I was welcomed into the Recipe Redux community late last month and I am so thrilled to be part of a food-loving group of nutrition professionals. This month’s task was to concoct a dish using green herbs in a non-traditional way. Lightbulb moment: I decided to incorporate the warm, piney herb “thyme” into my award-winning lemon bars. Given that thyme has a subtle lemony-esque flavor profile, I was convinced that this would work. The result? The green accents from the fresh thyme leaves bring a lovely pop of contrast to the bright yellow lemon bars. This failproof dessert serves as an appropriate interlude into spring and summer.
Lemon & Thyme Bars (makes 24 bars)
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks), plus 1 Tablespoon
1 3/4 cups plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for garnish
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon salt plus a pinch
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice, strained
1/4 cup low-fat milk
3 Tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
Lightly butter a 9 by 13-inch baking dish with 2 teaspoons of the butter and line with 1 sheet of parchment or waxed paper (or silcone baking mat). Butter the top of this sheet of paper with 1 teaspoon of the remaining butter and then lay a second sheet of parchment or waxed paper crosswise over the first sheet. The parchment should be cut large enough so that the sides are even with the top of the baking dish; this extra paper will function as handles to help you remove the lemon squares from the pan later. Set pan aside.
In a large bowl combine 1 3/4 cups of the flour, 2/3 cup of the confectioners’ sugar, the cornstarch, and 3/4 teaspoon of the salt and mix thoroughly. Cut the remaining 12 tablespoons of butter into small pieces and add to the flour mixture. Using your hands, 2 forks, or a pastry blender, work the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer the butter-flour mixture to the prepared baking dish and press into an even 1/4-inch layer along the bottom and partly up the sides of the pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
While the crust is chilling, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Remove the crust from the fridge, and bake until golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes.
While the crust is baking, assemble the filling by combining the eggs, granulated sugar, flour, and lemon zest in a medium bowl and whisking until smooth. Stir in lemon juice, milk, and remaining pinch of salt and mix well.
When the crust is golden brown, remove it from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F. Stir the lemon mixture again, then pour onto the warm crust. At this point, scatter the thyme leaves all over the filling. Bake until the filling is set, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Grasp the waxed paper that lines the 2 longest sides of the baking dish and remove the bars from the pan by pulling up gently. The entire dessert should easily dislodge and come away from the pan. Transfer to a cutting board and, using a clean knife, cut into squares, wiping knife after each cut. Place a small amount of confectioners’ sugar into a small sieve, and sprinkle the bars with the sugar to decorate. Serve immediately, or refrigerate, wrapped with plastic wrap, up to 2 days, until ready to serve.