Monday, January 11, 2010

Lemon Bars - Veganomican (p.244)

This was somewhat of a disaster, albeit a comical one. Please read about my trials and tribulations below.


1.75 c. all-purpose flour
2/3 c. confectioner's sugar, plus more for dusting the finished product
1/4 c. cornstarch
1 c. non-hyrogenated vegan margarine

1.33 repeating (1 and 1/3) c. water
3 TBL. agar flakes [Found them at Whole Foods in the Asian section]
1.25 c. granulated sugar
1/8 tsp. tumeric
2/3 c. fresh lemon juice [approximately 3 medium sized lemons]
3 TBL. arrowroot powder
1 TBL. finely grated lemon zest [Thanks to NMcL's skill on the box grater...I think she used the 2nd smallest grate]
1/4 c. soy milk
Prepare the crust:
Pulse flour, confectioner's sugar, and cornstarch in a food processor. Add the margarine in spoonfuls and blend for 8 to 10 seconds and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle mixture into the prepared 9 X 13 inch prepared (aka lightly greased baking pan) and press firmly into an even layer with slightly raised sides. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350. Bake the unfilled crust for 25 minutes. Remove from oven then cool.

Prepare the filling:
1) In a sauce pot, soak the agar in the water for 15 minutes.
2) Zest the lemons and squeeze the lemon juice. Mix the arrowroot in the lemon juice to dissolve.
3) After the allotted time for soaking the agar, turn on the heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Boil for about 10 minutes or until the agar is completely dissolved [it took MUCH less time for my agar to dissolve]. Add the granulated sugar and tumeric, and boil until they have dissolved (approximately 3 minutes). Turn down the heat to medium, add the arrowroot mixture, then add the lemon zest and soy milk. Whisk constantly for about 5 minutes, until the mixture thickens (approximately 5 minutes). It should not be rapidly boiling, but low bubbling is OK.
4) Pour the mixture into the prepared crust. Let cool for 20 minutes, then refrigerate for at least 3 hours, until the filling is only slightly jiggly and has set. Sprinkle the bars with confectioner's sugar, cut, and serve!

Holy lemony goodness. This were extremely robustly flavored - You must be a lemon lover in order to enjoy these bars.

I had severe technical difficulties in creating this recipe. Nothing to cry over, only events to laugh over.

First, upon coming home from Whole Foods (This recipe required a special trip for the agar flakes), I realized that I did not have arrowroot powder, as I thought I did...Not to fear, I fooled myself. A simple google search revealed that cornstarch is a perfect substitute for arrowroot (Joy of Baking) but, I warn you, do not be fooled yourself! The lemon filling using cornstarch in place of the arrowroot did not have a desirable consistency - despite chilling for 3 hours, the consistency remained too jiggly and jelly. Despite the funky consistency, the flavor was robust and lemony-delicious. The other comical aspect of making the filling was that on more than one occasion, the filling boiled over the pot and unto the stove top. Need to improve my kitchen finesse still!

The crust was also another mini disaster. The vegan butter substitute, Smart Balance Light, has a very creamy, spreadable consistency. Therefore, the dough the reference produced was very creamy, and not very dough like... it was more like a batter consistency. So, I impulsively dumped in another 3/4 c. flour to thicken up the batter. Still, since the Smart Balance Light is so creamy, the texture never became "coarse meal" -like, as the recipe suggests it would. In my next post, I am going to investigate the differences between Smart Balance and Smart Balance on the lookout for that post in the near future!

The other space cadet thing I did when making this recipe was a result of not carefully reading the recipe before proceeding. If you read the recipe (what a concept, haha!) you will note that you are supposed to bake the unfilled pie crust then let it cool before filling the crust with the lemon filling. Being the space cadet I have become post-college life, I poured the lemon filling into the unbaked pie crust, with the intention of baking the entire dish. Fortunately, I realized my error before putting the entire dish into the oven! So I ended up scraping as much of the lemon filling off of the unbaked crust as possible.

Such a disaster of a vegan experimentation! I learned a lot of baking lessons. I am not sure I'd bother trying to make this dessert again, since I am not a huge fan of lemon-bars, but if I did, I'd do many steps differently, haha. Just a short brainstorm of independent variables (yes, I went there) to experiment with:
1) Will arrowroot give the lemon filling the desired consistency?
2) Will Smart Balance margarine (Regular version, not the Light) give the crust the desired consistency? Will Earth Balance Margarine (the favored brand by the authors) give the crust the desired consistency?

The lemon flavor was truly out of this world, although the consistency of the filling was off. As far as the crust, the addition of the flour worked, but the crust was not especially good. This baking experiment was a big silly mess!

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