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I was recently asked by a neighbor if I'm cooking more these days than before COVID-19.  My answer was no. I've always done a great deal of cooking, particularly when the children were still at home, and it was a lot less expensive to cook than eat out. Plus, I enjoy cooking and that made a huge difference. Cooking, for me, is a panacea from the day's stress.

During COVID, I've been building a website (annebraly.com) with lots of fun recipes and travel stories. And I've just about finished my first cookbook — one for my daughters. Things like that do cause some stress. Particularly that website. It's been a huge learning curve. So, like I said, when I can get in the kitchen and start cooking, it's a wonderful release.

One thing that has changed, though, is that I'm now making more desserts than ever before. In my most recent venture into the world of baking, I was trying to make lemon bars as good as my mother did. Hers were sweet on the bottom, tart in the middle and sweet again on top — a triple layer of deliciousness. They were absolutely perfect, all the way down to the way she cut them. The lines were crisp, and each bar was almost the exact same size. I don't know how she did it, but she eyeballed it, and it worked every time.

You may have your favorite recipe for lemon bars, so read this as a reminder that it's time to bake them again. If you've never made them, consider this as a wake-up call to get busy juicing a few lemons and start baking. It's the perfect dessert to add to your Easter menu.

 

Mom's Lemon Bars

Crust:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Filling:

2 cups sugar

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

6 large eggs

1 cup fresh lemon juice

Confectioners sugar for dusting

Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line the bottom and sides of a 9- by 13-inch glass baking pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on the sides to lift out the finished bars. Set aside.

Make the crust: Mix the melted butter, sugar, vanilla extract and salt together in a medium bowl. Spoon and level the flour, then add it to the sugar mixture, stirring to completely combine. The dough will be thick. Press firmly into prepared pan, making sure the layer of crust is nice and even. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until the edges are just lightly browned. Remove from the oven. Using a fork, poke holes all over the top of the warm crust, but not all the way through the crust. Set crust aside.

For the filling: Sift the sugar and flour together in a large bowl. Add the eggs and lemon juice, and whisk until completely combined.

Pour filling over warm crust. Bake the bars for 22-26 minutes or until the center is relatively set and no longer jiggles. Remove bars from the oven, and cool completely at room temperature. Chill in the refrigerator for an hour or two.

Once cool, lift the parchment paper out of the pan using the overhang on the sides. Dust with confectioners sugar, and cut into squares before serving. Store in refrigerator. These bars also freeze well.

 

EASTER FEASTS

If you're planning to eat out for Easter, don't forget to make reservations ASAP. The limited seating capacity in restaurant dining rooms means fewer tables for the holiday.

Last week we rounded up a dozen places serving Easter feasts, some starting as early as Thursday. Some places require reservations for picking up meals or dishes to go by Thursday as well. See the list of options here.

Email Anne Braly at abraly@timesfreepress.com.

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Anne Braly
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