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Dessert Disasters & a Recipe for Creamy Lemon-Lime Bars

Never try a new recipe when you’re cooking for a crowd.

I’m sure you’ve heard, said, or thought this before, but do you ever take this handy piece of advice to heart? I sure don’t. I should – and I’ve told many people exactly this on countless occasions, but I’m much too stubborn to actually take the advice myself.

Citrus Squares
So when I need to make a lovely dessert for a special occasion, I don’t make my Double Blueberry Buttermilk Tart, Pavlova, or Summer Fruit Galette… I could make them with my eyes closed, and that would be too easy.

Instead, I try recipes that depend greatly on timing and perfect conditions {and, of course, sheer luck}. Naturally for my last big family affair, I found a lovely new recipe for coconut panna cotta that seemed simple enough, but I still managed to destroy it. If I had been making it for C and me, surely it would have turned out perfectly.

I wasn’t making it just for us, however, and the gelatin did not work its magic. Instead, I had a tray full of refrigerated shot glasses filled with vanilla bean-specked coconut milk, and managed to screw up a dessert that David Lebovitz calls “foolproof {not for this fool, apparently}.

Citrus Squares
As a last minute save, I decided to try yet another new recipe {so, so stubborn}. Luckily, my second attempt at dessert that day worked out beautifully – something with which I can only credit perseverance {and, again, sheer luck}.

Whether or not you’re attempting a new recipe, there are always things that can go wrong. Forgotten ingredients, missed steps, or even something as simple as humidity and room temperature can make a seemingly “foolproof” recipe go awry; and, at the end of the day all you can do is try again.

The recipe below was adapted from Martha Stewart {click here for the original}, and is a great choice if you don’t have a lot of time to bake, but do have a few minutes for prep and a few hours to let it chill. It was this last-minute recipe that saved the day, and I’ll most definitely be making it again.

Citrus Squares

Creamy Lemon-Lime Bars
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes 16

½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup icing (confectioner’s) sugar
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup all-purpose flour

4 large egg yolks
1 can (300ml) low-fat sweetened condensed milk
Zest of 2 lemons
Zest of 2 key limes
¾ cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Icing sugar, for dusting
16 fresh mint leaves
4 key limes, quartered

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray an 8-inch square, or 6X10 –inch rectangle baking dish with cooking spray (or grease with oil) and line the bottom of the dish with parchment, leaving an overhang on two sides.

2. Combine butter and icing sugar in a large bowl and beat on high speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes). Add salt and flour and mix on low until combined. Transfer the dough to the prepared baking dish and press it evenly into the bottom and a ½ inch up the sides. Poke holes all over the dough with a fork and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until golden.

3. While the crust is baking, place all filling ingredients in a large bowl and whisk until smooth. Pour into the prepared crust (while it’s still hot) and return to the oven for another 25-30 minutes, or until the filling no longer jiggles when lightly shaken. Transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature; refrigerate for 2 hours, or up to 3 days. Before serving, lift the bars onto a cutting board and cut into 16 pieces. Dust with icing sugar, top with a mint leaf, and finish with a lime quarter. Serve immediately.

  1. Stephanie04-12-12

    My panna cotta failed the first time I was making it too! I was making a molded version and after unmolding it sort of wiggled and then collapsed into a pile of goo.

    Good save with the lemon squares!

  2. Jules04-18-12

    The tiltshift effect is so cute on these! What camera are you using? Great photos; and the recipe looks so spring-time fresh. YUM.

  3. ATasteOfMadness04-22-12

    These look great! They certainly did turn out beautifully!
    Your photos are gorgeous as well 🙂

  4. Stephanie Arsenault04-23-12

    Thanks, Jules! It’s actually just a Nikon D80 with a macro lens. The effect is from a little work in Photoshop; I try to keep my photos as true to life as possible, but the colours and shapes in these photos were begging for a little more fun… 🙂

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