No-Bake Grapefruit Bars
Makes 12 bars
• Melted butter for the pan
• 6 ounces (170 g) graham crackers (about 11 sheets)
• 5 tablespoons unsalted butter (2.5 oz / 71 g), melted and cooled
• 2 tbsp plus ½ cup sugar (4.4 oz / 125 g)
• Several pinches of kosher salt
• 1⅔ cup heavy cream (14 oz / 400 g)
• 1 tablespoon finely grated grapefruit zest
• ½ cup fresh red grapefruit juice (4 oz / 113 g), from about 1 medium grapefruit
• 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, from about 1 medium lemon
• 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
• 8 ounces (227 g) cream cheese, chilled
• 1 medium red grapefruit, to serve
1. Preheat the oven and prepare the mold. Place an oven rack in the center and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8 × 8-inch baking dish, preferably metal, with foil, carefully working the foil into the corners and pressing it firmly against the sides to remove any air pockets, and smoothing out the creases. Brush the bottom of the foil with a thin layer of melted butter. If you’re using a glass pan, note that these tend to have narrower bases and rounder sides, so your bars will be taller and a bit less square.
2. Make the crust. Place the graham crackers in a resealable bag, squeeze out the air and seal. Use a rolling pin or heavy-bottomed saucepan to crush the crackers, periodically shaking the bag so that the large pieces settle to one side, until you have a very fine, even crumb. (You can also blend them in a food processor until finely ground, but this is very doable by hand.) Transfer the crumbs to a medium bowl and add the melted butter, 2 tablespoons sugar and a pinch of salt. Stir with a fork until the mixture is well blended, then rub it between your fingers until it looks like wet sand.
3. Press into crust and bake. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and use the bottom of a 1 cup dry measure or glass to flatten it into an even, compact layer. Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake until the crust is fragrant, firm to the touch and dark brown around the edges, 13 to 18 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
4. Reduce cream. In a large saucepan, combine the cream, remaining ½ cup (3.5oz/100g) sugar and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce heat to maintain a brisk simmer and continue to cook, whisking occasionally, until mixture is reduced to 1¼ cups, 10 to 15 minutes (pour into heatproof liquid measuring cup for check the volume, then return to the pan and continue to reduce if it is not there yet).
Potential pitfall: Keep an eye on the cream mixture, as it will overflow quickly and cause a mess. Once boiling, take a minute to regulate the heat and find the level where the mixture simmers vigorously but does not boil. If it starts boiling over, immediately remove the pan from the heat and blow on the surface to melt it.
5. Refrigerate the cream mixture. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside. Fill a large bowl with ice water about a quarter full and place the pan inside, making sure the water level comes below the top of the pan. Let stand, whisking occasionally, until mixture is cold, about 5 minutes (cool in an ice bath).
6. Do the filling. Remove the pan from the ice water and stir in the grapefruit zest, grapefruit juice, lemon juice and vanilla, then set aside. Empty the bowl of ice water, pat it dry, add the cream cheese and beat with a hand mixer on medium speed until the cream cheese is smooth. Add a few tablespoons of the cold cream mixture and beat over medium heat to incorporate, then continue beating the cream cheese, gradually adding the cream mixture, until you have a smooth mixture. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until you have a very thick whipped topping, about 3 minutes.
Potential pitfall: If, despite slowly adding the cream mixture and constantly beating, your filling contains lumps of cream cheese, use a blender to smooth it out. If you find that your topping isn’t whipping, it may not be cold enough, so refrigerate it until cold.
seven. Fill the crust. Scrape the filling into the cooled crust and use a spatula to work it up to the sides and into the corners, taking care not to form any air pockets, then smooth the surface. Cover and refrigerate until filling is set, at least 4 hours.
8. Garnish with fresh grapefruit and serve. Use a sharp knife to cut the skin off the whole grapefruit (discard it) and slice the grapefruit into ½-inch-thick rounds, following the instructions in Cutting Citrus Fruit on page 357. Then, with your fingertips and Working one round at a time, carefully separate the individual fan-shaped pieces of grapefruit from the membranes (discard the membranes). Remove pan from refrigerator, uncover and use edge of foil to lift bars out of pan and transfer to cutting board. Slice the slab into a 3-by-4 grid, forming 12 bars. Spread evenly, garnish the bars with the fresh grapefruit pieces and serve.