Doesn't every office deserve a resident baker? Especially one devoted to rev-'em-up, his-n-her pleasure in every size, shape, and glittery color. It was Jackie's one-year anniversary at the Oakland warehouse/headquarters of Babeland, and rather than hire a stripper, she called me, PQ, baker for hire. I tied on my fabulous Parisian pin-up birthday apron (thanks, susie!), filled my bag with Meyer lemons and brown sugar, and nipped across the bay. Up on the 3rd floor, past the Pam Grier and Jenna Jameson posters, was a little kitchenette, with a coffee machine, a fridge full of soy milk, and a real full-size gas oven. Say no more, say no more...on that rainy Tuesday morning, it was HQ of Babeland Bakery.
Grating, juicing, making crust and mixing up cake, ransacking the cupboards for usable baking pans...by lunchtime, there were two pie plates full of vegan carrot cake and a sheet pan of buttery-tangy Meyer lemon bars, thickly drifted with powdered sugar. The Babeland babes (and dudes) wandered in, drawn to the scent of hot butter and sugar, nutmeg and lemons, and stood there in a daze, clutching their coffee cups in stunned amazement. After all, there are visuals, and then there's stuff you can actually put in your mouth.
Truly, this is what your workplace needs--me, baking for you. Warm, fresh-from-the-oven, made-from-scratch treats beat Safeway cupcakes any day when it comes to promoting worker productivity and encouraging general smiley well-being. Book the PQ now! Wide selection of vintage aprons available...
Meyer Lemon Bars
There's a kick-ass sounding recipe for lemon bars in the Tartine cookbook, involving (as all their recipes do) vast amounts of butter and egg yolks. I'm sticking to my old tried-and-true simple one, though, because it always works and makes everyone happy, without much effort at all. Remember to allow time to cool--these are sort of disgusting hot out of the oven, but fantastic chilled. Let them cool to room temp, then cover and chill for several hours, if you can bear to wait that long.
1 cup flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 stick (8 TB/4 oz) butter, softened
a couple teaspoons of water
6 TB Meyer lemon juice (approx. 2 juicy lemons)
zest of those 2 lemons*
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
Powdered sugar for decorating
Preheat oven to 350F. Sift flour and powdered sugar together. Cut in/mash softened butter into flour mixture, to get a crumbly texture that's halfway between cookie dough and pie crust before you add liquid. Add just enough water to make it stick together. Press into a 9 x 9 baking pan (8 x 8 is ok too--whatever square brownie-making type pan you have is fine). Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.
While crust is baking, stir or sift together the sugar and baking powder. Beat in eggs, lemon juice, and zest. When crust is ready, pour filling over hot crust and return to the oven. Bake until set but not browned, about 15 minutes. It's OK if it still seems slightly gooey in the center--it's better to underbake a little than to overbake. Let cool on a rack, then cover and refrigerate. Sift a good snowy drift of powdered sugar over the pan, cut into bars, and serve.
*Yet another shout-out for the amazingness of the microplane grater in this instance. I had to go down to Cole Hardware and buy another one of these, my original one being (like everything else) in storage in Brooklyn. Fast, easy, no-waste grating every time, with no shredded knuckles--if I could do infomercials for one piece of cooking equipment, this would be it. It's especially useful with Meyer lemons, which, besides being soft and tender, also have that very smooth, hard-to-grab peel. Available in cookware stores and fancied-up hardware stores everywhere, it's a tool that will make you at least as grateful when you use it as anything Babeland has to offer.