Lemon bars are one of our perennial favorites for the holiday dessert table. I have a perfect recipe that can be doubled (just use two 8-inch-square pans). As with all gluten-free baking, many of the available recipes fail to mention a few tricks that are essential to a successful recipe.
For starters, in mixing the gluten-free flour, sugar and butter crust, most recipes say “press into an ungreased pan.” That instruction works great for wheat flour with gluten. But it has been my experience that if you really mix the gluten-free crust ingredients using a good hand-held or stand mixer, you wind up with a creamy dough that is too sticky to press. So I simply spread the dough into the ungreased pan using a spatula, then I spray a sheet of waxed or parchment paper with nonstick cooking spray, place the sprayed side down on the crust, and then press it evenly with my fingers so the top is level and the crust extends into the corners of the pan.
A second helpful technique is to tilt the pan after you have poured the lemon custard filling over the still hot just-baked crust before returning it to the oven. That ensures that the filling is both level and extends into the corners.
A third technique is to sprinkle the fully baked lemon bars with powdered sugar very lightly not once but three times: once just after the bars are still warm and once after they are fully cooled to room temperature and lastly, just before cutting, after they have been refrigerated and chilled.
When my kids make these bars, they take the easy way out. They use bottled lemon juice instead of freshly squeezed, and they omit the lemon zest. Are my bars better tasting? You bet. Are theirs pretty darn good? Absolutely.
- For the crust:1 cup 1, 2, 3, Gluten-Free Flour , or gluten-free flour of choice with xanthan in the mix (I like Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 Baking Flour )
- ½ cup softened unsalted butter or solid nondairy alternative, preferably Earth Balance
- 1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
- For the filling:1 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons gluten-free flour
- 2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
- ½ teaspoon baking power
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Confectioner’s sugar, as needed, for topping
- In a large bowl combine all the crust ingredients. Beat at low speed until combined, scraping bowl sides and bottom as needed, until mixture comes together and there are no dry areas. Increase speed and beat until mixture is creamy.
- Spread mixture using a spatula into ungreased 8-inch-square glass or stainless steel (not aluminum) pan. Spray a 9 by 9-inch square of waxed or parchment paper with nonstick cooking spray. Place sprayed side down on crust mixture and press with hands into corners and sides of pan and level surface. Remove and discard the paper.
- Bake crust until golden, 20 minutes.
- While crust is baking, mix filling. In a large bowl combine all filling ingredients except confectioner’s sugar. Beat until smooth, scraping sides and bottom of bowl as necessary.
- Removed baked crust from oven and pour filling ingredients over, tilting pan side to side and front to back to level. Return pan to oven and bake until custard is set, 20 minutes.
- Remove from oven to a rack. Sprinkle lightly with confectioner’s sugar. Let cool to room temperature. Sprinkle lightly with confectioner’s sugar again.
- Refrigerate until chilled. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and cut 4 by 4 into 16 bars.
Variation: Substitute bottled lemon juice for freshly squeezed. Omit lemon zest.
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