Born without the baking gene

One of the first things I ever learned to make was lemon bars, off a recipe clipped from Seventeen magazine. I grew up in a house where my mom used the oven to store pots and pans–so my lemon bars were the rare foray into baking.

A few weeks ago, I decided it was time to revisit those lemon-bar-making days. I finally settled on this recipe from Smitten Kitchen (a modification of the Barefoot Contessa’s, which includes Paula Deen quantities of sugar). What I didn’t realize—until I began laying down the crust dough—was that I was using too large a pan.

What to do, what do to? Most reasonable people would’ve transferred the dough to a smaller baking pan. In a mad panic, I tried building a foil “dam” to prevent the lemon filling from flowing out of the crust that covered 80% of the pan. Here’s what happened:

The resulting lemon bars (to the left of the foil dam; the ones to the right were crustless) were anorexically thin. They tasted ok, but I ended up dumping most of them because keeping them around felt like lemon juice on a wound.

Some people weren’t born to bake, yet we do anyway. Maybe one day I’ll have the patience to follow directions to a T. Until then, expect a few monumental baking failures every year.


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