One of the main projects I’ve been working on since I got back home is to update my bedroom by sorting out all the things I do not use anymore while creating more space to keep everything I need organized. I think it’s about time I stop pulling my stuff out of suitcases on a daily basis. However, rearranging my room is quite an arduous process! I am definitely getting there but my priority is to dedicate most of the time I’m home to go out with my friends or invite them over.
Consequently, after a long weekend of feeling like someone on an HGTV show, I invited a close friend of mine over on Memorial Day for another fun baking endeavor. My friend and I are both huge lemon bar lovers so I wanted to make a dessert related to lemon bars while also displaying some originality.
Lemon bars are usually prepared by baking a sweet, crumbly shortbread crust and then pouring on a lemon custard-like filling containing the juice and zest of fresh lemons and putting it back in the oven. Although the shortbread crust is certainly delicious, I decided to experiment and substituted it with a softer sugar cookie crust. I also incorporated oranges in the recipe by using orange juice and zest in addition to lemons to give the dessert a more complex and powerful citrus flavor.
~ Citrus Sugar Cookie Bars~
1 3/4 cups All Purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 14-oz can of sweetened condensed milk
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp All Purpose flour
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a 9 x 13 baking pan with parchment paper.
2. Combine the flour and salt.
3. Cream together the butter and granulated white sugar until the mixture looks fluffy.
4. Incorporate the egg and vanilla extract and fold in the flour mixture.
5. Transfer the sugar cookie dough to the baking pan and pat it down evenly to make the base of the citrus bars.
6. Bake for 12 minutes.
7. To make the lemon filling, first zest the lemon and about half of the orange.
8. Squeeze the juice from the lemon and the orange (together in only one measuring jug).
9. Combine the sweetened condensed milk with the four eggs and strain in 2/3 cup of the lemon+ orange freshly squeezed juice (straining collects the pulp and seeds from the juice).
10. Incorporate the zest and salt and fold in the flour.
11. Pour the lemon filling into the baking pan over the sugar cookie base and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
12. Let the citrus bars cool down at room temperature and refrigerate them for 2-3 more hours before cutting them into squares.
13. Dust the top with confectioners sugar and decorate with the berries as desired.
This recipe is incredibly easy to put together but the waiting time is the hardest part. After the bars are baked, they need to cool down completely at room temperature and then go in the fridge for an additional 2-3 hours (three hours is optimal). Otherwise, they will not hold their shape properly and the lemon filling will run all over the place or the bars will simply fall apart.
After dinner, when they were finally ready to be cut into squares, my favorite way of serving them was with a light dusting of confectioners sugar, a few strawberry slices and some blueberries scattered over the top. You can also serve them with ice cream on the side, freshly whipped cream, candied orange peels, etc.
These citrus sugar cookie bars are probably one of the most successful desserts I’ve baked this year. The softly baked sugar cookie base melts in your mouth right away and its sweet flavor blends very well with the tart, creamy citrus custard on top and the fresh seasonal berries. They were so irresistible that it only took two days to finish them all!