Before going gluten-free, it wasn't unusual for me to travel three hours for a good lemon bar. The siren call came from Rosie's Bakery in Boston. I loved these bars. Made with a tangy lemon topping on a thick, buttery shortbread, I picked them over her famous Chocolate Orgasm brownies every time. And even though the lemon bars came out of a professional kitchen, they always seemed "homemade," like the desserts your favorite aunt (the one who's not a pastry chef) would make.
I missed these lemon bars when I went gluten-free and set out to make my own version. Like the lemon bars that inspired the recipe, a buttery shortbread hides beneath a sweet and tart lemon layer. The topping tastes like a cross between a lemon curd and a lemon meringue pie filling.
I used to travel hours for a lemon bar, but they're too easy to not make at home. You bake a shortbread crust until turns golden brown. Then, pour the filling into the pan and bake until set.
Flavor Modifications: I've used white rice flour and sweet rice flour for the shortbread base. The white flours work well, allowing the butter flavor of the shortbread to come through strongly. If you prefer to bake with whole grains, use brown rice flour. It adds a mild nutty flavor and sandy texture to the shortbread.
When is a lemon bar not a lemon bar? When it's made with grapefruit, lime, or passion fruit juice! To change the flavor of your bars, replace the lemon juice with an equal amount of another tart fruit juice. Please share your spin-offs in the comments!
Allergy Modifications: If you're dairy-free, use dairy-free shortening in the crust. Without the butter, the flavor changes a little; the lemon topping stands out a bit more. Unfortunately, this recipe can't accommodate an egg allergy; the filling requires eggs to set up correctly.
While I miss being able to visit Rosie's bakery, these lemon bars fill the void nicely. And I don't have to drive three hours from New York to Boston to enjoy one!
About the author: Elizabeth Barbone of GlutenFreeBaking.com joins us every Tuesday with a new gluten-free recipe. Elizabeth is an alumna of the Culinary Institute of America and Mount Mary College. With her solid professional baking background, Elizabeth is known for creating gluten-free recipes that taste just like their wheat counterparts. She is the author of Easy Gluten-Free Baking.
- For the Crust
- 2 ounces (1/2 cup) white rice flour
- 1.25 ounces (1/4 cup) sweet rice flour
- 1.25 ounces (1/4 cup) cornstarch
- 1.25 ounces (1/3 cup) confectioners’ sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
- 4 ounces (1 stick) butter, cold and cut into small pieces
- For the Filling
- 5.25 ounces (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
- Zest of one lemon, about 1 tablespoon
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons white rice flour
- Non-stick cooking spray
- Confectioners' sugar for dusting, optional
Prepare the crust: Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray eight-inch pan with non-stick cooking spray. Line pan with two pieces of parchment paper. (Paper should crisscross in the pan and overhang the edges by about two inches.)
In bowl of food processor, combine white rice flour, sweet rice flour, cornstarch, and xanthan gum. Pulse to combine. Add butter. Pulse until no large pieces of butter remain. Add water. Pulse until water is absorbed and dough forms, about 45 seconds of long pulses. (At first dough will be sandy. Keep pulsing until it comes together.)
Turn dough out onto counter. Press into a ball.
Press dough evenly into prepared pan. (To make this easy, I divide my dough in four pieces and place one piece in each corner of the pan. I then press the dough down and toward the center of the pan until the pan is evenly covered by the dough.) Chill for 15 minutes.
Bake crust until golden brown, about 40 minutes.
Prepare the filling While crust is baking, rub sugar and lemon zest together in medium bowl.
When crust is golden brown, remove pan from oven. Set aside on a wire rack. Add eggs, lemon juice, and white rice flour to granulated sugar. Whisk until smooth. Pour over crust. Return pan to oven. Bake until filling is set and does not jiggle, about 12 minutes.
Remove pan from oven and place on wire rack to cool. Chill bars for two hours, or overnight, in the refrigerator. Lift bars, using parchment paper as an aid, out of pan. Dust with confectioner’s sugar, if desired. Cut into squares.