Recipe: Classic Lemon Bars

I'm going to a themed dinner party tonight, but when I say themed, I don't mean costume-themed like "Luau" or "Toga" (although I do love me a costume party), I mean food category-themed. We've had several of these dinners already where the theme has been "fig," "pumpkin," "cranberry" and "nuts." Each dinner I've been hugely impressed with everyone's dish. These friends of mine know how to cook! Tonight's theme, as you may have already guessed, is "lemon!" The only rules are that the host has to choose the theme (mine was "nuts," mostly for the jokes) and each person has to sign up for a dish. Since I like taking the easy road sometimes <often>, I snagged the dessert dish spot this time. I can't help it guys. I have a dessert blog for Pete's sake!

I believe this theme was meant to be because my awesome neighbors emailed me about having an abundance of lemons to give away. BOOM. After telling them that this was perfect timing, for I was about to go lemon shopping, the lovely wife told me I must promise her, that as long as they have lemons on their tree, I will never buy another one again. I mean. I kinda have the best neighbors, guys. Don't be jeals.

For my lemon dessert, I knew I wanted to give Lemon Bars another go. I've made them once before and they turned out piss poor. The bloody filling never set! Boo Radley. My girl Amy passed along her go-to recipe which is by the fabulous Barefoot Contessa.

Classic Lemon Bars
Yield: 20 squares or 40 triangles
Recipe from

For the crust: (Pro Tip: thick crust fans should double this, I'll def go double next time)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

For the filling:
6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (3 to 4 lemons)
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup flour
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2.  For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill.
3.  Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack.
4.  For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set.
5.  Let cool to room temperature. Cut into triangles and dust with confectioners' sugar.

Pro tips:
• If your eggs aren't at room temperature, place them in luke warm water for 15 mins
• If your butter isn't at room temperature, pop it in the microwave for 10 seconds, flip it 180º, microwave for another 8 seconds. Every microwave is different so this may be trial and error. I've over melted MANY a stick.

Lemon Bar crime scene

Recipe: Lemon Ricotta Cookies & Lemon Crinkle Cookies

A glorious thing happened this past weekend. After 3 years of living in my current home, I finally met my next door neighbors who own the house and gorgeous garden our place looks out to (with sadly, no access!) Our building doesn't have any outdoor space (¡qué lástima!) so we could only appreciate this beaut from afar...until a few days ago. Read on.

In my experience of living in SF, you typically don't meet your all. It certainly doesn't happen naturally like most of us were accustomed to growing up in the burbs. Even if you passed them on the street, you wouldn't know them from Joe Schmo. The other day, while I was kickin' it outside my building trying to decide on house paint colors (TMI), this lovely couple came up to me and introduced themselves as my next door neighbors– the ones with the backyard garden. "YES. The day has finally come," I thought. After our meet and greet, which involved a lot of garden raving on my end, we exchanged info AND they invited me over for "a tour of the garden, from the other side" for the following day. EEK. That next evening, my <new favorite> neighbors had me over and took me on this heavily anticipated garden tour. Guys, this garden was even more glorious in person. As we walked though the yard, they kindly offered me lemons from their lemon tree along with a few other items. They also generously invited me to come back anytime if I ever needed anything else. On my walk back to my apartment with an extra bounce in my step, I had Ice Cube's "Today Was A Good Day" playing in my head.

With these neighborly lemons, I made two different kinds of lemon cookies: Lemon Ricotta Cookies and Lemon Crinkle Cookies. The Lemon Ricotta Cookie recipe comes from my blogger-buddy Jamie's fabulous blog and the Lemon Crinkle Cookie recipe comes from another blogger who's cookie won in a cookie-off.

Lemon Ricotta Cookies
Recipe from
Yield: Makes about 30 cookies

Ingredients – Cookies
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter – softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 15oz container whole milk ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons lemon juice – I use the juice of 1 whole lemon
1 lemon, zested

Ingredients – Glaze
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice or juice of 1 lemon (Pro Tip: if you use the juice of 1 lemon, up the amount of powdered sugar for a better ratio and glaze consistency)
1 lemon, zested

1.  Preheat the oven to 375°. Combine the butter and sugar in a bowl and use an electric mixer to beat until it’s light and fluffy. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beat until incorporated. Add the wet ingredients – ricotta cheese, lemon juice and lemon zest. Beat to combine. Stir in the dry ingredients.
2.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper, use an ice cream scooper (or about 2 tablespoons) to spoon the dough on the baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, edges should be slightly golden. Let the cookies cool for about 15 minutes.
3.  Combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest in a bowl. Give it a good stir until it’s smooth and creamy. Put a spoonful on the top of each cooled cookie, spread it around the whole cookie with the back of the spoon. Let the glaze harden (about 2 hours or overnight). Keep the cookies in an air-tight container.

Lemon Crinkle Cookies
Recipe from
Yield: Makes 2 dozen

½ cups butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 whole egg
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoons baking powder
⅛ teaspoons baking soda
1-½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cups powdered sugar

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease light colored baking sheets* or line with parchment paper and set aside.
2.  In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Whip in vanilla, egg, lemon zest, and juice. Scrape sides and mix again. Stir in all dry ingredients slowly until just combined, excluding the powdered sugar. Scrape sides of bowl and mix again briefly.
3.  Pour powdered sugar onto a large plate. Roll a heaping teaspoon of dough into a ball and roll in powdered sugar. Place on baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough.
4.  Bake for 9-11 minutes or until bottoms begin to barely brown and cookies look matte {not melty or shiny}. Remove from oven and cool cookies about 3 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

*If using a non-stick darker baking tray, reduce baking time by about 2 minutes.

Garden loot and our view into our neighbor's garden