lemon pie bars

One of the awesome things about having a cooking/baking blog is that people start giving you things like fancy dishes and cookbooks as gifts.  My birthday happened to be a few weeks ago and I got both of plenty in spades which I’m super excited about.  One of the cookbooks I was given was by the people behind Back in the Day Bakery in Savannah, Georgia.

I’ve never been to Savannah, much less this bakery, but I know that southerners know good food and the cookbook received rave reviews so I added it to my amazon wishlist.  And boy, am I glad I did!

Last Sunday I was feeling a little l-a-z-y but wanted to bake a few things to share with you fine people so I looked for a simple recipe and this is it.  There are few ingredients and the steps involved were low maintenance, but the results?  Delicious.  People who aren’t normally into lemon-flavored baked goods even enjoyed these bars.

Lemon Pie Bars (from “Bake in the Day Bakery Cookbook” by Cheryl Day and Griffith Day)

For the crust:

  • 3 cups graham cracker crumbs (approximately 24 crackers)
  • 12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

For the filling:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice
  • Two 14-ounce cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 6 large egg yolks

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a 9-by-13-by-2-inch baking pan and line with parchment, allowing the ends of the paper to hang over two opposite edges of the pan.

To make the crust: in a medium bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, butter, and sugar and blend with a fork until the crumbs are evenly moistened.  Press the graham cracker mixture firmly and evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan.  Use a piece of parchment to press on the crust with the palm of your hands to make sure it is completely level.

Bake the crust for about 8 minutes, until lightly golden.  Let cool completely before adding the filling.  Turn the oven temperature down to 325 degrees F.

To make the filling: in a large bowl, whisk together the heavy cream, lemon zest, lemon juice, sweetened condensed milk, and egg yolks.  Pour the filling over the cooled crust.

Place the baking pan inside a larger baking pan and pour enough hot water into the larger pan to come halfway up the sides of the smaller pan.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the filling is puffed at the edges and no longer jiggles in the center when the pan is tapped.  Remove the pan from the water bath and set it on a rack to cool for 1 hour, then refrigerate until cold.

Cut into squares and serve chilled, with whipped cream.  The bars will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

camping classic, without having to sleep in a tent

Confession: I’ve never been a big fan of camping.  As a child I was a Campfire Girl and often had to go on camping trips with my troop where we made friendship bracelets, went on nature hikes, and had to sing songs, yes, around a campfire.  All I really remember is always feeling cold and damp and once burning my hand on the wrong end of a metal fire-poking stick.  Not fun.

I like nature and everything, I’m just not sure I like sleeping out in it in a tent on the cold ground, feeling every root and rock beneath me as I toss and turn all night.  No thanks.

However, there is one thing camping really does have going for it: s’mores.  There’s nothing quite like a marshmallow toasted on a stick over some hot coals and then packed between chocolate and graham crackers.  It’s one of life’s simple pleasures that you enjoy no matter how far from Campfire Girl days you are.

These bars recreate that feeling.  And you don’t have to sleep in a tent to enjoy them.  Score!

S’more Bars (from Taste of Home: Simple and Delicious magazine)

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 6 oz. of milk chocolate bars
  • 1 cup marshmallow cream

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla and beat well.  Combine the flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder, and salt.  Beat into creamed mixture, and set aside ½ cup of this mixture for the topping.

Press remaining mixture into an 8-inch baking pan.  Place candy bars over the crust in one single layer.  Spread marshmallow cream on top of candy bar layer.  Crumble remaining graham cracker/flour/butter mixture over top.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes, or until golden brown on top.  Cool on a wire rack and cut into bars.