Do you have your fancy pants on?
Go find them!
These bars have champagne in them. Champagne means fancy pants!
Or! You could be like me. I very rarely wear my fancy pants. I believe when I made and then ate these, I was wearing boxers, which are not, in any context, considered fancy pants.
Really, these things are a way to get a little creative with your lemon bars. And a foolproof way to (almost) forget that it’s 109º outside.
For. Real. Texas is warm.
Another fact about Texas: if you venture to the middle-ish of the state (I say venture because it really is a long way to go just to stay in the same state), you’ll end up in the Hill Country (capitalized?). This place is beautiful and full of peaches in the early summer. And if you find a town called Fredericksburg, you’ll also find a bakery/café called “Rather Sweet Bakery.” You should pull over immediately and stop here and eat everything on the menu.
The lady-genius behind this place is Rebecca Rather, and she also has a few cookbooks out that I adore. One of them is called The Pastry Queen and that’s where I found a recipe called “Lemon-Champagne Bars with Strawberry Bruléee Topping.”
As you can see, I nixed the strawberry topping, although for a special occasion, it would be a fantastic touch. I substituted powdered sugar for granulated sugar in the crust because I love the flaky texture it lends to shortbread crusts. This filling recipe is a little different from standard lemon bars…it calls for more egg yolks (which I scaled back a little) than other recipes I read, no flour, and more butter. I added a little flour because I wanted more stability in the filling…they were still a little more gooey than other lemon bars, but I really loved the smooth texture. The butter gives the filling an incredible velvety feel, so don’t be afraid of it!
(Also…if you’re afraid of butter, you probs don’t like my blog very much. Sorry.)
Oh AND. Obvs there’s the champagne. Champagne is to lemon bars as mascara is to my eyes. As in…I have eyes without mascara (duh), and they’re nice and blue and such, but you can’t REALLY see them until I put mascara on. So…there’s lemon in these lemon bars, and they’re yummy and all, but when you add champagne, it’s like a whole other level of lemon bars. The bright flavors in the champagne were pretty much made for lemon bars. I’m glad someone came up with this idea.
I smushed some blueberries into half the pan before baking the bars because I like blueberries and lemon. You can do it too. Or not. Whatevs. Either way you should make these.
Lemon Champagne Bars
Makes 24 bars, or one 9×13-inch pan
1 cup (= 2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
zest of 2 lemons
4 large egg yolks
6 large eggs
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 TBS lemon zest
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup champagne or dry sparkling wine
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
10 TBS unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
3/4 cup blueberries, optional
powdered sugar for sprinkling, optional
1. For crust – Preheat oven to 375ºF with a rack in the middle position and grease a 9×13-inch baking pan. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer (paddle attachment), cream the butter and powdered sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add flour, salt, and lemon zest and beat on medium-low speed until the flour is just incorporated. (Over-mixing can make the crust tough, so be careful.)
2. Press/spread the dough in an even layer in the bottom of the prepared pan. The dough might be a little sticky, so it might be a little annoying to get it pressed in evenly. It may be easier to spread it with a large offset spatula in some places. Bake the crust for about 13 to 15 minutes until set and golden brown. Let the crust cool completely on a wire rack and turn the oven temperature down to 350ºF.
3. For filling – Fill a saucepan with about 2 inches of water and heat over medium heat until simmering. In a large heatproof bowl set over the simmering water (like when you melt chocolate), whisk together the egg yolks, eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, champagne, and flour until combined. Heat for about 15 minutes (adjust the heat so the water in the saucepan is continuously simmering), whisking occasionally, until the mixture is thickened. It should coat the back of a spoon. For me, it looked the same until about minute 13…then all of a sudden it started thickening a lot…so don’t worry if it doesn’t seem like it’s doing what it should until the very end.
4. Add the chilled butter, about a tablespoon at a time, whisking after each addition until the butter is melted into the mixture. Once all the butter has been added, cook for about another 10 minutes, until the mixture is very thick, like pudding or custard.
5. Spoon the filling over the cooled crust and smooth the top with an offset spatula. If using the blueberries, sprinkle them evenly over the top of the filling (all or half, up to you) and press them down into the filling.
Bake the bars (oven should be at 350ºF) in the middle of the oven until set and the top is a little dry, about 10 to 13 minutes. Let the bars cool completely on a wire rack, then chill for at least 2 hours (overnight is preferable) before slicing.
6. Just before serving, sprinkle powdered sugar over lemon bars, if desired. (I didn’t…30% because I’m lazy and 70% because I didn’t want to cover up the pretty yellow color!) Serve the bars cold. Bars will keep, tightly covered in the refrigerator for 4 days. (Make sure they’re covered well, otherwise the lemon filling will absorb other random flavors in your fridge. Gross.)
Recipe adapted from Rebecca Rather’s The Pastry Queen
This is by far my new favorite way to use champagne. So refreshing and fantastic and yum. You can eat them with a fork if you want…or not, for faster consumption. Thanks for reading, happy baking!