The other day we had Sue and Andy over for afternoon tea. I sweetened the deal (no pun intended) by making lemon-pistachio bars. I was curious about a recipe in NYT Cooking, so of course I had to try it. We are all completely vaccinated now, so we got to be inside without masks. It was amazing. And here’s why. Sue and Andy are just some of my favorite people. And Sue has the greatest smile and the best laugh. She doesn’t hold back on her laugh. She laughs with complete and utter abandon, and it makes everyone want to laugh with her. And to be able to see her beautiful smile without a mask was a true gift.
So as we tested out the lemon-pistachio bars, we all gave our opinions about them. I of course had tweaked the recipe to suit my tastes – I increased the filling by half, because who doesn’t want more lemon filling? I added more lemon and more zest for a bit more zing. And I sprinkled the pistachios on top of the filling instead of mixing them in. I also processed the pistachios with the crust so they would be finer and not in larger chunks.
Sue said she thought she might like the pistachios in larger chunks in the crust. Andy said he liked the extra lemon. I also made some without pistachios sprinkled on top, but decided I liked them better with the pistachios, mainly because of how pretty the craggy little tops were.
Any way you make them (this recipe is very versatile), these lemon bars are delicious, and surprisingly easy to make (who knew?).
(Adapted from Molly O’Neill’s recipe)
For the crust:
- 1 cup (120 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup (30 grams) powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1/4 cup shelled, unsalted pistachios
For the filling:
- 3 eggs
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons (or more) grated lemon zest
- 7 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2/3 cup shelled, unsalted pistachios, finely chopped
- powdered sugar, for dusting
- Preheat oven to 350°
- Line an 8″ x 8″ square pan with parchment paper – I like to use a long rectangle of parchment that is 8″ wide, and then about 16 inches in length. That way you don’t have to mess with extra parchment scrunching up in the corners of the pan, and the length makes it so that you have nice “handles” to work with.
- Place flour, confectioner’s sugar, salt, and pistachios in food processor, and pulse a few times. Add butter and process until well combined.
- Firmly press mixture into the bottom of the lined pan, making it as even as possible. I press quickly with my fingers, using a piece of parchment as a barrier between my fingers and the crust. Bake until lightly browned, about 20 minutes.
- While crust is baking, whisk together all of the filling ingredients (but NOT the pistachios and powdered sugar).
- When crust is lightly browned, remove from oven. Pour filling ingredients on the crust and bake for about 20 minutes, until set. About 10 minutes into the bake time, pull the pan out of the oven and sprinkle the finely chopped pistachios on top of the filling. Put back in the oven and finish baking.
- Let cool completely, then cover and refrigerate overnight for best texture and flavor. Gently pull the lemon bar slab out of the pan by holding on to the edges of the parchment paper; it’s okay if it bends a teeny bit. Sprinkle liberally with powdered sugar. Cut into 2″ x 2″ squares with a sharp knife, wiping the knife between cuts with a damp cloth.
- Try not to eat them all in one sitting.