Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Strawberry Lemon Bars

It's been 3 weeks since my school year ended and my summer started. It's been nice to relax and not have to be anywhere all day but it's a good thing I'm taking a summer grad class and that I am getting ready to move or else I think I would go crazy from boredom! I recently accepted a job offer at a new school district to be closer to my family. I am getting too old to be doing 7-hour drives any longer. My new place cuts off only 2 hours, but that is still much more manageable for me. I start getting tired at about the 4th or 5th hour, so it's actually perfect.

I don't think it has hit me just yet that I will not be returning to the same school in August. My coworkers and I have gotten really close these last 2 years and I am sad to be leaving just when I think that things are going to change for the better. It didn't even hit me when we had our annual end-of-the-year faculty luncheon. The principal did her usual goodbyes and handed out cards and I was one of them this year, but still I didn't even tear up. It'll probably hit me when we're going back to school and there are no familiar faces. It'll be a difficult transition, but the staff members I met when I went for my interview were very nice. I've heard good things about the schools so I am also looking forward to this new chapter in my life!

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For our luncheon, we were asked to bring in a dessert and I made these Strawberry Lemon Bars. I think I had too much batter because the bars turned out a lot thicker than it looked like in the original post, but it still turned out great and it was all gone by the end! I think I made something with strawberries last year too. Probably because I had picked about 15 pounds of it last year around the same time, same as this year. Dealing with 15 pounds of strawberries every May is definitely becoming a tradition now.

Next pick-your-own fruit is peach! What should I make with peaches? Definitely canning is in the picture - jam and pie filling!

Strawberry Lemon Bars
From Mind Over Batter

For the macerated strawberries
1 1/2 to 2 pounds strawberries
4 tbsp sugar

For the bars
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 tsp salt
4 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste (I used extract)
2 lemons, zested and juiced
3 cups all purpose flour

For the glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 to 3 tbsp milk

Hull and slice the strawberries in half. Place in a large bowl and sprinkle sugar over the berries. Mix briefly with a spatula and set aside uncovered for about an hour or so. This will soften the berries and make them juicy.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter a 9x13 baking dish and line with parchment leaving a slight overhang (I skipped the parchment step as I would be serving right out of the dish). Set aside.

Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer on medium speed, cream the butter, sugar, lemon zest, and salt until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add eggs on at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stop and scrape the mixer. Reduce speed to low and add the lemon juice and vanilla bean paste. Mix briefly to combine. Add the flour in two parts, mixing until just combined. Remove from mixer and give it another couple of folds to incorporate any dry bits on the bottom of the bowl. The batter is a bit stiff and not pourable.

Measure about 3 1/2 cups of batter and drop into prepared pan. Smooth and even out as best you can.

Take spoonfuls of macerated strawberries and drop them evenly into the pan. Drizzle 6 to 8 tablespoons of the strawberry juice. With a cookie scoop, drop remaining batter over the strawberries. No need to smooth it out - it will melt and come together in the oven.



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Place pan in preheated oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the top is golden brown and strawberries are bubbling. Remove pan from oven and allow to cool completely before glazing.

In a small bowl, combine the powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Add milk 1 tbsp at a time and mix until you get desired consistency. Once bars are cool, cut into squares (if you desire) and drizzle glaze over the bars. Top with a strawberry half if you desire.

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