Think Pink Lemonade Bars

What’s the first fruit that comes to mind when you think of “summer”?

I think of lazy days on my grandma’s patio, and the taste of sour-sweet pink lemonade.  To me, strawberries and lemons blend to create a magical summer hybrid. This memory of lazy, fruity days contrasts drastically from my feelings right now of being very stuck indoors in New York, a sentiment that we’re all coping with in the United States.  It can be difficult to get into that summer spirit when we aren’t seeing friends or doing the fun things we think of when we want to connect during a balmy summer in the city. That being said, we need to stick to the rules so that we can pull ourselves out of this pandemic mess.

These Pink Lemonade Bars are full of tart lemon mingling with luscious strawberry. The bars are an alluring light pink, dusted with a pinch of powdered sugar, and garnished with strawberry slices and fresh flowers. They are the pure, polar opposite of the tumult we are experiencing this summer. Each bite transports you to a magical outdoor party, complete with your favorite tangy summer memories.

What else is inspiring me this month, besides anecdotes from summers past? 

This Dior Autumn-Winter 2020-2021 video captured my attention recently. Whether you are fashion-forward or comfy and content, Dior’s miniature clothes being prepared for mermaids and other mythical creatures and characters will fascinate and enchant you. Can you guess which stylish creature is my favorite? It will be interesting to see how other fashion brands showcase their designs as the pandemic wears on.

I’ve been enjoying the recipe and restaurant posts by Dom of Dom N’ The City. Her food photography makes me want to lick the computer screen. Check out her recent blog post for a list of some Black-owned businesses to support in Brooklyn.

The Qi floral tea is a beautiful whole flower tea that blossoms in your cup. It’s soothing just to watch the flowers unfurl in a glass mug. A cup of calm is exactly what you need sometimes, especially during months like these.   

The television show Devs captured our attention on Hulu, initially because we are fascinated with Nick Offerman in any role beyond Ron Swanson of Parks and Recreation. This ominous show about a tech company in Silicon Valley had us contemplating the future of Big Tech, determinism, and the nature of life itself.

Enough chit-chat. Scroll down for this summery Think Pink Lemonade Bars recipe!

Ingredients:

(Makes about 12 bars)

For the Crust:
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

For The Filling:
1 cup fresh lemon juice
3-4 tsp lemon zest
3/4 cup chopped strawberries
1 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
powdered sugar, to sprinkle on top (to taste)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Line a baking pan with parchment and spray with a nonstick cooking spray (I used a 9×13 inch pan). I like to leave some extra parchment along the edges, so that the bars are easier to pull out when they are done baking.
  3. In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar for the crust together until light and fluffy. Then, incorporate the flour and salt. Your dough will be slightly crumbly.
  4. Line your prepared pan with your dough. Pack it into each corner so that the entire bottom of the pan is covered.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the crust begins to brown along the edges.
  6. Blend the strawberries, lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar, and eggs in a food processor. Add in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Pulse until smooth.
  7. Once smooth, pour the filling over your prepared crust.
  8. Bake for 35 minutes, or until the top of the bars begins to look slightly brown. Take out off the oven and let cool.
  9. Sift on a layer of powdered sugar. Cut and serve.

Recipe adapted from The Baker Upstairs.

Lemon and Spiced Hibiscus Cake

“Perhaps very late, our dreams joined, at the top or at the bottom, up above like branches moved by a common wind, down below like red roots that touch.”  -Night on the Island, Pablo Neruda

Need a dreamy show-stopper for your upcoming Galentine’s Day celebration?

Last week’s burst of warm January weather triggered all sorts of ideas, and because my baking is in step with my thinking, I came up with this!

This blooming beauty is anchored by two layers of lemon cake with lemon curd sandwiched in between.  The real zing to this fling is the spiced hibiscus buttercream that I whipped up using a marvelous spiced hibiscus jam produced by Stagg Jam & Marmalade!  The borderline fruity/floral subtlety of hibiscus provides the alluring antidote that balances the tart bite of all that lemon. Don’t take this jam at face value; spicy notes of cinnamon, clove, and bay leaf are swimming just beneath the surface flavor.    I am super excited that I was given the opportunity to collaborate with a brand that generates such a nuanced specialty.

I used dry hibiscus petals found in a hibiscus tea to decorate the top of the cake.  I recommend the brand Teapigs (for the biggest petals!).

I’ve been hyper focused on the world of food this past year, and I’ve found that it’s easy to start feeling one dimensional toward your craft.  One of my goals for 2018 is to infuse more contemplative depth into my culinary creations.  A bite of this lemon hibiscus cake is like taking a bite out of a summery poem that melts on your tongue.  What books, music, or other types of art inform your baking?

Scroll down for the recipe!

Lemon Hibiscus Cake

For the Cake: (Originally seen on Martha Stewart)

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pans
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs plus 3 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour one 6 inch round cake pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest.
  3. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and yolks, one at a time. Beat in 2 tablespoons lemon juice.
  4. Alternately beat in flour mixture and buttermilk beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix just until just combined.
  5. Pour batter in pan; smooth the top. Bake until cakes pull away from sides of pans, around 40 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes. Run a knife around edges of pans and invert cakes onto a wire rack.  When cool, torte the cake into two separate layers.

For the Buttercream:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 3.5 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Spiced Hibiscus jam from Stagg Jam & Marmalade
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions:

  1. Beat the butter in an electric stand mixer until light and fluffy.
  2. Slowly incorporate the powdered sugar.
  3. Add hibiscus jam and vanilla to taste.
  4. One batch covers a 6 inch naked style cake.  Consider doubling the batch if you don’t want to see any cake peeking through on the sides.