Earl Grey Lemon Bars
Lemon desserts, and more specifically lemon bars, are another one of those things that I never really liked. The lemony flavor tasted artificial and they always left my sweet tooth less than satisfied. The color of lemon desserts seems to be a shocking (and unnatural) shade of yellow that is rather unappetizing. My grandmother would often bring a lemon poppy seed bundt cake when she would come to visit and though I would eat it, I would secretly wish it was her famous tollhouse bars or apple pie.
Well, I decided to take matters into my own hands and make my own lemon bars. I wanted to take something that I didn't particularly like and see if I could transform it into something I could really enjoy and get behind. This seems to have been a theme as of late. First the soup, then the doughnuts, and now these bars. I decided to modify a recipe I created for the winter issue of Chickpea since it had worked so well for me in the past. And, because lemon desserts tend to make me think of my grandmother, I added in a bit of Earl Grey tea as she loved drinking a spot of tea.
These bars are tangy and refreshing without weighing you down. The lemon flavor tastes fresh, not artificial, and there is no unsightly yellow hue to speak of. The slight Earl Grey flavor gives them a special touch, making them a bit more elegant and suitable for high tea. Though I'm still hanging on to whatever cold weather we can get, these made me briefly long for a bit of sunshine and warm spring weather.
Earl Grey Lemon Bars
notes: I was conflicted over whether or not to add dried tea to the filling, or perhaps "steeping" the tea in the filling mixture. I went with adding dried tea directly to the filling as I thought steeping the tea might make these an unattractive color. The bars ended up having a hint of earl grey flavor so perhaps I'll steep it in addition to adding a bit of dried tea next time. This recipe is a variation of one I wrote for the winter issue of Chickpea magazine. Check it out if you haven't had a chance to already.
for the crust
1 cup almond meal/flour
1/3 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
pinch of salt
2 tbsp melted coconut oil
heaping tbsp of pure maple syrup
for the filling
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp silken tofu
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp arrowroot flour/starch
1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup natural cane sugar/dehydrated cane juice
1/2 tsp dried earl grey tea, crushed or minced until fine
lemon slices to serve (optional)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch square pan (or smaller) and line with parchment paper leaving an overhang. In a bowl, combine the almond meal, coconut, and salt. Add the coconut oil and maple syrup and stir until the mixture starts sticking together and forms a dough-like consistency. Dump the crust mixture into the prepared pan and press it out into an even layer with your fingers. Make sure to press it all the way out to the edges of the pan. Once your crust is ready, bake it for 10-12 minutes until the edges are just golden. Remove the crust from the oven and set it aside to cool while you make the filling.
In a blender or food processor, combine all of the ingredients for the filling. Blend until you get a smooth mixture. It will look rather thin, especially if you used a soft silken tofu. Carefully pour the mixture over the crust, then place the pan bake into the oven. Bake the bars for 30-35 minutes until the filling is set (it will still be slightly jiggly in the center). Cool the bars completely before slicing. Makes 9 to 16 bars depending on how large you cut them. Leftovers keep best covered with plastic wrap in the fridge.