Monday, March 28, 2016

Lemon Almond Bars with Italian Meringue



I can't believe it's almost been a year since my very first blog post, the Speckled Easter Cake! I'm having so much fun on this baking journey. One year later, and I'm back with a new Easter post.

Our friends invited us over for an Easter potluck this past weekend, and since spring is in the air, I wanted to bake a fresh and fruity dessert to bring. When I came across this Lemon Almond Bars with Italian Meringue recipe, I knew it was calling my name. I know I've told you before, but lemon desserts are high up on my list of things I love.




Now, what makes this dessert better than a traditional lemon bar (and trust me, I do love a good lemon bar), are the two layers of almond cake that surrounds the lemon filling. The sweetness from the almond cake, the tartness of the lemon, and the smooth Italian meringue - it's pure magic.




Speaking of meringue, do you want in on a secret? I've been terrified of making Italian Meringue ever since I tried an Italian Meringue Buttercream recipe a year ago and failed miserably. To my surprise, it turns out it's not that hard at all! This time I had a good cooking thermometer, so I knew when the sugar mix had the right temperature before going into the whipped egg whites. After that, the Kitchen Aid worked its magic, and the result was a beautiful meringue.




I might have to come up with a similar cake idea, because this recipe was a perfect combination of fresh, light and creamy.


Lemon Meringue Bars
from Hembakat

Almond cake layers


400 g almond paste
100 g butter, room temperature
4 eggs
3 tbsp flour


Lemon filling

1 ½ gelatin sheets
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
90 g sugar
3.38 oz water
15 g corn starch
1 egg yolk
25 g butter


Italian Meringue

4 egg whites
3.38 oz water
135 g sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla sugar


Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Finely grate the almond paste into a mixing bowl. Whip in the butter and the eggs, one at a time. Lastly, fold the flour into the mix.

2. Dress two 8 inch square baking dishes with parchment paper. Divide the batter into the dishes, and bake for about 17 minutes. Let cool.

3. Lift the cakes from the baking dishes, and remove the parchment paper. Clean one of the pans and cover the inside with plastic wrap. Put one of the cakes in the pan with the baked side upward.

4. Filling: Put the gelatin in a bowl of cold water for about five minutes. Bring the lemon juice and half the amount of water to a boil.

5. Mix the corn starch with the egg yolk and the remaining amount of water in a mixing bowl. Stir the warm lemon mix into the egg yolk and whip on high speed. Pour it back into the saucepan and let it simmer until the cream thickens. Pour the lemon cream into a bowl and add the butter, a little at a time, and stir until smooth.

6. Remove the gelatin from the water and gently melt in a saucepan. Pour it into the lemon mix, while still warm. Pour the lemon curd on top of the almond cake. Transfer the second layer almond cake, baked side down, on top of the lemon filling. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the freezer for at least three hours.

7. Meringue: Pour the egg whites into a clean mixing bowl. Boil water and sugar until it reaches a temperature of 250 degrees. When the thermometer reaches 230 degrees, you start whipping the egg whites. When the sugar mixture reaches 230 degrees, gently pour it into the egg whites, whipping on high speed for a few minutes. Lower the speed, add the vanilla sugar and whip until the meringue has cooled.

8. Take out the cake from the freezer, and remove from the baking pan. Spread 2/3 of the meringue on the cake. Cut the cake into 12 rectangular pieces, while still frozen. Use the remaining meringue to decorate the pieces. I used a round tip, but you can also cut off one of the corners of a zip lock bag and get the same result. Torch the top of the meringue with a culinary torch.

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