“For the absolute best burger, you need three different kinds of beef? To grind yourself? Really?”
Cauliflower soup. “For this vegetable puree, you need three cups of cream. And milk. And butter-fried bread crumbs. And pan fried florets and garnishes. And, on the topic of garnishes, you need a mandolin to make deep-fried beet chips. For soup. Really, Thomas Keller?”
And after all, this is a book for the home cook inspired by Keller’s Ad Hoc restaurant, a kind of thrown-together eatery he thought up because he had the empty restaurant, he had the fleet of die hard, fanboy chefs, and really, because he could. So, really, it’s a cookbook for the most experienced home cook. “You want us to have pickled onions, melted onions, and tomato marmalade on hand, premade, without premeditation, just in case inspiration strikes? Really Thomas Keller?”
But, while you may be taken over for a bit by some SNL funnyman, the original awe and inspiration from just holding this book eventually will win out. As it did with this most excellent lemon bar recipe. But these aren’t just lemon bars. They’re lemon meringue bars, the best of the pie, in handheld form.
“Really Thomas Keller. Really.”
Lemon Meringue Bars
Adapted from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc and Besty’s Lemon Bars
As a note, this is not the recipe for the Lemon Meringue Bars in the Ad Hoc book. But it’s very, very delicious and takes about half the time to make. These were a kind of last minute, have to make, recipe, but with necessary alterations because, well, I didn’t really read the recipe through. One has to freeze the bars for several hours after making what is most likely a supreme lemon curd, and then pipe the meringue. But with one day left in an actual kitchen before returning to the frigid, frigid Midwest—Really, Midwest? —(sorry guys), I had to cut the time short in order to 1. finish and 2. photograph in natural daylight. So I combined my favorite Lemon Bar recipe with the meringue from Ad Hoc and Bob’s your uncle. An absolutely delicious and speedy creation.
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
½ cup powdered sugar
2 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons lemon juice (not Meyer!), about 2-3 large lemons
2 cups white sugar
4 large eggs
4 tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
Extra powdered sugar for dusting
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 by 13 quarter-sheet pan. These pans are like stunted 9 by 13 pans, super cute and Keller swears by them so…do it. Melt the 1 cup butter and mix in the powdered sugar, flour, and salt until just combined. Spread dough into bottom of pan until even and then bake for 25 minutes until golden brown.
2. Mix together the lemon juice, sugar, and eggs. Fold in the flour and baking soda. Pour topping over hot crust and bake for 25 minutes or until filling is set. Let cool completely in the pan. Trim all the edges off the lemon bars, about ½ an inch from each side. Cut the remaining sheet into eighths, then transfer to another baking sheet, keep two columns of four bars each together. This makes it much easier to pipe the meringue and broil the bars as a whole.
Meringue and Assembly
1 ¼ cup white sugar plus 2 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup water
3 extra large egg whites
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. Combine 1 ¼ cup sugar and water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Over medium high heat, bring the sugar mixture to a boil and continue boiling until 220 degrees, or the softball stage. Meanwhile, whip egg whites in a stand-up mixer until foamy. Gradually add the remaining two tablespoons sugar and whip egg whites until just before stiff peaks form. Add the vanilla and slowly pour the softball sugar-water mixture down the side of the bowl, with the mixer on high, to slightly cook the egg white, but making sure they don’t scramble. Whip the egg whites on high until the meringue is cool to the touch.
2. Fit a pastry bag with a ½ inch round tip, and fill the bag with the meringue. Pipe meringue over the lemon bars in continuous rows down each of the two columns. The meringue should be about ¾ to one inch in height and there should be about three rows of meringue width wide across each column of lemon bars. Turn the broiler in your oven on. After the lemon bars have been covered, broiler the meringue on the top rack until deep amber, rotating the pan to get even browning. Break the toasted meringue along where you’ve but the lemon bars, and serve immediately.