Lemon Bars and a Summer Garden Party

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This past weekend I had the exciting time of throwing a garden party with one of my dear friends. Last year we threw a similar party, but with slightly fancier/elaborate details and a much more intimate setting. There were twinkle lights, candles, glass bottles of Italian water, 5 courses, and palette cleansers. Like I said…elaborate.

Although proving to be quite a bit of work, we enjoyed that evening dinner party so much that we wanted to throw one on a grander yet simpler scale, if that makes sense. We dropped the menu down about four courses and invited all our friends!

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My partner in partying, Kathleen, was in charge of decor, and she did such a splendid job. The atmosphere was nothing short of magical.

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Cloth banners and croquet definitely added to the summery feel we were going for. The butterflies flying around were an extra bonus. We didn’t pay them.

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Another dear family friend of mine offered to make homemade pulled pork for pulled pork sandwiches- a perfect summer entree if you ask me! Grill master Narnal also served up some tasty burgers and dogs, you know, that comfort picnic food. (almost) Everyone likes a good cheeseburger.

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There is something about gathering all your friends and sharing conversation over food and drink in a beautiful place. These moments always give me perspective on what is good and lovely and important.

This was definitely good and lovely.

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Here is a little taste of the masculine side of the party. It came in straw hats and American flag shirts and sensual poses.

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As the sun lowered in the sky, we turned the backyard into a short film viewing party!

The film of choice was ‘Jesus Fish’, a short by a mutual friend and family member to some, Bryce James McGuire. It was stellar and beautifully made. Definitely an appropriate way to finish out the night.

Now dessert talk!

Kathleen suggested lemon bars for the evening, and I couldn’t have agreed more!

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These bars live up to their name in a major way, with bountiful amounts of zest and fresh squeezed lemon juice.

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In the crust is LOTS of butter, flour, sugar, and zest. The consistency of this crust is very similar to short bread, and is not at all overpowering in its sweetness.

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The dough is mixed until it comes together as loose crumbs, then pressed into a pan and baked until lightly browned.

Cool dat crust while making your filling.

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Lemon bar filling comes together with eggs, lemon juice, and zested sugar. A trick I learned from Joy the Baker’s cookbook was the sugar/zest mashup.

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Mashing the zest in your recipe’s sugar helps to release the oils in the skin, creating a broader flavor of whatever citrus you are using. I find the difference to be significant, and it makes a good complexity in your dessert! Big time win.

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Beat your ingredients together until combined, pour into crust, and bake until set! If it still jiggles, it’s not ready. Keep a close watch so as to not overcook these little guys.

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Finished bars, partying it up in the evening light. They were a smashing success! (a lot of smashing happening in this post)

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I am already excited for the next party to throw. As one of the attendees said, “we did this party right.”

Indeed we did.

LEMON BARS

makes 36 bars

recipe from The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook

CRUST:

4 sticks unsalted butter, softened

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

TOPPING:

2 cups sugar

6 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup lemon juice

6 teaspoons grated lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12 x 18 inch jelly roll pan.

FOR THE CRUST:

In a large bowl, on low speed of an electric mixer, combine all the ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Form the dough into a ball, then spread crust evenly into your pan. Make sure your crust is pressed firmly and evenly down into the pan. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove from oven and let cool for 15-20 minutes while making the filling

FOR THE FILLING:

In a medium-sized bowl, on low speed of an electric mixer, beat the zested sugar, eggs, and lemon juice until well combined. Pour over slightly warm crust. Return to oven and bake for another 18-20 minutes, or until the edges are slightly golden and the filling does not jiggle.

Allow the bars to cool to room temperature before dusting with confectioners’ sugar and cutting.

Happy summer festivities!

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