Monday, June 18, 2012

Lemon Bars

One of my worst nightmares came true last week: I made lemon bars for my fellowship program's year-end event, and it wasn't until I had nearly arrived at the party that I realized I had completely messed up the recipe.  I don't know where my head was while I was making the bars the night before, but I do know that I added three times as much silken tofu as the recipe had called for.  Given that I was about to serve those lemon bars to a group of non-vegans (some of whom had surely never had vegan desserts before), I was worried.

Luckily, they turned out great.  Everyone loved the bars (including me), and they had the tangy, fresh, lemon bar flavor that we know and love. 

So, without further ado, here is the recipe, including that extra silken tofu. 

Lemon Bars
  • 1/2 cup vegan butter at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar + more to sprinkle on top
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons flour (separated)
  • 1 lb. package refrigerated silken tofu, drained
  • 1 cup sugar
  • zest from 2 lemons
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (2 - 3 lemons)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch 
First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease an 8" x 8" non-stick baking pan with cooking spray.  Coat the pan with a light dusting of flour and set aside.

Next, make the crust.  Cream the butter and 1/4 cup powdered sugar using an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Add 1 cup flour and beat until the dough just comes together.  Press the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, begin preparing the filling.  In a food processor or blender, process the tofu and sugar for about 1 minute or until creamy.  Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, 2 tablespoons flour, and cornstarch and blend until smooth.  Pour the filling over the baked crust and bake for another 20 minutes or until the filling is set.  Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool. 

Just before serving, sprinkle extra powdered sugar over the top of the bars.  (The bars will absorb the sugar after some time, so don't do this too far in advance.)  Cut them and serve.  Yields 16 2-inch bars. 

These bars make the perfect summertime dessert.  As much as I love chocolate, I do love a good, gooey lemon bar.  They're easy to serve and they hold together nicely.  The sweet and tart flavor would go great with a side of berries, too.  One note: these bars are best within 1 - 2 days of baking. 
Silken tofu is pretty easy to find, these days.  Look for tofu of all kinds in the produce section of the grocery store.  Since this recipe makes use of the whole package of silken tofu, you won't have any pesky leftovers, either. 
 Ease of Preparation:      
As long as you have a food processor or blender, this recipe is quite easy. 
Non-vegan friendliness:      
You know it's a good sign when a bunch of non-vegans go back for seconds and thirds!  A quick note about silken tofu, for anyone suspicious of tofu in general: it really doesn't taste like anything; rather, it tastes like what you cook it with (in this case, lemon!).  So, there's no need to be afraid of the silken tofu in this recipe.  It's a common, versatile ingredient in vegan baking. 

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