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Lemon bars and myself have not always had this passionate love affair we currently are experiencing. I grew up team chocolate cake and ice cream, staying far away from citrus desserts. However, over the years, I began dabbling in the dark arts: a blood orange bundt cake here, a key lime pie there. I quickly became a convert. Soon enough, lemon bars became as much of a staple for my sweet tooth satisfaction as brownies.
While I didn’t intend for these bar to be gluten free, my love for almond flour transcends any dietary restriction to make a rich, tender crust that just happens to be sans flour. But you won’t miss the gluten given that it’s packed with brown butter to pair with the nuttiness of the almonds and ground sumac to add a little tartness to mirror the vibrant lemon curd spread on top. If you’ve never played around with the Middle Eastern sensation that is sumac, I promise you’ll fall in love! It adds floral acidity to any dish, making it a great addition to both sweet and savory recipes.
Now, let me explain why the curd is the word. Curds or custards can be daunting for those afraid of curdling their eggs, but this one-pot lemon curd is quick and easy, requiring only medium heat and some elbow grease for a silky smooth punch of citrus. The visual cue for this recipe will be to keep an eye out when you bake the curd for a good jiggle. Once you see the mixture has set, pull the bars and let them cool and chill. Then, just make it rain powdered sugar and dig in.
Get ready to raise the bar, since this recipe is a piece of tart!
Prep time 195 minutes
Cook time 45 minutes
Yield: Serves or Makes 16
Make crust: Preheat oven to 350°F and line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper so it hangs over edges of pan. In a bowl, stir all crust ingredients to combine, then press dough into prepared pan, covering entire surface. Bake until lightly golden, 15-18 minutes.
Meanwhile, make curd: In a small saucepan, whisk together sugar, lemon juice and zest, cornstarch, salt and eggs until smooth. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in butter until smooth.
Strain curd over crust (this can happen as soon as crust comes out of oven), spreading evenly with an offset spatula. Return to oven and bake until set, about 20 minutes. Let cool at room temperature for 1 hour, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Remove bars from the pan, using the overhanging parchment. Cut into 16 bars, then dust with confectioners’ sugar, garnish with more sumac and serve.