Photo by Chance Huskey
We were incredibly awkward together. That is, until we discovered another common interest: food. Looking for something French, but manageable, we turned to David Lebovitz. Finding comfort in his status as an American in Paris – a description that would soon describe our situation – we racked his recipe collection and found the perfect thing: lemon bars.
A little bit American (a shortbread crust), a little bit French (resembling the classic tart au citron), these bars mimic my feeling of displacement. I am no longer sure where I belong. I long for the States, where bagels abound, yoga doesn’t cost a fortune, and I can order pizza by the slice. Where buying peanut butter, Reese’s, and bran flakes just takes walking to the supermarket, instead of superhero missions to secret ex-pat hideouts of Paris. Yet, I have become oddly French. I cannot resist the urge to bite off le quignon – the butt of the baguette – when the bread is still warm for the bakery oven. A night out consists of dining around 8pm, taking a leisurely walk to the Seine, and drinking bottles of cheap, but delicious, wine. And as hard as I try, I cannot say crêpe without a French accent.
So, nine months later, there was nothing left to do. Scared again – but now of returning to America, of being separated for the summer, of seeing old friends back in New York – we returned to the lemon bars, craving the feeling of comfort and pure joy that surrounds you on the first bite, as your teeth sink through the fluffy cloud of lemon curd into the crunchy, buttery crust, and the tartness overcomes your jaw and all you can do is smile. It will be OK – just have another one.
Alexis ZK studies French and Food Studies at New York University. She loves travel, dinner parties, digging in the dirt, ballroom dancing, foodie adventures and creating tasting menus in the shower. She recently ran away to Paris on a mission to discover France through food.
Glorious Lemon Bars
Adapted from David Lebovitz
Makes 12 bars
For the crust:
1 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the lemon filling:
1 lemon (around 6 ounces)
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 large eggs
4 teaspoons corn starch
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with tin foil, smoothing it as best you can. Make sure the foil covers the whole inside and works its way up over the sides of the pan.
In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients for the crust. Dump into the fully-lined pan and use your hand to spread the crust over the whole bottom of pan, making it as even as possible. You can choose to make edges or not. Place the crust in the oven and bake for 25 minutes, until lightly browned.
While crust is cooking, cut the lemon in chunks, removing seeds. Place in a food processor (rind and all!) with the 1 cup sugar and 3 tablespoons lemon juice. Process until no lemon chunks are remaining. Transfer to bowl, add eggs, salt, cornstarch, and meted butter. Mix with whisk until no lumps remain.
When the crust has finished, reduce oven temperature to 300°F. Pour the filling onto the crust (it’s ok if the crust is still hot), and bake for 25 minutes, or until the filling is set and just browning around the edges.
Remove the pan from the oven and let cool completely. Remove the bars from the pan by lifting up on the edges of the tin foil. Serve dusted with powdered sugar. Store in the fridge.