Nothing makes you reevaluate your words, actions and unintentional mannerisms quite like spending your days with a 2-foot-tall mimic. Toddlers come with an innate talent for reflecting the good, not-so-good and do-I-really-do-that kinds of qualities in the people around them, and our Beany girl has taken to this age-required aptitude with zeal.
Our regular conversations are often interrupted with questions like, “Where did she learn to nod like a bobble-head while babbling on the phone?” “Who taught her to squeal like a wild woman every time ‘Jingle Bells’ starts playing?” “Where did she learn to make monster faces and sniff like a puppy dog when she thinks something’s really funny?”
Well, here’s looking at you, Katrina and Jared — the Christmas-loving, phone-babbling, monster-face-making both of you.
Of course, it’s always a happy surprise when those cute little quirks are accompanied by something downright mannerly, and it seems that, at least for Beany, dessert can be quite the catalyst for some pint-sized Emily Post-approved moments. Although she’d never before seen these ricotta lemon bars, with their buttery crust, zingy filling and powered snow-covered tops, she knew they were something special. So with big eyes, hands moving together in her signature “more” action and lips puckered like she’d already been tasting the leftover lemons, Beany began whispering, “Ppp, ppp, ppp.” Never mind that it’s only the first syllable of “please,” really just the first letter. In a sea Christmas music, silly expressions and early attempts at the ABCs, that sweet bean is learning to mind her Ps and Qs.
Ricotta Lemon Bars
Adapted slightly from Kukla, Food52
For the crust:
• 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
• 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
• ¼ cup cornstarch
• 1 tablespoon lemon zest
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes pieces
For the filling:
• ¾ cup fresh whole-milk ricotta, drained
• 4 eggs, beaten
• 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
• 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
• 2 tablespoons lemon zest
• ½ cup fresh lemon, strained
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• ¼ teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a 13-by-9-inch baking dish, and line the bottom with parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper, and then layer another piece crosswise over that.
To make the crust: Place the flour, confectioners’ sugar, cornstarch, lemon zest and salt in a food processer, and pulse to combine. Add butter, and pulse about 10-15 times, until it resembles course meal.
Pour the crust in the lined pan, and press it firmly into the bottom until it forms an even layer. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, and then bake for 20-25 minutes, until crust is a light golden brown.
To make the filling: Whisk together the ricotta, eggs, sugar and flour until well blended. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla and salt, and stir to combine.
Once the crust is done baking, reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F. Give the filling another stir, and then pour it into the warm crust. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the filling is set and firm to a light touch.
Allow the lemon bars to cool completely on a wire rack, and then transfer them to a cutting board to cut into 18 2-inch squares (for clean lines, wipe the knife between cuts).
Dust with confectioners’ sugar, and serve.