please choose Brooklyn Homemaker from the list of ten finalists at the top of the page HERE. Being such a young blog, I honestly cannot believe that I’m holding my own against blogs that have been around for years and have thousands of readers. It is such a huge honor to have made it into the finals and no matter what the outcome, I will be thrilled to have done so well. Being one of the ten finalists has brought in so many new readers, and I couldn’t be happier about it. If you’re new here, welcome! I’m glad you’re here, and I hope you’ll keep coming back!
Okay. Enough about me, let’s get back to the recipe.
Although we’re facing another cold front, the weather in Brooklyn actually warmed up for a brief moment over the weekend. Unsurprisingly though, my nagging citrus craving didn’t subside one bit. This time around I thought something bright and sweet and unmistakably citrus-y might do the trick to help me snap out of it. For over a week now I’ve been thinking about trying to make grapefruit curd, but I hadn’t yet because I couldn’t decide what I’d do with it. I love citrus curd but if I’m making it fresh I usually like to use it to fill a cake or serve with brunch or some such thing. Homemade curd tastes one bajillion times better than the store-bought stuff, but it isn’t nearly as shelf stable, so if I don’t have a plan to use it up pretty quickly, I generally don’t think it’s worth the trouble.
I toyed with the idea of making a grapefruit cake, but decided that if I were going to do that I’d want to make the famous Brown Derby grapefruit cake, which doesn’t actually call for grapefruit curd. Maybe some other time. After racking my brain a bit longer it finally hit me, I’d make lemon bars but with grapefruit instead. Since you don’t have to pre-cook the curd on the stove top it’s actually even simpler, but with very similar (delicious) results. I consulted with my dream woman, idol, and friend-in-my-head, Ina Garten, for the recipe, and made some tweaks and substitutions to turn her more traditional lemon bars into grapefruit bars instead.
Though her recipe is truly wonderful and worked perfectly with the grapefruit substitution, I wish I’d read some of the comments before I got started. I ended up having to make two batches to perfect this recipe, and I learned a few important things from the first, failed, attempt. The first batch wasn’t actually a true fail though. They were pretty decent, but they weren’t GREAT, and I wasn’t sure they were worth sharing here. So, rather than accepting defeat, or worse, blogging about a recipe I wasn’t that happy with, I decided to give it another shot the next day, and had MUCH better results.
In the name of learning, here’s what I did wrong the first time around. In an attempt to make for more attractive photos, I tried to make the first batch in a pretty white ceramic baking dish, but the pan was slightly smaller than the recommended 9×13 called for in the recipe. This already makes for a thick bar, and the smaller pan ended up making them even thicker. They took much longer to set than expected, baked kind of unevenly, and resulted in a slightly overcooked and muted flavor instead of the bright citrus-forward flavor I was hoping for. After reading some of the comments, I learned that a lot of people said they like a thinner bar and used a larger pan, like a 10×15 or a baker’s half sheet to spread the bars out, which apparently works really well. Making the bars even thicker than they already were though, was definitely not a wise decision on my part. Another thing I learned from reading the comments, again too late for the first batch, is that the filling shouldn’t be mixed together until the very last minute. If mixed too early, the acid in the citrus juice can affect the texture of the raw eggs, effectively cooking the eggs before they’re baked, and giving the cooked filling a rubbery “off” texture.
But here’s the good news! The second time around these bars were everything I was hoping they would be and more! The grapefruit really makes for a wonderful and interesting twist on the traditional lemon bar. I think lemon bars are delicious, but the super tart, super sweet flavor can sometimes seem a little one note and end up tasting like sour candy rather than a homemade baked treat. In addition to the tart and sweet flavors, the grapefruit juice adds some bitterness and depth that pairs really well with the buttery shortbread crust. They’re such a great little twist on the traditional lemon bars. They have all of that sweet and tart flavor you’re expecting but with just a hint of grapefruity bitterness. The curd filling is soft and sweet and ever-so-slightly gooey, and the buttery shortbread adds just enough crispness and bite to really bring another layer of texture and interest to the experience. SO. GOOD.
I hope you’ll give these bars a shot. Don’t let my initial mistakes scare you, this recipe is actually really simple and easy. If you learn from my mistakes and use the right size (or larger) pan, and be patient enough not to mix the filling too early, you’ll be thrilled with the results. Especially, obviously, if you’re a big grapefruit fan like I am. If you’re someone, also like me, who likes to try to get yourself prepared and ready ahead of time, you could always zest and juice your citrus ahead and could even mix the sugar in with the zest and juice. Just make sure you don’t mix the eggs in until you’re ready to bake. Okay? Now go preheat that oven. It’s cold outside again and you need something tropical-ish in your life.
adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 large eggs at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons grated citrus zest (from 2 lemons and 1 large grapefruit)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1-2 lemons)
3/4 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice (from 1 large grapefruit)
1 cup flour
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
For the crust, cream the butter and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add the flour and salt and mix on low until just combined. Gather the dough together into a ball, and with floured hands, flatten the dough and press it into a 9 by 13 inch baking pan, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.
Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Leave the oven on and let the crust cool slightly while you make the filling. Resist the urge to make the filling ahead, and wait until the crust comes out of the oven.
In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, citrus zest, citrus juices, and eggs. Add flour and whisk until well combined, making sure there are no lumps. Pour the filling over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is just set. Let cool to room temperature before cutting.
Cut into triangles and, with a sieve or dredger, dust with confectioners’ sugar.