Today is one of those days when I can’t see the silver lining in this aging process I am going through: I might be wiser, more interesting, more in tune with my wonderful self but it has become apparent two (2) cocktails can bring me to my knees.
I was quite looking forward to the celebration of a friend’s 30th birthday for two reasons: first, I have been spending more than a fair amount of my time with much older folks, tending to their ailments, listening to what ails them or just listening to the same story for the third time in the space of two hours, while feigning rapturous interest. Secondly, the birthday party was to take place at a trendy downtown hotel, in the pretty conservatory restaurant. Lately, my social calendar hasn’t exactly been dripping with trendiness.
And there I was, all decked out, hoping not to look like an older aunt on the prowl – these days I have a hard time trusting the mirror – and off I headed downtown where, despite being the oldest person at the table (by about 20 years), I had a jolly good time and got to catch up with some former colleagues while enjoying some good food. Oh, and there were those two cocktails. A giant slice of Hello Dolly cake might have been involved too.
Cinderella-like, I was home by midnight, tucked in bed and unable to adjust to my later bedtime and, this morning, I felt like death was looming over at every corner: a stomach that demanded some sort of appeasing; a far from clear head and a decisively lack of sprint in my step. Two bloody cocktails, is that all it takes? I didn’t even feel tipsy. (sofagirl wrote a while ago about the effect of alcohol on menopausal women).
Apparently, yes, that is all it takes and let it be a lesson that living a clean life is a necessity at this stage and not a matter of following trends. But, Hello Dolly cake aside, I am not about to give up the devil incarnate science reports are scaring us with: sugar. I have had a sweet tooth since I can remember and my appetite for chocolate is legendary. There were even a few years when my dinner consisted of just dessert in lieu of proper food, the thinking behind being I was just substituting calories, and proof that wisdom and youth don’t go hand in hand.
As attested by last night’s carousing, too much sugar in the form of alcohol or cake reduces me to a pitiful individual – still, I am not giving up sugar entirely. I have already made concessions by adding Stevia to my coffee – the compromise I reached with my cunning self is that I will only consume dessert if it is made by me: at least I can control the amount of sugar and I can rest assured I use the best ingredients I can. Once a week I make something that will last me for a few days and will satisfy my cravings.
This week was the turn of lemon bars, in an effort to put to good use the bounty of lemons my tree is hellbent on giving me: luscious, buttery, tart and tangy, a little bit goes a long way and the bars keep beautifully in the fridge. So beautifully that, wouldn’t you know it, when I reached for the last bit in the throngs of my hangover, my stomach thanked me.
For the crust:
1 1/4 C flour (155 g)
1/4 C sugar (50 g)
3 T powder sugar (25 g)
a pinch of salt
10 T butter (142 g)
zest of half a lemon
For the lemon curd:
3/4 lemon juice (about 5 lemons)
1 1/2 C sugar (300 g)
2 eggs and 3 yolks
1 1/2 ts cornstarch (5 g)
6 T butter, room temperature (85 g)
a pinch of salt
zest from one lemon
Powder sugar for decorating
- Heat oven to 325F/170C and cover the bottom and sides of a 9×9 or 8×11 baking pan with parchment.
- To make the crust, combine the flour, sugar, powder sugar, zest and salt in a food processor or a mixer (this can also be done by hand – just add the butter using a cutter or your fingers). Add the butter and pulse or mix until the mixture is crumbly – if too dry, add a little bit of cold water until you get a fairly stiff dough. Using your fingers, press the dough evenly in the pan and bake it for about 30 minutes, or until pale golden.
- To make the lemon curd, combine the lemon juice, sugar, eggs and yolks, cornstarch and salt in a saucepan and whisk. Place the pan on medium heat and keep whisking until the mixture starts boiling and thickens, about 5 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl and add butter and zest. Whisk until smooth.
- When the crust is ready, pour the curd onto it and return pan to oven. Bake until set, about 15 minutes. Let cool and then refrigerate for a few hours.
Dust with powder sugar and cut into bars.