Happy surprises. They're life's way of reminding you that while things don't always go according to plan, it's sometimes for the best. You just need to learn to roll with it.
The surprise in this case is the meringue topping on these bars. What I had in mind was a delicate marshmallowy sort of meringue, like the kind that's piled atop a lemon meringue pie. And while it did come out pillowy and soft, it also came out shatteringly crisp on top, a perfect contrast of soft and crunchy all at once.
It's not at all what I set out to make, but you know what? It's actually better. So I'm going to pretend that I intended it to be this way all along.
It's the perfect finish to what was a pretty spectacular dessert to begin with (if I do say so myself).
It's my twist on the classic lemon bar, with a buttery almond shortbread base and a brilliantly purple blackberry curd nestled under that fabulously soft yet crisp accidentally-on-purpose meringue topping.
I'm going to lie and these are surprisingly easy to make. No, these bars are a labour of love, what with the crust making and the baking and the cooling and the curd-making and the baking and the egg white whipping and the baking and the cooling and the slicing.
Still, if you want a show-off dessert for a special occasion, this is totally it.
It's only appropriate that I'm posting this recipe to celebrate one of my favourite bloggers, the lovely Jan of Family Bites.
You see, Jan is expecting a happy surprise of her own... a new baby boy, who's due to make his appearance very shortly.
And since today also happens to be Family Day here in Ontario, I'm joining some of my other favourite bloggers in throwing a virtual baby shower to celebrate Jan and her soon-to-be-bigger family.
So this one's for you, Jan. May your little one bring you happiness (and maybe a few surprises). xo
Check out the rest of the posts celebrating Baby Family Bites:
- Mardi from eat. live. travel. write made blueberry cheesecake macarons
- Julie from Dinner with Julie made lemon tart
- Heather from The Tasty Gardener made Cream Puffs with Caramel Cream and Chocolate Pretzel Top
- Isabelle from Crumb: A Food Blog made Blackberry Meringue Bars
- Jennifer from Seasons and Suppers made Baby Blueberry Beignets
- Christina from Strawberries For Supper made Chocolate Madeleines
- Aimée from Simple Bites made Roasted Rutabaga Hummus
- Jenny from The Brunette Baker made Wild Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins
- Liliana from My Cookbook Addiction made Vanilla Mini Cupcakes
- Carole from The Yum Yum Factor made Beet and Blue Cheese Canapes
- Charmian from The Messy Baker made Piglet Muffins
- Amy from Family Feedbag made Marmalade Cake
- Brittany from My Daily Randomness made Caramel + Pumpkin Parfait
- Meg from Sweet Twist of Blogging made Carrot Apple Loaf
- Louisa from Living Lou made Maple Walnut Cookies
- Libby from Libby Roach Photography made Butter Baked Good’s Peanut Butter Sandwich cookie
- Robyn from Planet Byn made Milk & Cookies Shooters
- ¾ cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup ground almonds
- 3 tbsp icing sugar
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- ½ cup butter, cut into small cubes
- 1 tsp water
- ½ tsp almond extract
- 2 cups fresh blackberries
- 1 cup sugar, divided
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 3 eggs
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 2 egg whites
- ½ cup sugar
- Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9x9 square baking pan with parchment.
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, ground almonds, icing sugar and salt. Add the butter, and pulse until the mixture looks coarse and sandy. Add the ice water and almond extract, and pulse again until a loose, crumbly dough starts to form. Press the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan in an even layer.
- Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until golden brown and firm. Set on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes.
- While the crust is baking, combine the blackberries with lemon juice and ¼ cup sugar in a small saucepan set over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5-7 minutes or until the berries are soft. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
- Using an immersion blender (or a clean food processor), puree the berries until smooth. Using a fine mesh sieve set over a medium-sized mixing bowl, strain puree. Discard the solids.
- Measure out ¾ cup of puree, and transfer the remainder, if you have any, to an airtight container for another use. (I like to stir a spoonful of this puree into soda water for a fruity, fizzy refresher.)
- Add the eggs, cornstarch and remaining ¾ cup sugar to the blackberry juice, and whisk until smooth. Pour onto the cooled crust. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the curd is mostly set (it's okay if it's still a teensy bit jiggly in the middle).
- Remove from the oven and reduce the heat to 325F.
- While the curd is baking, beat together the egg whites with an electric mixer on medium-high speed. Beat until soft peaks, then gradually sprinkle in the ½ cup sugar and continue beating until you have stiff peaks.
- Spread the meringue onto the still-hot filling in an even layer, making sure to spread all the way to the edges of the pan. Using the back of a spoon, swirl the top of the meringue. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the meringue is set and lightly browned on top. (If you prefer a more browned meringue, you can run the broiler for a minute or two to finish browning the top.)
- Let cool completely on a wire rack, then cut into bars and serve. These are best eaten the day they're made, but leftovers will keep for a day in an airtight container in the fridge.