Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Lemon and Ginger Bars

Sometimes it's easy to put together elements of different recipes, or to adapt recipes, to get exactly what you're looking for. This bar, with it's ginger shortbread base and lemony almond sponge topping, was one of those occasions. My inspiration was the bakewell tart, or at least, the non-authentic version which uses sponge cake mixture for the topping; I often make a chocolate version using cocoa in the cake mixture and apricot jam spread on the pastry base, so it wasn't a huge stretch of the imagination to come up with a lemon and ginger version, using ginger preserves instead of jam. Once the idea had grown roots, I decided to use a shortbread biscuit base instead of pastry, to make it more of a cake than a pudding.

I had to 'guesstimate' the quantities needed to fill the baking tin I wanted to use, but it worked out really well, although along the way I realised there were a few things I should have done differently, and will next time.


300g plain flour
200g cold butter, cut into small cubes
100g caster sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger

ginger preserves - at least 225g (half a jar, in my case)

100g SR flour
50g ground almonds
150g softened butter
150g caster sugar
zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon lemon extract (optional)
3 large eggs

100g icing sugar
juice of 1 lemon

Use a baking tin 30cm x 20cm and at least 3cm deep. Prepare as necessary - I completely lined my tin with baking parchment; you'll know what you need to do to your tins to make sure nothing sticks.
Base - Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs, then stir in the caster sugar and ground ginger. Work the dough with your hands until it comes together into a ball. Use this dough to line the base of the baking tin, spreading it as evenly as possible with your fingers, and pressing it in firmly. Bake at 180C for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and reduce heat to 160C.

(I found the shortbread had bubbled up in places, and reading other recipes, realised I should have pricked the base before putting it in the oven to prevent this. I pricked the base as soon as it was out of the oven so that any air bubbles were released and the hot dough sank back down)

Filling - Allow the base to cool for a few minutes to harden up a little, then spread with the ginger preserves.

(Another lesson learned - I think the ginger preserves would have been easier to spread if they had been warmed slightly - they were set quite hard, unlike some jams.)

Topping - Put all the topping ingredients into a bowl and beat until smooth, using an electric food mixer. Spread this mixture carefully over the ginger preserves. Bake until golden brown, and firm and springy to the touch - about 40 minutes. Cool for about 15 minutes before cutting into bars or squares - I cut into 15 pieces, 18 would give daintier pieces. Leave in the tin until cold.

Icing - Mix enough lemon juice into the icing sugar to make a thick paste. Put it into a small strong polythene bag, and cut off one corner of the bag to give a hole a couple of mm wide. Pipe squiggles or zig zags of icing across the cake.

(Final lesson learned - I made the mistake of putting on the icing before removing the squares of cake from the baking tin, which made the bars look a bit messy, as the icing had to be cut through as the bars were lifted. Next time I will move the bars to a wire rack and either ice them individually or group them closely together, but not touching, and ice as one piece, allowing some icing to drip down the sides)

Although they tasted really good, the balance of flavour was in favour of the lemon, which wasn't what I really wanted; the ginger wasn't much more than a hint, with the sweetness of the preserves toning down the sharpness of the lemon. When I make them again I will increase the ginger, using more spice in the shortbread base, and perhaps some additional fresh ginger grated into the ginger preserves to add a little more kick to the ginger side of the equation.

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