I hereby issue a warning to all passing lemons.
I am going through a zesting phase and any lemons within range are likely to be relieved of their outer garments sharpish. Zorro-like, I will unsheath my beloved microplane zester, draw razor-sharp blades across their citrusy skins and have my wicked culinary way with the finely shredded results.
Other citrus fruit, I might add, are also at risk.
Ah, yes, it’s true that the zing of a little citrus zest has lifted many a meal lately. I think, however, that my zesting habit started with my first attempt at lemon shortbread bars.
There I was, ready for kitchen action, lured by the promise of the most lemony of lemon bars ever. Suffice to say that the author of the recipe should have their license to use superlatives revoked, because the lemon bars were nothing of the kind.
Fortunately, I realised that the situation could be retrieved by means of emergency zesting. A generous sprinkling of lemon shavings on top and at least I now had bars that spoke of lemon, rather than vaguely hinting at it.
Needless to remark, I have been zesting generously ever since.
Many lemons later, the time finally came to return to the scene of the shortbread crime and make a properly tangy shortbread bar.
Rather than go the pure lemon route, however, I looked to my recent harvest of redcurrants, which boast their own particular brand of tartness. They made for a gloriously pink topping but, sharp and all as redcurrants are, they still lacked the oomph I was looking for in my shortbread bars.
One zested lemon later and they had all the oomph they needed.
Redcurrant Shortbread Bars With Lemon
I made my first batch of these for the recent Dublin Tea Up and they were popular enough that people asked whether the recipe was on the blog (’tis now). While I thought that the first batch was good, the second batch (which I made to coincide with the Irish bloggers Twookieparty) was even better. That is the version you will find below.
And the difference in the second version? Why, more lemon zest of course.
For the shortbread:
- 150g butter
- 75g caster sugar
- 150g plain flour
- 75g cornmeal
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- pinch of salt
For the filling:
- 250g redcurrants, washed
- 3 large eggs
- 100g caster sugar
- 4 tblsps plain flour
- pinch of salt
- 1 tblsp lemon zest (zest of about 1 lemon)
- icing sugar to serve (optional)
You’ll also need:
- A shallow rectangular baking tin – mine was 27cm x 18cm x 4cm deep – and a sieve for mashing the redcurrants.
The Shortbread Steps:
- Preheat your oven to 150C.
- Whisk the flour, cornmeal, ground ginger and salt together in a medium-sized bowl.
- In a separate bowl, beat the butter until soft, then add the sugar and continue beating until smooth (or use a food processor or stand mixer to do the beating for you).
- Add the flour mixture to the butter and sugar and mix until it is pebbly and, when pressed, will hold together as a dough
- Press the mixture into your baking tin and smooth the surface so that it is fairly even.
- Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until just lightly golden.
- Leave to cool in the tin for about 20 minutes while you make the filling and keep the oven on at 150C.
The Filling Steps:
- Place the redcurrants in a sieve over a medium-sized bowl and, using a large spoon or spatula, mash them well against the sieve to release their juice – 250g redcurrants should yield around 175ml juice.
- In a large bowl (or using a stand mixer or food processor) whisk the eggs, then beat in the sugar.
- Add the flour and salt and whisk until there are no lumps remaining, then whisk in the redcurrant juice and lemon zest.
- Pour the filling over the shortbread crust and bake for about 15 minutes or until the filling is set and does not jiggle when you tap the baking tin.
- Allow to cool in the tin and then slice into squares or bars. Sift some icing sugar over the bars just before serving if you like.
- Though I haven’t tried it, I imagine that you could substitute an equivalent amount of raspberry juice for the redcurrant juice.
- Makes around 54 x 3cm squares