I am huge fan of the Meyer lemon. I prefer to use it whenever possible instead of the regular lemon because it is slightly sweeter, without the acidic flavor. I have a prolific dwarf Meyer lemon tree in a container in my garden that produces about 60-70 lemons twice a year. I share some with friends, but I juice most of them and store the juice in 1- or 2-cup portions in freezer bags. Depending on the amount a recipe calls for, I defrost a smaller or bigger bag. I am spoiled having Meyer lemon juice all year long, since I can make these anytime the mood strikes me.
I love this recipe, which calls for both lemon juice with pulp and zest, for that extra lemony flavor. Meyer lemons are perfect for this because the juice impart a sweeter lemon flavor, while the lemon zest give the bars its tartness and intense lemon essence. I improvised a little this time and added some leftover mascarpone cheese. The resulting lemon bars are wonderfully rich and creamy, with a mellow lemon flavor. The filling is the perfect sweet/tart combination on a buttery shortbread crust. This is one of my absolute favorite desserts!
My nieces, who need to follow a gluten-free diet love these lemon bars as well, and this recipe could easily be converted to be gluten-free by replacing the all-purpose flour with gluten-free flour. I’ve done it on a number of occasions, with the only difference being a more crumbly crust.
Meyer Lemon-Mascarpone Bars
Yield: 12 bars
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste (optional)
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour or gluten-free flour, divided into two 1-cup portions and 1/2 cup portion
4 ounces mascarpone cheese
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
7 tablespoons fresh meyer lemon juice with pulp
1/4 cup finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon baking powder (Clabber Girl and Rumford are gluten-free)
Additional powdered sugar, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and vanilla extract or paste until fluffy. Add in 2/3 cup powdered sugar. Add salt and 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 cup at a time, beating until the dough is crumbly and moist clumps form. Press dough on the bottom of a nonstick 9″x13″ baking pan. Bake crust until light golden, about 20 minutes. Maintain the oven temperature after taking out the crust.
While the crust is baking, make the lemon filling. Wash the work bowl of the mixer. Beat the mascarpone cheese in the stand mixer until softened. Add the sugar and eggs and mix until blended. Add lemon juice, lemon zest, baking powder and then the remaining 1/4 cup all-purpose flour. Mix until just incorporated.
Pour lemon filling over hot crust. Return to the oven and bake until filling is set in center and begins to brown on top, about 25-30 minutes. Transfer pan to rack and cool completely.
Cut pastry into 12 bars. Sprinkle the top with additional powdered sugar.
To store, keep covered in the refrigerator.
Adapted from a recipe by Dorothy Jacobon, August 2005 issue of Bon Appétit
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