Monday, July 30, 2007

Chardonnay Club Lemon Bruleé

"When life doesn't hand you lemons . . . break out the wine!"

Combine an elegant sounding recipe ("Lemon-Champagne Bars with Strawberry Bruleé Topping") with a pinch of laziness, a dash of carelessness, and a healthy dose of resourcefulness, and you get Chardonnay Club Lemon Bruleé.

My friend and I wanted lemon bars. Good old fashioned, simple as summer lemon bars. Having recently moved, I only had one cookbook in my apartment, and it only contained one recipe for lemon bars, which involved the afore-mentioned strawberries and champagne. We nixed the strawberries, but the champagne sounded intriguing, so we decided to give it a shot, and we set off to the store for ingredients. Enter problem one. New York, I've discovered, has an inconvenient law that prohibits supermarkets from selling wine. So, if you're making pasta and you're in the mood for chianti, (or you're making lemon bars and you need champagne) you'll have to make a separate, annoying trip to a liquor store, which may or may not be close to the supermarket. As it so happened, we had no idea where the nearest (open at 9:00 p.m., Sunday) liquor store was, and a half-hearted detour down a side street lead us to a sundry store instead. They definitely did not have champagne, but they had chardonnay and club soda! We figured the taste of lemon would be so strong that no one would be the wiser . . .

Enter problem two. Halfway through the recipe, we realized that we had misread the ingredient list, and we were short two lemons. So much for our idea that the lemons would mask the flavor of cheap chardonnay! Fearing that our lemon bars were turning into wino bars, but having little choice in the matter (we were too lazy to return to the store), we shrugged our shoulders and replaced the missing lemon with chardonnay and club soda. Initial tastes of the lemon filling induced grimaces and murmurs of, "It'll probably be fine after we cook it," and it gave off an odor reminiscent of fondue as we stirred in chunk after chunk of butter, but we were determined to see it through. When we finally cracked open the bruleéd sugar crust and bit into the wobbly lemon custard we were surprised to find that it had a pleasant, mild taste. And thanks to the savory edge of chardonnay, the bars lacked the headache-inducing sweetness that overwhelms the run-of-the-mill lemon bar. Overall I'd say, "Great success!" It probably wouldn't hurt to have a little more lemon flavor . . .


2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1c. sugar
2c. flour
1/4 t. salt
Zest of 2 lemons (but get an extra lemon if you like your desserts tart!)


6 extra large egg yolks
6 extra large eggs
1 3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. lemon juice
1/2c. chardonnay
1/2c. club soda (replace 1/4 c. with lemon juice for tarter bars)
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cold


1/2 c. sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and butter a 9x13 in. baking pan.
Make the crust: Cream the butter and sugar, add the flour, salt, zest, and beat until just incorporated. Press the dough evenly into the pan and bake 12 to 15 min., or until golden.

Lower the oven temp. to 350 and make the filling:
Whisk the lemon juice, chardonnay, club soda and sugar in a saucepan over low heat. Add the eggs and the yolks, and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens (about 15 min.). Add the butter a tablespoon at a time, into the lemon mixture. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture becomes thick and pudding-like.

Pour the filling into the crust, and bake for 10-15 minutes. Cool. Refrigerate the bars overnight, or put them in the freezer for an hour (but don't forget them!). When they are firm and cold, spread the sugar topping in an even layer over the bars, and pop them under the broiler for 1-2 min., or until the sugar bubbles and browns. Cool and refrigerate until firm again. Crack the crust and enjoy!

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