For chef Nancy Silverton, connecting people through food is as important as taste.
Silverton, 69, exclusively opened up about her career and culinary inspiration with fellow chef Judy Joo in the latest issue of Us Weekly. During their discussion, the California native recalled how her passion for food was sparked at a young age.
“My own love of food grew out of the nightly meals I had with my family, where my dad, mom, sister and I would sit around the dinner table and rehash our day,” she shared.
Silverton used her passion to establish herself as one of the country’s most prominent chefs, bakers, cookbook authors and restauranters. While she may be known for helping to popularize sourdough and other artisanal breads in the U.S., Silverton also has a killer sweet tooth.
Silverton is sharing her baking secrets in her latest book, The Cookie That Changed My Life, which hits bookstores on November 14. One such recipe is her delicious lemon bars topped with powdered sugar.
Read more of Silverton and Joo’s chat below and keep scrolling to check out Silverton’s lemon bars recipe:
Joo: You’re a pioneer in the culinary industry. Did you always like to cook?
Silverton: I was attending school at Sonoma State and started cooking there because the chef was really cute. Yeah, that basic! If he hadn’t been so cute, who knows what line of work I’d be [in] now — maybe designing shoes!
JJ: You have an empire of restaurants from L.A. to Singapore; you’re an author and mom of three. How do you do it all?
NS: I’m fortunate to have a tremendous amount of energy and a spectacular support system. I’m also someone who strives for the best, no matter how long it takes to get there.
JJ: Any advice for aspiring young chefs?
NS: [Have] patience. Be sure you really love what you’re doing. Learn from everyone around you and chip in to help others — get in there [when] someone [is] in the weeds.
JJ: How do you decide which dishes make it onto your menus?
NS: It’s a grueling process. Whenever I go to Italy, I come back to my restaurants with new ideas.
JJ: Do you have a go-to pizza topping?
NS: A Margherita is up there. The best cheese, tomato and basil. Simplicity is underrated.
JJ: Tell Us about The Cookie That Changed My Life.
NS: During quarantine, my husband came home with a peanut butter cookie from Friends & Family Bakery. I took a bite and was transported back to another time. I wanted to make a book about the classic cakes, cookies, pies and muffins that changed my life – and hopefully will change yours.
JJ: What’s your favorite store-bough cookie?
NS: A classic Oreo still works wonders.
What You Need
- 8-inch square baking dish
- Cooking spray
For the Crust
- 57 grams (scant ½ cup) pine nuts
- 25 grams (2 tablespoons) granulated sugar
- 15 grams (2 tablespoons) powdered sugar
- 140 grams (1 cup) unbleached all-purpose ﬂour
- ½ teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- 113 grams (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cubed
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
For the Lemon Curd
- 6 extra-large eggs
- 6 extra-large egg yolks
- 300 grams (1½ cups) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- 8 to 10 large lemons
- 14 grams (2 tablespoons) potato starch
- 226 grams (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cubed and left at room temperature until pliable but not greasy
- Powdered sugar for dusting
1. To make the crust, adjust an oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat the bottom and sides of the baking dish with cooking spray.
2. Put the pine nuts, granulated sugar, and powdered sugar in a food processor and pulse until the nuts are the texture of a coarse meal. Add the ﬂour and salt and pulse to combine. Add the butter and vanilla and pulse until the mixture is wet and crumbly; do not pulse so long that it comes together into a dough.
3. Turn the crumbly mixture out into the prepared baking dish and use your ﬁngers to press it evenly over the bottom of the dish.
4. Bake the crust on the center rack of the oven until it is golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating it front to back halfway through the baking time so it browns evenly. Remove the crust from the oven and set it aside to cool to room temperature.
5. To make the lemon curd, ﬁll a medium saucepan with 1½ to 2 inches of water and set a small stainless steel bowl atop the saucepan to make a double boiler, making sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl. Now that you know you have the correct size bowl, remove it from the saucepan and bring the water to a simmer over medium heat.
6. Fasten an instant-read thermometer to the side of the bowl, if you have one. Put the whole eggs, egg yolks, granulated sugar, and salt in the bowl. Use a ﬁne Microplane to grate the zest (the bright- yellow outer layer) of 5 lemons into the bowl. Halve and juice enough lemons to get 372 grams (1½ cups) juice. Add 310 grams (1¼ cups) of the juice and whisk to break up the yolks and combine the ingredients. Put the remaining ¼ cup lemon juice in a small bowl and set it aside. (Reserve any remaining lemons for another use.) Return the bowl to the saucepan. With the water at a consistent simmer, cook the curd, stirring often with a silicone spatula, until the thermometer reaches 180°F, or until it is thick enough to coat the spatula, 20 to 25 minutes.
7. While the curd is cooking, add the potato starch to the bowl with the reserved lemon juice and whisk to combine. Gradually add this mixture to the curd, whisking constantly. Cook the curd for 2 minutes, stirring with the whisk, to cook out the starch.
8. Turn off the heat and remove the bowl from the saucepan. Dry off the bottom of the bowl to prevent water from getting into the curd and pass the curd through a ﬁne- mesh sieve into a bowl to strain out the zest, pushing the curd with a rubber spatula to force it through. Set the curd aside for about 20 minutes, until the thermometer reaches 130°F; it will feel barely warm. Add the butter and whisk until it is melted and combined.
9. Pour the curd into the crust and smooth out the top with an offset spatula. Set aside to cool to room temperature. Cover the baking dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate the lemon bars overnight or for at least several hours, until the curd is completely set.
10. Remove the lemon bars from the refrigerator. Use a large sharp knife to cut into whatever size and shape you like. Dust the lemon bars with powdered sugar just before serving. Serve chilled.