meyer lemon bars

We are blessed in Atlanta to have the Dekalb Farmer’s Market. It isn’t a farmers market in the usual sense of the word, as it is year round, has an international flavor, and is lodged in a giant warehouse. Think: Sam’s Club meets farmer’s market, but in an good way. Anyway, the market has good prices on a wide variety of fruits and vegetables (both conventional and organic), so it wasn’t too surprising that I managed to stumble across Meyer lemons last week, even though I thought the time for that had long since passed. So, although I had no reason to buy said lemons, and am trying to keep the dessert baking within reasonable limits, I just couldn’t pass them by. I blame Deb of Smitten Kitchen who waxed poetic about Meyer lemons and their scarcity on the East Coast just a couple of weeks ago. Sadly, I had lemon on the brain.

Or maybe not that sadly, as I have lemon bars in the oven, and seriously, who can be sad about lemon bars?

This recipe is a gluten-free version of Alice Medrich’s “very tangy lime or lemon bars” from her amazing cookbook Pure Dessert. I actually didn’t have quite enough juice in my Meyer lemons to yield 1/2 cup, so I did add a little regular lemon juice and up the sugar by 1 tablespoon. If you don’t have Meyer lemons or are using limes, add a 1/2 cup of sugar to the topping (bringing the sugar up to 1 up plus 2 tablespoons). Also, if you aren’t gluten-free and don’t have these flours, just substitute all-purpose flour.

Tangy Meyer Lemon Bars

These bars proved to be a good showcase for the subtle flavors of the Meyer lemons. Even with a little regular lemon thrown in, there were nice floral notes in the topping. While I was expecting the topping to be excellent, it was actually the crust that blew me away. The teff adds undertones of nuts and chocolate which play divinely off the lemon topping. Better still, this crust is definitely usable in other recipes: tarts, cheesecakes, really anything that you could use a cookie crust for, and it is far less expensive than buying gluten free cookies and crushing them to make a faux graham cracker crust.

For the Crust:
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup teff flour
1/3 cup tapioca flour
1/3 cup potato starch
1 teaspoon xanthan gum

For the Topping:
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons tapioca flour
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated meyer lemon zest, preferably from an organic or unsprayed lemon
1/2 cup strained fresh meyer lemon juice (you will need 3-4 medium lemons, 1 large and 3 small didn’t quite get me there)
Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

Preparation work:

1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
3. Line the bottom of an 8×8 baking pan with foil.

To make the crust:

1. In a medium bowl combine the melted butter with the sugar, vanilla and salt.
2. Add the flour and xanthan gum and mix until just incorporated.
3. Press the dough evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan.
4. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the crust is fully baked (teff seems to take a little longer than all-purpose).

To make the topping:

1. In a large bowl, stir together the sugar and flour.
2. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time.
3. Stir in the lemon zest and juice.

Putting it all together:

1. When the crust is baked, turn down the oven to 300 degrees.
2. Pour the filling onto the hot crust.
3. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the center is firmly set.
4. Cool completely in the pan.
5. When bars are cool, lift up the foil liner and transfer the bars to a cutting board. If the surface is coated with a thin layer of foam, blot it gently to reveal the zest.
6. Lay a paper towel on top of the surface and gently brush your fingers over the top of the bars to remove excess moisture. Remove the paper and repeat with a fresh piece if needed.
7. Cut the bars into 16 large or 25 small bars. (Can be stored in airtight container in fridge for up to a week)