Using a cookbook is like dating: you get attracted by an aesthetically pleasing cover, spend 5 or 10 minutes checking it out, and then, almost on a whim, you bring it home. During that first recipe, you’re tentative, accommodating: trying to stay within safe boundaries, do it his (or her) way. A couple of recipes in, you’re ready to assert yourself: “No, that’s way too much sugar,” or “Boil for how long?” After about a half a dozen times together, most candidates can be slotted into one of a few main categories: 1) unmitigated disaster [match.com], 2) occasional flashes of brilliance, but mainly tedious & pedantic [that’s the last time you let Aunt Betty set you up], 3) sweet & fun, but just not your style [time for the “friend” speech], or 4) dreamy [if I spatter you all over with olive oil and chocolate and bacon grease, will you promise to stay forever?].
I feel much the same way about food blogs: in fact, much like online dating is even more of a crap shoot than in-real-life dating, it’s so very easy to find a food blog that is beautiful, and charming, and funny, and…. full of horrible recipes that just don’t work. You see: I’ve been burned before. So I’m cautious. Guarded. Skeptical, if you will. But when I saw the Beeroness’ recipe for IPA lemon bars last week, my mind instantly flew to the California Rangpur limes still basking in my fridge, waiting for that special something. And the bare 1/2-inch of actually-decent-non-Cuervo tequila languishing in the liquor cabinet. And come on: how can you not trust a woman who styles herself the Beeroness and creates a bizillion recipes with beer?
So I gave it a shot. I went out on a limb. I put myself out there. But I was skeptical. Oh, so skeptical. “No liquid at all in the crust?” she thinks. “Shouldn’t I butter the pan?” and “Whoa. This filling is never going to set.” Of course, I made my own changes (I never did get the hang of dating): whole wheat pastry flour for all-purpose; Rangpur lime juice for lemon, plus a little zest thrown in; tequila for IPA, with a bit of fudging on the volume. And some of my skepticism was warranted: I did butter the pan, and I was glad I did, as it was still a bit of a challenge to get the bars out cleanly. My version did take much longer to set in the middle than the original recipe; I suspect that the higher acid in lemon juice, along with lower alcohol and grains in beer, all contributed to a faster set than my lime-tequila version. But at the end of the day, even with all of my modifications, these turned out fabulously. The crust was flaky, yet cohesive enough to eat like a cookie, the curd was smooth, yet firm enough for clean slices, and the flavor? Outstanding. The sweet-sour combination of Rangpur lime and sugar, the smooth bite of good tequila, the sweet heat of just a touch of cayenne: we had to stop ourselves from eating the whole pan in one sitting. Beeroness? I think I’m ready for a second date.
- 1 cup (5 oz) whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/3 cup (1 and 1/2 oz) powdered sugar
- pinch salt
- 6 tbsp (3 oz) chilled butter, cut into chunks
- 1/2 lb (about 3 medium) Rangpur limes
- 1 and 1/2 cups (12 oz) sugar (organic evaporated cane juice)
- 1/4 cup (1 and 1/4 oz) whole wheat pastry flour
- 2 tbsp (1/2 oz) corn starch
- 3 large eggs
- 3 tbsp tequila
- pinch salt
- Make crust. Add flour, powdered sugar and salt to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to mix. Add butter. Process until mixture looks like coarse meal. Press evenly into a buttered 8″ X 8″ pan. For greatest ease in removal of bars, line with pan with lightly oiled parchment. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake crust until puffed and golden brown, about 20 minutes. Chill again until room temperature, about 10 minutes.
- Make filling. Zest & juice Rangpur limes. Microwave zested limes for 10 seconds each, then roll under your hands on a work surface, to release more juice. Measure 1/3 cup + 1 tbsp lime juice. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, corn starch and 1 packed tablespoon of lime zest (reserve remaining zest for garnish). Whisk in eggs. Whisk in lime juice, tequila and salt.
- Combine & bake bars. Pour filling over par-baked crust. Bake at 350 degrees F until the center has set, about 25 – 35 minutes. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before slicing. Garnish with powdered sugar and, if desired, a dusting of cayenne pepper.
Yields 12 bars.
- To double the recipe, use a 9″ X 13″ pan.
- I think tequila + Rangpur lime works really nicely together, but feel free to use your favorite liquor: beer, wine, bourbon, etc. And it goes without saying, since the original recipe used lemon + IPA, that this is easily adaptable to the citrus + booze of your choice.
- Of course you don’t have to dust with cayenne pepper, but it really makes the bars sing: not with heat, just with that certain zestiness that wakes up all of the flavors.
- The filling on my version did start to brown along the edges and form a bit of a skin on top before the middle was nicely set. You may be able to solve this issue by reducing the final baking temperature to 325 degrees F; however it did not affect flavor and the color is easily camouflaged with a little extra powdered sugar.
Refrigerated for up to 5 days.
Winter into early Spring.