It’s not just grapefruit season in the south! Meyer lemons? Also in, in giant big buckets. If you don’t know, a Meyer lemon is a cross between a lemon and a Mandarin orange. Don’t look so shocked. This sort of grafty-cross-producing happens more in citrus than you know, with delicious, delicious results. And these are good. Tart, thin-skinned, not quite as sour and bitter.
Mmm. I bought a bunch of them, and after flipping through my recipes, was promptly ready to make Meyer lemon all the things. Then, after the grapefruit debacle, I was pretty ambivalent about going ahead with my plans to make Lemon Vanilla jelly. Citrus jelly. It’s unnatural anyway (this may be lingering bitterness talking).
So whilst I was on Facebook drooling over the endless possibilities, some of my friends pitched in. Lemon bars! Mmm. Why not? I don’t think I’ve ever made a lemon bar, ever, but it’s not exactly rocket surgery. And it just so happened that in the depths of my recipes somewhere I had a recipe for a (regular) lemon shortbread tart that I had never gotten around to trying out.
I hate baking with butter. I know, I know. But when you have a kid with severe dairy allergies, using butter in pastry-making is inviting trouble. It’s like peanut butter. It smears EVERYWHERE. So… next best option? I could use those vegan shortening sticks, or… coconut oil. Mmm. Coconut.
People say you can’t substitute coconut oil in cookies and shortbread. It’s a lie. I’m becoming a bit of a guru by necessity on substituting for butter. Yes, it won’t be exactly as it would be with butter in it, but I’m pretty sure that nobody substitutes out for butter and expects an exact likeness for butter, right? Oil in any form will be a little crisper.
I also don’t know why EVERYONE on the internet says to sub 1:1 coconut oil for butter in baking. Also a lie, unless you like greasy coconut mess. I think, in my experience, even regular oil substitution is too high (I think it’s “supposed” to be .87, or 7/8). I usually end up, depending on the recipe, between 2/3 and 3/4 of the amount called for in cookies and other baked goods. I find coconut oil also tends to follow this rule in baking. In a recipe that is “butter-heavy,” try a 25% reduction, and work your way down by the tablespoon from there.
I have been substituting white spelt for all-purpose flour with some fabulous results. When paired with the coconut oil, it looks deceptively crumby in the bowl, instead of like a dough. That’s perfectly normal. Just wait and see.
Voila, a delicious, crisp buttery vegan shortbread cookie crust with a hint of coconut (makes excellent cookies on their own). Naturally lower in gluten, made from an ancient grain form of wheat. And then you add the lemon filling topping to it, which is only just sweet enough to mellow the tart… and even people who supposedly hate lemon bars are hugging your legs asking for more.
Meyer Lemon Coconut Shortbread Bars
|Serves||1 9x13 pan|
|Prep time||15 minutes|
|Cook time||35 minutes|
|Total time||50 minutes|
|Misc||Child Friendly, Gourmet, Pre-preparable, Serve Cold|
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1 3/4 cup white spelt flour
- 1/2 cup virgin cold-pressed coconut oil
- 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 heaped tablespoon Meyer lemon zest (2 lemons worth)
- 1/2 cup Meyer lemon juice (2 lemons worth)
- 1/2 cup white spelt flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- coconut shavings and icing sugar
|Step 1.||Begin preheating the oven to 350F. In a bowl, cream together the salt, coconut oil, vanilla, and sugar as listed in the shortbread ingredients. Add the 1 3/4 cup spelt flour, and blend until thoroughly combined and light and crumbly in appearance. A pinch between your fingers will compact into a fragile dough.|
|Step 2.||Brush the shortbread crumbs into a 9x13 pan. Using your fingers, press the crumbs into a layer in the bottom of the pan and, using a large flat surface (such as the bottom of a tupperware container), compact the dough as firmly and evenly as possible.|
|Step 3.||Using a fork, carefully perforate the dough at regular intervals, press flat any dough that may have become dislodged, and bake for about 15 minutes, or until just beginning to brown at the edges closest to the pan. Remove the pan from the oven and set aside to cool.|
|Step 4.||When the shortbread has cooled just enough to become fairly firm (about 10-15 minutes), in another bowl, combine the lemon zest and lemon juice, which should be approximately 1/2 cup. Whisk in the remaining filling ingredients: sugar, eggs, baking powder, and flour.|
|Step 5.||Pour the filling ingredients over the shortbread. You may top with coconut flakes at this point if you wish them to develop a light, toasted colour. Return the pan to the oven to bake at 350F for approximately 18-20 minutes, or until the filling has set. Allow the pan to cool completely before dusting with coconut flakes (if not previously topped)/icing sugar and cutting them into bars.|