By Cat, Jul 2007 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)
I’d never had this cookie until I’d moved to Portland. An old department store (Rhodes) had been vacant for several years, but then was revamped in the late 1970s as an indoor mall of locally owned stores. One of those businesses was a lunch counter that also served great cookies. Lemon Bars were their signature cookies, and I soon became addicted.
I’ve since developed insulin resistance, so must restrict my sugar consumption. I’ve learned to sweeten primarily with stevia, which has made a big difference in my health. This recipe reflects that change, although I also provide the sugar equivalence, should you wish to use real sugar.
This recipe is adapted from the Joy of Baking (2) website. I also used recipes from the Southern Food (3) website and my Mom’s Betty Crocker Cookbook as references. I have not yet tested this recipe.
Adjustments & Puzzlements:
- The original Joy of Baking recipe calls for 1 cup all purpose flour and 1/4 cup powdered sugar in the crust (in addition to the 1/2 cup butter). I altered to whole grain (or unbleached white) flour and stevia; no change in the butter.
- I use Sweet Leaf brand of stevia extract powder to sweeten baked goods; the amounts of sweetener indicated in this recipe are based upon this brand and my own taste; when a range of amounts is given, my preference is the lower amount, because I don’t like a lot of sweet. Different brands have different sugar equivalence, so you may need to experiment with the amounts. The original filling required 1 cup granulated white sugar. If using sugar, be sure it is cane sugar to avoid the GMOs from sugar beets.
- Some recipes call for baking powder in the filling; others require flour. I decided to go with the flour (actually, I would use tapioca starch).
Modern cooks typically use pasteurized, reconstituted lemon juice from a bottle for recipes that use a tiny bit of lemon juice, and I do that sometimes, too. But for a recipe whose main flavor and ingredient is lemon juice, that commercial stuff just won’t do. Take the time to squeeze your own lemon juice for this recipe (after grating the zest). The reconstituted stuff yields far inferior flavor and provides much less nutrition than the real deal.
Ingredients & Equipment:
- Shortbread Crust
- 1 cup whole wheat or spelt flour, or unbleached white flour
- 1/2 cup butter, softened (not margarine)
- 1/4 tsp stevia extract powder.
- Lemon Filling
- 2 Organic lemons (for zest and juice)
- 1/4 tsp unrefined sea salt
- 1/2 tsp stevia extract powder (or 1 cup Rapadura or white cane sugar, and omit the honey)
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 2 Tbsp raw local honey (omit if using sugar instead of stevia)
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup shredded coconut (optional)
- 2 Tbsp unbleached white spelt (or wheat) flour or tapioca starch
- Powdered cane sugar or Unrefined Powdered Sugar (optional garnish)
- 8″ or 9″ square baking pan
- large bowl
- electric mixer, hand beater or egg whip
- rubber or silicone spatula
- Prep: Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Grate 1 Tbsp zest from the lemon; squeeze 1/3 cup lemon juice, strained. Stir 1/2 tsp stevia (for the filling) into lemon juice to dissolve; add the zest and let rest while you proceed.
- Crust: Sift flour and 1/4 tsp stevia, then stir in coconut/almonds (if using). Using fingers, work in the softened butter.
- Press into ungreased pan, building up 1/2″ edges.
- Bake 20 minutes in preheated; remove from oven.
- Filling: While crust is baking: Beat eggs until light and fluffy, then add honey (or sugar if not using stevia) gradually, beating constantly. Beat in lemon juice/zest mixture; mixture should be smooth and creamy. Fold in flour/starch using rubber or silicone spatula.
- Pour into hot crust. Return pan to oven and bake until no indentation remains when touched lightly in center, about 20 – 25 minutes.
- Remove from oven and cool before cutting into squares or rectangles, and if desired, sprinkle with powdered sugar. This is a very sweet, rich dessert; I recommend cutting into 20 – 25 squares (5×4 or 5×5 grid).
- Stevia: Naturally Sweet Recipes for Desserts, Drinks and More! by Rita DePuydt, copyright 2002 by the author, and published by Book Publishing Company, Summertown TN