Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Lemon-Vanilla Dream Bars

The first recipe I tried from Pure Vanilla, by Shauna Sever, was one of the simplest in the book - Lemon-Vanilla Dream Bars. Shauna describes these as a 'less messy and more portable' version of lemon bars, which are one of the classic American baked treats. This recipe is essentially a white chocolate blondie rippled with lemon curd, and flavoured with both vanilla extract and vanilla bean paste. I used Green and Black's White Chocolate which contains vanilla seeds(caviar), so adding another dimension of vanilla flavouring.

The recipe seemed straightforward, but I had a typical heart-stopping moment that always seems to happen when I work with white chocolate. The first stage of the recipe is to melt white chocolate and butter together over simmering water, and I just couldn't get the two to combine smoothly. In fact I thought the white chocolate had seized completely, and it wasn't until I whisked in the eggs that I realised the mixture was going to come together smoothly.

After that it was plain sailing, although I forgot to fold in the chocolate chunks and had to sprinkle them over the surface of the batter after it had been in the oven a few minutes. Fortunately, the bars seemed none the worse for this!

This recipe is reproduced with permission from the publishers, and I have included the metric weights I used, where appropriate:

10oz (300g) white chocolate, 50g chopped into chip-sized pieces
6 tablespoons (150g) butter
1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar (I used caster sugar)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 cup (130g) all purpose (plain) flour
1/2 cup (125g) lemon curd

Pre-heat the oven to 350F (180C) and line a 8" (20cm) square tin with baking parchment.
Melt the butter and 250g of the white chocolate together in a large bowl, over a pan of simmering water.
Remove the bowl from the heat and stir in the sugar and salt.
Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, then whisk in both the vanilla extract and bean paste.
Gently fold in the flour, followed by the chopped chocolate, and put the batter into the baking tin.
Dollop the lemon curd onto the batter in 5 or 6 equal portions, and swirl into the batter using a knife and a figure of 8 movement.
Bake for around 25 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack, then cut into 12 bars when completely cold.

These were really delicious! The batter gave the perfect dense texture of a fudgy blondie, and the lemon curd was partly absorbed by the batter and partly remaining in little pockets that were intensely lemony. This lemon note really contrasted well with the sweet base, but still allowed the vanilla flavours to shine through.

My bars don't look perfect, because of sprinkling the chocolate chunks over the batter instead of folding them in. This caused little hollows to form as the larger chunks sank, although these hollows seemed to happen where lemon curd was left on the surface too.

This recipe is worth repeating just for the blondie base, if I can face the trauma of working with white chocolate again, perhaps with dark chocolate or fudge chips added, and Shauna also suggests replacing the lemon curd with any good quality low-sugar jam with a tart flavour, to ring the changes.

I'm so pleased my first recipe from this book was a success; it gives me confidence to tackle some of the more complicated recipes, and endorses my positive review of the book given from the first reading. Although I received a free copy of this book, I was not required to give a positive review of either the book, or the recipes I tried, in return.


Anonymous said...

These bars look so good - I LOVE lemon curd, and love lemon and white chocolate together, so can't see how they could be anything other than amazing! Also could be a handy recipe for using up leftovers of any other curds or jams lying around...

Anne said...

I love lemon curd too, infact have some lush lemon and lime one in at the moment that is vanishing all too quickly!

The bars look great - I can't spot any hollows!

I'm a bit wary of melting white chocolate too, never mastered it and avoid it just eat it ;-)!

Alicia Foodycat said...

Lemon and vanilla, what could be nicer?!

Phil in the Kitchen said...

Lemon curd, white chocolate, vanilla - it's a list of some of my favourite things. These sound lovely. The melting of white chocolate is always a little scary, though.

Caroline said...

They look great - lemon curd is such a fantastic ingredient. You do seem to have been busy baking recently! I'm always unsure of working with white chocolate - it seizes so easily.

Chele said...

Oh good Lord! I must make these! Blondies with lemon curd sounds the most fantastic idea ... the only thing I can think of as slightly bettering this version would be to make some with passionfruit curd ...

Penny said...

I love this recipe and am definitely keen to make it,

Cakeyboi said...

Lemon, vanilla - oh my! These look fantastic and are currently making my mouth water!! Thanks for sharing :)