Sunday, September 11, 2016

It's Still Not Technically Fall, so Here's a Final Summery Dessert

Ahhh inaugural Football Sunday. The air is crisper, the (c'mon, I live in the desert), and the mornings smell distinctly like fall. But sadly, it is still not really time for autumn for another couple of weeks. I promised my husband I would wait to go crazy with the pumpkin desserts until fall equinox. But after spending the day clutching my chest, shouting like crazy, and feeling cautiously hopeful (as a Vikings fan, this is just typical Sunday behavior), I really wanted to bake dessert. We're on the precipice of my favorite season, and dammit, the house should smell like the inside of a Yankee candle store. I'm still trying to perfect a wide variety of healthier desserts because I want to have my cake and eat it, too, without also permanently becoming a stretchy pants person. I feel like pregnant women, competitive eaters, and most dads on Thanksgiving should be the only people allowed to wear such articles of clothing. I also still firmly believe leggings are not pants, but this is a rant for a whole other day. I digress. I've still been drooling over last week's low cal chocolate chip cheesecake, so I'm continuing in the savory direction. I wanted cake-like consistency with a fruity taste and sweet finish that lingers on the tongue. I've also decided that my use of adjectives when describing desserts should place me as a front runner should cake sommeliers ever become an actual job. I needed to make a dessert that would give summer one literal bittersweet, final say adieu to a treat that will have you blissfully happy to bear farewell to flipflop season. 
Footwear choices aside, I'll eat any dessert in bar form.

These lemon cake bars pack a punch. They're tart and mouthwatering, but they leave your sweet tooth satisfied thanks to the lemony glaze on top. Sliced up into 12 bars, they're only 175 calories a piece. Tell me what pumpkin-filled fall dessert can say the same?! No, literally, tell me because I'll want to make it in a few weeks. I may be basking in the glow of a Vikings win, but even if we had lost, these bars would've had me feeling better in no time. So uh, I guess if you're a Titans fan, sorry eh, but you could make these to soothe your soul. I promise you making these will be 1,000 times easier than watching your team fall to the Kings in the North. Skol.
At least the ingredients list isn't as confusing as our starting roster.
I had everything I needed already on hand to make these lemon cake bars, so I consider that another victory. Add one more to the win column today, and I may just go buy a lottery ticket. Chances are you'll be able to whip these up in under an hour from start to finish as well, so grab:
  • 1 stick of butter at room temp
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 2 eggs at room temp
  • 2 tbs lemon juice
  • 1 tbs dried lemon jest
  • (not pictured) 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract (or you can just double the amount of zest but things may get crumby in texture)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • For healthier bars: 1/2 cup All Purpose flour and 1/4 cup whole wheat flour. Otherwise, use entirely All Purpose but add on a bunch of extra calories (boo)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • Optional: 4-5 drops of yellow food coloring because things should be pretty, dammit.
Preheat your oven to 350 and coat a 9x9, 8x8, or in my case because our "furnished" condo is lame, an 8x11 pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl or your stand mixer bowl, dump the sugar and butter together and cream until fluffy. Then add in the egg, lemon juice, zest, lemon extract, vanilla extract, and yellow dye. Blend for a minute until fully incorporated. While this is mixing, in a medium bowl combine the flours, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Dump the dry ingredients in with the wet ones and mix for two minutes. Pour into your prepared baking pan and smooth out with a spatula since the consistency is thick. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with some wet crumbs.
 This could definitely be eaten with breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Thanks, healthy food!

Let your bars cool on a rack until they're at room temp. Or you can speed things up by putting them in the freezer for a half an hour. I had time to walk the dogs and enjoy a thunderstorm while these cooled, like Mother Nature was reminding me the season of pumpkin is nigh.
Of course I'm adding sprinkles. I need sprinkle rehab.
The glaze is so easy, even a Raiders fan could put it together! I'm kidding. A little. What good is football season without some lighthearted ribbing, or if you're an Eagles fan, full-on verbal assault? Simply mix together half a cup of powdered sugar and two tablespoons of lemon juice until no chunks of powdered sugar remain.
Oh yeah, hit me with the good stuff.
Drizzle the glaze on your cooled bars and spread out with a spoon. Top with sanding sugar for extra pizzazz. I like a little sparkle with my desserts, what can I say. You can stick these in the freezer for a half hour so the glaze will set and they'll be ready for crisp, even slicing and consumption! Or you can leave them out if you're into teasing yourself that you can handle the pressure until you go crazy. I expect Cowboys fans to take this route.
At least you have Jason Witten? And dessert.
When you're ready to eat, pop these into the microwave to warm them up for a bit. If you're really feeling indulgent, top them with some sherbet. I imagine this would be insanely decadent and summery. Like a final reminder that sometimes it really does need to be so swelteringly awful outside that the only thing in the world that could satisfy your desert-induced thirst is a huge glass of lemonade. Or in this case, lemon cake bar. I promise you won't be disappointed when that first tingle of lemon hits your tongue and that glaze reminds you why sweet and sour is a winning combo. I believe some of the best things in life a multifaceted: sweet and sour, chocolatey and salty, winning and rubbing it in the losing team's get the idea. But now we get to add one more thing to that list: low-cal and delicious. It's hard to come by (much like winning your division at the end of the season. Deal with it, Green Bay), but when it happens, it's pure magic. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!
Sundays were made for treating yourself.

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