Part 1: In Which There Is A Meet Cute In Hawaii, An Agonizing Search To Find Each Other Again… and Passionfruit-Lemon Bar Recipe
For me, there is a perfect dessert, the one whose tart and sweet flavors blend into that sugary nirvana, that promises to my taste buds: nothing is better than this. Ok… maybe that’s overstating it, but I do love lemon bars. This is the story of how I met my perfect lemon bar, the agony of longing, of trying to recreate it, and how I wound up finding lemon bar perfection and two cocktails that were born from our perfect union. A timeless tale.
In a tiny coffee shop in Hawaii, I found true love: a perfect lemon bar. Not too sweet, just enough lemony tartness, but most importantly, a heart of passion[fruit] beat firmly in its gooey center. It was love at first bite and I had to know - how do I create such passion[fruit lemon bars] in my own life? The proprietor of said coffee shop was cheerfully unhelpful. “Clever,” I thought to myself, “you plan to take the lemon bar industry by storm, a tropical citrus-y monopoly.” But the spirit of the lemon bar belongs to no man (or woman), it belongs to the people - and thus, I set out to free it… by making many, many, many lemon bars.
I am no baker, but a fantastic friend agreed to teach me how not to ruin perfectly good ingredients. We kicked off our experimenting adventure by trying the Bar Tartine recipe, and after a few tweeks with Meyer lemons and sugar levels, we found a recipe we could love. But what about our true passion[fruit]? This was the real pièces de résistance and we were no closer. Attempts with using actual fruit, bitters, and flavoring all yielded disappointment. It was at this moment, when all seemed hopeless, that a dashing young chef from B. Patisserie came to the rescue. The trick, he told us, to true fruit flavor in custard-like desserts is frozen fruit pulp. The kind you can get at any small international market. These little bodegas are dessert maker’s garden, waiting to be plucked. The freezers of these stores are lined with thin frozen bricks of any tropical fruit you desire. Armed with a stockpile of frozen smashed passionfruit, we set out to make six more trays of lemon bars, each with a different proportion of lemon to passionfruit.
So here is the [passion]fruit of our labor, the recipe to my perfect passionfruit-lemon bar:
Confectioners (or powdered) Sugar - 55g
All-purpose flour - 215g Unsalted butter (room temperature) - 170g
Pine nuts (optional) - 55g
All-purpose flour - 70g
Sugar - 400g
Lemon Juice - ⅓ cup + 2 tablespoons
Meyer Lemon Juice - ⅓ cup
Passionfruit Pulp - ⅓ cup
Zest of one lemon, grated - from one lemon
Large whole eggs - 6
Large egg yolk - 1
Salt - pinch
Stand mixer with flat beater attachment
9”x13” baking pan
Pie weights or dried beans
- Preheat the oven to 350˚F
- Make the crust dough
- Sift confectioners sugar into the bowl of the stand mixer.
- Stir in the flour.
- Add the butter in small chunks.
- Sprinkler in the pine nuts (if using).
- Beat on low speed. A smooth dough with with playdough-like consistency will form.
- Bake the crust
- Line the baking pan with parchment paper.
- Press the dough evenly into the pan. Thickness of the dough layer will end up being roughly ¼”. I found that covering the roughly spread dough with a some parchment paper and using a flat bottomed cup to smooth it out greatly helped this part.
- Cover the flattened dough with parchment paper and cover completely with a single layer of pie weights or dried beans.
- Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes. Halfway through, rotate the pan 180˚.
- The crust is done when it takes on an even golden brown color.
- Make the filling while the crust is baking
- Sift the flour into a mixing bowl.
- Add sugar and stir.
- Add lemon juice, lemon zest and passionfruit pulp. Stir until the sugar dissolves.
- In a different mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and the egg yolk along with a pinch of salt.
- Combine the eggs with the lemon-passionfruit mixture and whisk until it is homogenous.
- Fill the crust and bake
- Remove the crust from the oven and remove the pie weights/beans and the layer of parchment paper they were lying on.
- Pour the filling over the crust.
- Place the pan back in the oven and reduce the temperature to 300˚F and bake for 35 minutes.
- When the custer no longer jiggles, remove onto a wire rack and let cool completely. Refrigerate until fully chilled.